Archive for September 23rd, 2011

September 23, 2011

Can Direct Mail Secure Impressive Planned Gifts?

I’m about to tell you how you might generate a $137,000 average gift in a direct mail campaign. That would be nice, wouldn’t it? And, I’m not talking about getting a lot of $25 donors and one, lucky-to-get, $1 million donation. Instead, I’m going to share with you what the Natural Resources Defense Council did to achieve a real six-figure average gift through direct mail.

The NRDC achieved its remarkable result by using direct mail to secure planned gifts, specifically charitable bequest commitments. While your results may differ, the fact is you, too, can reap massive rewards by using direct mail for planned giving.

Photo by Michael J. Rosen

Many nonprofit organizations either think that one cannot use direct mail to solicit planned gifts successfully or that doing so is somehow inappropriate. That’s assuming they give it any thought at all. But, I’m reminded of a great quote from Philip J. Murphy, of Zimmerman Lehman, that I used in my book Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing: “Get wild with planned giving: Think of it as fundraising!” Murphy was saying that planned giving is just like annual giving and capital campaigns, it’s fundraising; and, the same rules apply. So, if you can use direct mail for an annual fund or capital campaign appeal, of course you can use it for planned giving.

Just like with any other type of campaign, face-to-face is the absolute best way to secure a planned gift. However, what happens when you have far more planned giving prospects than you do people to go and see the prospects? That was exactly the dilemma faced by the NRDC.

With a gift planning staff of one director, two officers, and one assistant, the NRDC did not have the staff resources to see the 50,000 planned giving prospects identified among its 1.3 million supporters. So, the best prospects were assigned to staff and the tens of thousands of others were put into the direct mail effort. The first half of the direct mail campaign yielded 87 bequest commitments with 62 donors willing to reveal the amount of their commitments which totaled $8.5 million, for an average of $137,000. In addition, the NRDC secured an additional $330,000 from a challenge grant supporter.

You can read about the NRDC campaign in an article I wrote for Advancing Philanthropy, the magazine of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. The article was published this month and, with the very kind permission of AFP, you can download the article free of charge here: “Securing Planned Gifts with Direct Mail”.

If you would like to see all of the elements of the NRDC direct mail package, you can find it here.

The NRDC certainly treats planned giving like fundraising. They use face-to-face where they can. Then, rather than ignoring the remaining 50,000 prospects, they’ve used direct mail to broadcast the importance of planned gifts to the organization and to solicit those gifts.

People who requested more information or who made a commitment were carefully contacted by staff. Donors will continue to be cultivated through the NRDC’s legacy society and, when appropriate, staff will talk with bequest donors about other giving opportunities that might effectively meet the needs of donors while allowing them to further support the cause. As a result, the NRDC has dozens of happy, new planned gift donors. The NRDC will also have millions of dollars more with which to defend our natural resources. Money it otherwise would not have had.

If you want more planned gifts for your organization, ask more people. Direct mail can help you do that, tastefully and successfully.

That’s what Michael Rosen says… What do you say?

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