If you want to enhance your planned gift marketing efforts, you can discover what your peers are doing that works, test different approaches, or talk with a consultant. However, I think the best place to start is with donors themselves. Finding out what your intended audience wants, and learning what they think is appropriate or inappropriate is essential to creating an effective marketing strategy. Fortunately, researchers Adrian Sargeant and Elaine Jay have already done much of the work for us. In a series of focus groups, the researchers found out from donors how nonprofit organizations can improve the promotion of legacy giving. Here is some of what the researchers learned from donors:
“Make it clearer that smaller amounts are useful, too.”
The terms “legacy” and “bequest” are often misunderstood. Many prospective donors either do not know what the terms mean or think that a legacy gift is something massive that only rich people or celebrities do. Prospective donors, whether rich or not, want to know that you are looking for gifts of all sizes, not just multi-million dollar donations (assuming that’s true for your organization). So, tell them. And, when doing articles that spotlight planned gift donors, think about diversity. Don’t just tell the stories of the major philanthropists to your organization; share the stories of smaller donors, too.
“Be specific as to the goals of the bequest. What gains are expected? How will the community gain?” “Explain what the organization does with its gifts.”
Donors want to know what impact their gift will have. It’s true with current giving. It’s also true with deferred giving. The more you can help prospective donors understand how their contributions will allow the organization’s values to live on in the future, and how the gifts will impact those served by your organization and the community at-large, the greater your chances of securing planned gifts.
“By publishing actual cases of how they have helped.” “Storytelling—reflecting future work, past work, spiritual legacy of work well done.”
Prospective donors don’t want to hear made-up, composite stories. Fictional stories are hollow. Donors want to know how actual planned gifts have really helped. Prospective donors want to know why others have been inspired to give. So, tell real stories about real donors. Share what moved those donors. Tell how previous planned gifts have helped your organization with mission fulfillment. And, to the best of your ability, relate how future realized planned gifts will allow your organization to continue to do its fine work and maintain its values.