by: Jeffrey Stein on
Planned Giving’s ‘Magic Words’
Are you a fundraiser tasked with creating planned giving marketing communications (letters, postcards, e-newsletter content, newsletter articles, etc.)?
Do you find yourself mired in phrases more mystically passive than magically engaging; phrases like “remember us in your will,” “leave a legacy,” or “consider a gift that may have tax benefits, too”?
Does the latest research about the word ‘bequest’ have you wringing your hands over a better way to say ‘what happens to your stuff when you die’?
Have you heard that somewhere out there that certain “key planned giving messages” will work? That often leads to you and your boss word-smithing a bequest letter into the bore-o-sphere only to spend a full year circulating around the office, being decorated with red circles, black lines and other “edit” marks. No magic words will ever get that letter in the mail…
If you’re looking for planned giving’s magic words, look no further-- you already know them! And as a fundraiser, you use them all the time. You’ve also said them to the waitresses who handed you a cool cocktail, that man who opened the door for you last week, and to your sweet Nana when you she gave you a $5 bill on your 8th birthday…
The Planned Giving Magic Words are…
Finding fresh new ways to say “thank you” is the fastest, clearest, and most authentic way to talk about planned giving with your donors – in person, in your communications, and your specific planned giving appeals.
1. The Magic Words in Person. Don’t know how to ask for a planned gift? Try a “thank you” ask. Thank a donor for his consistent gifts of $25 a year for 25 years. Mention that another donor has given the same amount/number of years is also leaving a charitable bequest to your org. Then say nothing, and see what the donor says. You may be surprised to hear that your org IS IN HIS WILL (but he’s just never told you) or he’s been thinking of updating his plans and hadn’t considered a charity – but he might.
2. The Magic Words in Your Newsletter. Have you been saying “Remember us in your will” in your newsletter for years with no results? Instead, try featuring a photo of the lovely Kathleen, a donor who named your org in her will (even if it was years ago). All you need is a “Thank You, Kathleen” headline and a few short words about Kathleen’s future gift. This simple “thank you” communicates all the key planned giving messages (the real ones!). It shows prospective donors that naming a charity in a will is NORMAL, that your organization values and appreciates this type of gift, and that when people include your org in their will, they share the news and that’s a good thing. Always include a line like, “even if you wish for your gift to remain anonymous, please inform us of your gift.” No fancy words are necessary because Kathleen’s photo says more than any carefully chosen copy.
3. The Magic Words in Your Planned Giving Appeal. If you truly want more prospects, ditch the “appeal” and instead, say thank you. And don’t just SAY thank you, also offer a sincere and tangible “thank you” in the form of a gift to uncover your best planned giving prospects and silent donors who have yet to inform you that your org is in their will.
For example, the Yellowstone Park Foundation (YPF), a national organization based in Bozeman, Montana, mailed a Valentine’s Day postcard to 2,525 longtime, loyal donors. This card simply thanked donors for their support over the years and offered a free gift just for visiting a personalized URL (PURL). Upon arriving on their personalized landing page, the donors were asked one question about charitable estate planning before clicking through to receive their gift.
The response was overwhelming. The results are this: more than 190 people who care deeply about preserving Yellowstone Park self-identified as donors indicated they would be interested in making a charitable bequest or other planned gift. Also, with this simple yet effective direct and email campaign, YPF learned of 13 NEW planned gifts. In addition this mailing was also a nice stewardship piece for the client. A typical planned giving marketing appeal may yield an OVERALL response rate (any type of response) of just 3-10%. This YPF “thank you gift” appeal achieved an overall response rate of 33.87% which is astounding in planned giving marketing.
(Learn more about this campaign HERE.)
A few key things to understand about this particular mailing: the card did NOT MENTION planned giving, it did not ask the donor to “consider” anything or offer “more information” about planned giving. The card was sent from the Old Faithful Society (YPF’s legacy society) with the logo and tagline, but other than that had no typical hallmarks of a planned giving mailing.
What this means for you and your organization:
There is so much magic in the two words “thank you” that if you focus on new ways to use them, you will surely secure some very large future gifts for your organization. How large? A Blackbaud study shows the average planned gift in the United States is between $35,000 and $70,000, but if you follow the world of planned giving like I do, you’d routinely hear of $100,000, $250,000, $500,000 bequests and higher – mainly from everyday people like retired teachers, nurses, firemen.
In our fundraising world, we hear a lot about “donor engagement strategies,” and there is no clearer strategy than the simple “thank you.”
