I recently heard from my friend Ligia Peña, CFRE, Senior Development Advisor at Canada World Youth in Montreal, Canada and Fundraising Coach at Diversa Consultants. She Tweeted me a snapshot of a fundraising advertisement that appeared in her alumni magazine. Her message read:
#PlannedGiving marketing #fail from my alma mater @concordia Leaves me cold & I know what PG is!! cc: @MLInnovations”
Before I even peeked at the photo, I knew I was in for a treat. First, Ligia used not one, but two, exclamation marks. Second, she made a point of copying me so that I’d be sure to see the message. She wouldn’t do that without a good reason. Third, she struck an unusual, harsh tone in her Tweet. Fourth, I know she’s a sharp development professional with interesting insights.
When I opened the photo (presented at the right), I immediately understood Ligia’s reaction to the ad. It is a wonderful example of how not to write and design an ad.
For starters, the headline shouts “planned giving” with the word “giving” in boldface. There’s a good chance that readers won’t know what the term means. As I reference in my book, Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing, The Stelter Company commissioned a survey that found that only 37 percent of Americans over the age of 30 are familiar with the term; I doubt that the stat is much different in Canada. Even if readers don’t know what “planned giving” means, they certainly know about “giving.” Why would anyone read an ad that they know is going to ask them to give? Rather than drawing in the reader, the headline rebuffs them.
I was going to write a critique myself until I learned that Ligia intended to so. I couldn’t wait to read her analysis. So, I pestered her for it. While she plans to post her critique to her own blog site, she’s kindly given me permission to share it with you now:
Last week, I received my alma mater’s summer magazine filled with interesting articles on recent studies conducted by students and professors, news from other alumni and what the university is planning for Homecoming. Ah, happy memories of Homecoming!
Until I get to page 17, and what do I see? A full page advertisement on planned giving. That’s expected. After all, this is the alumni magazine, and the advancement department should raise awareness among alumni on ways we can contribute to the future of the university.
However, if you’re a fundraising professional, you can see how this advertisement falls short on many fronts.
According to Frank Minton and Lorna Somers, Canada’s foremost experts on the matter and authors of Planned Giving for Canadians, using a current publication is an ideal way to promote planned giving. To be successful they recommend using a “donor testimonial that includes interesting details about the donor’s background, relationship to the institution and reasons for making the gift, describe the gift vehicle and the benefits to both the donor and the charity” (p. 380).
While this advertisement uses a donor testimonial, it has left me cold for various reasons:
1. Jargon: Fundamentals of marketing and communication dictate that your copy must be extremely simple so that anyone and everyone will understand what you’re talking about. Tom Ahern goes as far as recommending that you write at grade 6 level! This means jargon-free copy is a must. Sadly, using the term “planned giving” is jargon used in our sector but that no one else quite understands what it means. Why do we still use it? I don’t know — perhaps that can be topic for a future post.
2. Testimonial: In my years as a fundraiser, every testimonial I’ve received from donors were filled with happiness, compassion and love. They would focus on what the organization has accomplished, and how they feel about contributing to the cause they hold dear to their heart. Sadly, this testimonial is anything but that. I even wondered if Andrew really said those things because it’s such a rational and cerebral testimonial that leads with the tax advantages of the gift as opposed to the personal reasons behind his gift. Could he be a Vulcan?! (Ok ok, don’t take me seriously, I’m only being silly!!)
3. Title: Unfortunately, I must disagree with the tag line “Planned Giving an integral part of your financial plan.” Why? Simply put, a planned gift is an emotional decision driven by the donor based on how they feel about the charity, what it plans to do in the future and what legacy the donor wishes to leave. It is not a financially-driven decision. To focus so much on the financial benefits takes away from the true meaning of philanthropy and the culture of philanthropy professionals should be cultivating — in my opinion.
4. Picture: Admittedly, Andrew is a handsome man but he isn’t looking into the lens — at you, the reader. It makes it hard to connect or relate with him. The university also chose to shoot him standing in front of the John Molson School of Business — the newest building resulting from years of fundraising. The picture is cold and doesn’t convey any feeling whatsoever. My memories of attending Concordia University are around the people I met, the teachers I had, or the overall experience of attending university. Not once have I reminisced about the buildings!!
5. Contact: As professionals, we want to make the information gathering process as simple as possible but, according to the advertisement, if a prospective donor wants to learn more, they must visit the university’s website, then try to find the name and phone number of the planned giving professional. Wrong! Make it easy for your donor to give to you by putting your name and contact information right there.
My intent for this post was not to roast my alma mater. I love it too much for that. Instead, let this be a learning experience for other planned giving professionals out there. I would like to offer my “must do” list for good planned gift marketing:
1. Lose the jargon and use plain language.
2. Have a donor testimonial that conveys emotions and passion. (Remember: sell the sizzle, not the steak!)
3. Have a catchy and simple tag line.
4. Use images or graphics that convey the same emotion the donor’s testimonial is sharing.
5. Include the name and contact information of the person to contact to find out more information or to make their intentions known.
That’s what Ligia Peña and Michael Rosen says… What do you say?