As we all work to promote planned giving, many in the nonprofit sector have questioned whether or not the very term “planned giving” can be replaced by something more effective.
Greg Warner, President at MarketSmart, started an interesting discussion a couple weeks ago on the Legacy/Estate/Gift Planning and Planned Giving Professionals Group on LinkedIn. Warner asked:
Since most donors are not familiar with the term ‘planned giving,’ what other terms or phrases should we use to market planned gifts?”
The question stimulated a lively discussion.
The nonprofit sector has grown tired of the term “planned giving,” thinks of it as inelegant, or recognizes that very few people understand what the term means. As happens periodically, the nonprofit sector is searching for a new, more comfortable descriptive label. And, there is some validity to the concerns the sector has about the term.
The Stelter Company conducted a survey that I cite in my book, Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing, that found only 37 percent of Americans over the age of 30 have a familiarity with the term “planned giving.” We have no way of knowing what percentage of those claiming familiarity really, in fact, know what the term means.
Those who responded to Warner’s question suggested several alternatives to “planned giving.” However, none of the suggested replacement terms represents a perfect solution. So, what should the nonprofit sector do? Should we keep or dump the term “planned giving”?
My friend Viken Mikaelian, Founder of PlannedGiving.Com, has done a comparison of the terms “planned giving” and “gift planning.” He discovered that, on Google, the words “gift planning” are out-searched 100-to-1 by the words “planned giving.” In a search of Google’s digital library of over 13 million books, “planned giving” is far and away the more popular term when compared to “gift planning.”
Mikaelian concludes, “So if you believe in search engine optimization (SEO) for your planned giving website, ‘planned giving’ is a better choice.” You can read Mikaelian’s full report here.
I decided to conduct my own test. I Googled the various terms suggested by those who responded to Warner’s question. I wanted to see how many results would be found for each term. Here’s what I discovered:
The term “planned giving” produced over five times more results than the number two term, “gift planning.” As Mikaelian concluded, if we’re concerned about SEO, the evidence strongly suggests that we should use “planned giving.” In other words, if you want your prospects to be able to easily find you in this electronic age, use the term “planned giving.”
The data also suggests that “planned giving” is the better choice in print media as well as electronic. It may not be an artful term, it may not yet be widely understood, but it’s the best description of, well, planned giving. Changing our vocabulary now will only further confuse the public and make it more difficult for us to connect with them.
That’s what Michael Rosen Says… What do you say?
UPDATE (Nov. 7, 2011): I will be participating in the #fundchat conversation on Twitter on Wednesday, Nov. 9, at noon (EST). The topic will be “Planned Giving: Moving Beyond the Basics.” Participating in #fundchat is free and a great opportunity to network with dozens of fundraising colleagues. You can learn more about the discussion and how to participate by visiting: http://fundchat.org/2011/11/06/planned-giving-moving-beyond-the-basics. Following the discussion, the transcript will be available at http://fundchat.org.