The “thank you” is effective in many forms of nonprofit marketing because it affirms and validates a donor’s intention – and it’s just plain good manners. Surveys show that many donors don’t feel like they’ve been adequately thanked, so basing a marketing effort on a “thank you” also helps you with your stewardship efforts.
If the real, true goal of your planned giving outreach, engagement, and marketing is to identify prospects, try ditching the tired “planned giving talk” and focus on how you can do more with those two magic words everyone loves to hear…
by: Jeffrey Stein on
3 Proven, Personalized Planned Giving Marketing Strategies
Mark Zuckerberg's testimony before Congress was eye-opening on many levels. On one level, it was remarkable to learn how much data is being collected about everyone -whether we realize it or not. And on another level, how utterly clueless many of us (and our representatives) are about how pervasive the use of our personal information is used in advertising to us.
The point isn’t to start a debate about data privacy issues or the ability of our representatives to legislate it. The point is that Zuckerberg made it pretty clear that advertising is most effective when it's personal, and the only way to make advertising personal is to leverage data about the intended audience into the messaging.
If you’ve worked on an annual fund (or receive annual fund solicitations) you already know this. In addition to basic name and address information, your solicitations leverage giving history to present each donor with an ask that’s slightly higher than what they’ve given in the past. If a donor is particularly loyal, you may include a sentence or paragraph acknowledging their loyalty. On the other hand, if the donor’s loyalty has lapsed, you inject language designed to woo them back. It may not be as sophisticated as what Facebook and Google are doing, but at its core, it's pretty similar. Your organization is using data it has collected about a donor and is using that data to serve up messaging designed to get them to respond more favorably.
Personalized advertising doesn’t just work for Facebook, it's their business model. And your organization would never consider hiring an annual fund consultant who didn’t know how to analyze giving histories or use versioning and personalization in your appeals. So, why is it okay that your planned giving efforts are so generic?!?!The short answer: Generic planned giving marketing materials are cheaper and easier to produce.
The industry is dominated with providers whose businesses are built on selling the same content, in the same format, to as many non-profits who will buy it, and they’re advising those non-profits to mail them to as many donors as their budgets permit. Good for them. But is it good for you?Top performing planned giving programs know that while generic may be cheap and easy, relevant personalization is far more effective. And with so much at stake, they don’t risk results in favor of saving a little time and money.
Consider these proven, personalized planned giving marketing strategies for your next campaign:
Legacy Society Member/Non-Member branding: What’s the best way to lose your legacy society members? Ignore them. Smart planned giving programs go out of their way to make sure their current legacy society members are in the loop, but they don’t resort to sending them the same materials sent to everyone else. Let your planned giving donors know you’re paying attention and create unique messaging for this special audience. Perhaps its two versions of a cover letter, or adding a special seal indicating their membership on the outside of the mailer.
Class Year/Reunion versioning: College and independent school planned giving programs are smart to take advantage of returning alumni. Nostalgia and peer pressure (yes, peer pressure endures well beyond our adolescence) are significant philanthropic motivators. Rather than a broad-based message inviting everyone to consider a planned gift in honor of reunion, version the invitation by class year. Include an honor roll recognizing the members of the class who have already made a commitment. Get even more creative and swap out images specific to each class. Make it clear: “This isn’t about just any reunion. This is about YOUR reunion.”
Age-specific Charitable Gift Annuity illustrations: If there is one type of planned gift where age does matter, it’s the charitable gift annuity. Your age determines your rate. So, if you know how old your donors are (or can estimate based on when they graduated), why would you ask them to consider a gift annuity using a generic rate chart? Running calculations for your donor file requires additional effort, and transferring that data to a personalized direct mailer a bit of care, but the results will speak for themselves.
You don’t need to be Facebook or Google to create data-driven marketing campaigns that get results. If you’re looking to take your planned giving marketing to the next level then follow the lead of top performing programs by taking advantage of the data you have. A little creativity and a little effort will go along way towards generating better leads and more planned gift commitments.
PGM partners with top-performing programs to develop, design and deploy personalized marketing communications that work. If generic just isn’t working for you, give us a shout. Our expert data-driven marketing advisors are ready to help.
by: Allison Sanka on
- Design emails with smart phones in mind. Clean layout with crisp photos works best. We test our emails on smartphones, laptops, tablets and use responsive design to have the content automatically resize to the user’s screen.
- Clarify the sender. The organization's name should be in the "From" field - simply a person's name might elicit a delete if they don't recognize it right away.
