Most planned gifts aren't complicated. Any fundraising professional can get planned gifts for their non-profit without it being overly complicated. However, your nonprofit organization won’t attract many planned gifts unless you actively market planned giving.
When it comes to promoting planned giving, you minimally need to keep three marketing objectives in mind:
- Inform supporters that your organization accepts planned gifts.
- Inspire supporters with stories about living donors who have made a planned gift.
- Identify what planned gifts supporters should consider. Ideally, ask for those gifts.
Just remember one important thing: Never talk about “planned giving” with supporters. While it’s a fine catch-all term for inside the fundraising office, most donors either don’t know what it means or think it’s something that only people who are more wealthy than they are do.
If you want to get planned gifts, your job is to understand how simple planned giving really is and to convey that simplicity to your supporters. In other words, if you want someone to include your charity in her will, ask her to do that instead of asking her to make a “planned gift.” If you do that, your organization will receive more planned gifts than ever.
Here are six simple, no-cost or low-cost things you can do to promote planned giving:
#1: Develop Your Planned Giving Case for Support
The best prospects for planned giving are your current board members. You can approach them by developing a case for planned giving support that you will use to inform your marketing messaging to the general public. Once you’ve created a draft, request input from your board. After you have written the final version, submit it for board approval. Following approval, ask which board members will include a gift in their will (or make a gift of appreciated stock, create a beneficiary designation, etc.). If no one steps forward, you know that the case for support is not strong enough, and you’re not ready to appeal to the public. Revise the case and go back to the board. Once you have board approval and a number of board commitments, you’ll be off to a good start and ready to go public to get planned gifts using your new marketing message.
#2: Create Taglines to Help You Get Planned Gifts
You can include a promotional tagline in your letters and emails to help you get planned gifts from your donors. For example, you can include the following statement at the bottom of your letterhead and/or in your email signature block:
“Please remember us in your will and trusts.”
When including the tagline in an email, you can link it to the appropriate page on your website.
#3: Use Your Website to Get Planned Gifts
You don’t need a fancy planned giving web page. While that would be nice, your organization can benefit from a simple page or section to help you get planned gifts from your website visitors. Just avoid using a “planned giving” button to get folks to access it. Instead, use a button that says “Other Ways to Give,” or “Other Ways to Help,” or “Make a Lasting Impact.” The page should outline the most common ways someone can make a special gift including: appreciated stock, appreciated property, wills, beneficiary designations, IRA Charitable Rollovers, and grants from donor advised funds.
In addition to mentioning each type of gift, be sure to provide a simple description and, when appropriate, instructions. For example, under “Gifts in Your Will,” give donors the language they’ll need to include in their will, including but not limited to:
Percentage of Estate Gift: “I, [NAME], of [CITY, STATE ZIP], hereby give, devise and bequeath to [NAME OF CHARITY], [CHARITY’S FEDERAL TAX ID NUMBER], with the permanent address of [CHARITY’S ADDRESS], _____percent of my total estate, determined as of the date of my death for its unrestricted use and purpose.
Specific Dollar Amount: “I, [NAME], of [CITY, STATE ZIP], hereby give, devise and bequeath to [NAME OF CHARITY], [CHARITY’S FEDERAL TAX ID NUMBER], with the permanent address of [CHARITY’S ADDRESS], the sum of $_______ for its unrestricted use and purpose.
Your website should also provide the full contact information that someone can use to reach out to with questions about making a planned gift. Provide donors with a contact name, title, mailing address, email address, and telephone number. Make it easy for someone to contact the right person.
#4: Use Your Donor Newsletters
In your print and digital newsletters, include stories of living donors who have made various types of planned gifts. Each story should focus less on the technical details of the gift and more on the motivations of the donor and the benefits to the donor. Be sure that your stories reflect a diversity of donors; do not just focus on those who have made the largest gifts. Be sure to use a font size and style that is easily read by those with older eyes. Highlighting people who have already pledged a gift will help you get planned gifts from your other supporters.
#5: Create Planned Giving Ads for Your Materials
Create and include promotional ads for planned giving in your newsletters. The ads can highlight different types of planned gifts along with a donor testimonial. Just be sure to keep the language simple, the font size readable, and with a message that tells the donor how making such a gift benefits them (i.e., tax benefits, ability to leave a lasting legacy, etc.).
#6: Mention Planned Giving at Your Events
At fundraising and donor-recognition events, show gratitude for your planned gift donors. Consider having one of your special donors say a few words about why they made such a gift. Recognizing your existing planned gift donors can inspire others to follow in their steps, helping you get planned gifts from other event attendees.
Are there other ways to promote planned giving and get planned gifts for your non-profit? Absolutely. Many. You can appeal to donors using face-to-face visits, direct mail, telephone, surveys, and more. You’re only limited by your imagination. As Philip J. Murphy, of Zimmerman Lehman, once said, tongue-in-cheek: “Get wild with planned giving: Think of it as fundraising!”
Your successful planned gift marketing effort will identify your best prospects, educate them, cultivate them, ask for support, secure gifts, and steward donors. Each step can be as simple or complex as your staffing and budget resources will allow. However, even the most basic planned gift marketing effort will pay dividends for your organization.
About the Author:
Michael J. Rosen, President of ML Innovations, has been named a Top Fundraising Expert and a Top Charity Industry Influencer. He won the prestigious AFP-Skystone Prize for Research in Fundraising and Philanthropy for his bestselling book, Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing. Michael publishes the highly-ranked nonprofit blog Michael Rosen Says. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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