Not long ago, I was asked to cite my three “best” tips for any planned giving program. It wasn’t easy for me to limit myself to just three. But, I had to be brief. I was being interviewed by Jan Uekermann, a fundraising professional from Germany, during the Association of Fundraising Professionals International Conference in March.
Uekermann was putting together a Fundraising Podcast series from the Conference which he has now posted on YouTube.
Regardless of what country you are in or the level of sophistication of your planned giving efforts, these are the three universal elements that I believe are essential to any successful planned gift marketing effort:
1. Be Donor-Centered
Donors are not dependent on us. We are dependent on our donors. If a donor is unhappy with us, she can seek out another organization to fulfill her philanthropic aspirations. If we want a prospective donor to give his money to our organization, we better make certain to focus on his needs and wants. Our job as development professionals is to build relationships so we can appropriately match a prospective donor’s philanthropic interests with an organizational need.
Let me share with you a story which I included in my book, Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing, that illustrates how things can go horribly wrong if you’re not deeply committed to being donor-centered:
“An elderly woman in Philadelphia contributed a $25,000 charitable gift annuity to a well-known hospital in New York City. In addition to sending an acknowledgment letter, the development officer contacted the donor by telephone to thank her for her generous gift and to arrange a meeting when he was due to be in Philadelphia. So far in this story, the development officer has behaved in a donor-centered way. He has personally thanked the donor, learned a bit about why she made the gift, and has arranged to meet with the donor to learn more about her and her philanthropic interests. To recognize her generous support, the development officer invited the donor to lunch which she accepted. When they got together, the development officer picked up the donor at her home and drove her to the Four Seasons Hotel for lunch in the very lavish Fountain Room. The donor was appalled. She refused to be seated and told the development officer that lunch in the more casual, and less expensive, Swan Lounge would be more appropriate.
“When relating the story to a friend, the donor expressed her outrage that the hospital would waste her money by taking her out to such a fancy restaurant. She even thought the more informal Swan Lounge was too much. When asked if she would be making another gift to the hospital, she said, ‘Absolutely not! They waste too much money.’
“While lunch at an exclusive restaurant might be something that donors in New York might appreciate, this frugal Philadelphian most certainly did not. Unfortunately, the development officer, while trying to do the right thing, made a simple mistake. He assumed something about the donor that he did not know. A more donor-centered approach would have been for the development officer to simply have asked the following in the initial telephone contact, ‘I’ll be in Philadelphia next Wednesday and would love to talk with you more over lunch. Would you be available? … Great! Where would you like to go?’ With that one simple question, the development officer would have remained donor centered, would have enhanced the relationship, and would likely have secured another gift. Sometimes donor-centered marketing really is that easy.”read more »