- With subject lines, less is more. To make the most of this, limit your subject lines' length to 20-30 characters. To spark intrigue and opens, use engaging language like numbers (“7 ways you can help”,) and open ended questions (if people can answer the question “no” they have no incentive to open your email.)
- Also, with content, less is more. Email content should be brief and include links to your website for more information. Typically 3-4 topics of fewer than 60 words with "read more" links engage the reader and encourage visitation to the website for more interaction.
- Include a firm call-to-action. Whether it's a response or click, encourage a dialogue and interactivity through your email.
- Incent or give them something in the email. Whether it's an exclusive piece of news, an offer, freebie, download, or special benefit from your organization, the reward benefits both you and them in terms of building loyalty.
- Include all required information in your footer. Unsubscribe link (one click is best,) the organization's name, physical mailing address, and phone number should all be included in every communication. If you want to learn more about email marketing compliance, visit the FTC website.
- Timing is everything. Test different deployment times and days, because what works for you may not be best for your organization.
- Beef up your loyals email list. With each call or visit, ask permission to add them to email lists. On direct mail reply cards, add in a checkbox so they can be added to your PG email list. Ensure you have permission to email your donors by opt-in, not just opt-out.
- Combat list churn. Typically, 30% of email addresses become unreachable each year, so it's important to keep lists updated and healthy.
by: Allison Sanka on
by: Allison Sanka on
The largest piece of tax reform since the Reagan administration has been passed and signed by the President. The real impacts from the new tax law changes have yet to be seen, but all of us in the nonprofit world will be watching carefully as the impact on nonprofit fundraising initiatives unfolds. Meanwhile, some initial concerns are being addressed.
According to an article in The Nonprofit Times, the Association Fundraising Professionals believes there will be a huge decline in cash gifts. The hypothesis is that because of the increase in the standard deduction, fewer taxpayers will itemize on their returns. Because so many depend on those deductions on their itemized tax returns, without that tax benefit fewer people will give cash gifts to nonprofits.
"The Association Fundraising Professionals is anticipating a reduction in itemizers of about 30 million on account of the standard deduction increase. About 82 percent of individual giving comes from itemizers, per Giving USA estimates, equating to an annual loss in giving of between $12 billion and $20 billion." [read more]
Those are some big numbers to ponder.
The face of donors is changing. Many believe the motivation to give is not enough to suppress the projected 4.5% drop in annual giving next year. According to The Washington Post:
"[The] decline is expected to be concentrated among gifts from the middle of the income scale. The richest Americans will mostly keep their ability to take the tax break. That could create new winners and losers in philanthropy. Nonprofits have long noticed that the wealthy are more likely to cut big checks to support museums and universities, while smaller donors tend to give to social-service agencies and religious organizations. Charities fear that this shift could change how the public views donating and alter the priorities of nonprofits." [read more]
Doom and gloom aside, what's the opportunity for planned giving? Plenty, actually. Middle and lower income loyal donors may now be the perfect audience for planned gifts. They may have given in the past but those annual gifts may drop off, while the wealthy will still likely benefit from itemization.
It's more important than ever to kick your PG program into high gear with a solid, awareness-building marketing program. Building your planned giving program will not only bring in some additional funds now and in the years to come, but also it will help ensure the long-term health of your organization. Money needs to come in from as many avenues as possible, and the best time to market your PG program is now.
by: Allison Sanka on
Getting photos taken for your new planned giving website? Today we have a guest post from Michael Schacht, a professional portrait and headshot photographer based in Chicago. He offers tips and practical advice on making sure your headshot photos are ones you love, and that show you at your best.
Your boss announced that you'd be needing a business headshot by next week. This picture will be posted on your company’s website and in your office’s organizational structure display. You feel both excited and worried. Since this picture will be published on so many platforms, you want to look professional but friendly at the same time. You want the people to feel that regardless of your position in top management, you’re still an approachable person. You know what you want with your business headshot, but you don’t know how to achieve it. And it’s happening next week, so you don’t want to be too lax about this.
Well, you don’t have to worry because this article will help you achieve that goal of yours. No matter if this is your first or tenth time for a business headshot, these tips will help you look professional and friendly (because yes, that’s possible):Smile: First impressions do last and since you only have a business headshot to make that impression, make the most of it. You’ll typically see business headshots of people looking serious or fierce, but you don’t have to be one of them. Make a difference by putting that best smile in your business headshot. No, your wacky face isn’t appropriate here, letting people see your pearly whites is enough.
- Take time to feel good: You can’t smile when you don’t feel good about yourself. You tend to be too conscious that it creates that awkward facial expressions. Take your time to feel good about yourself. If you’re a lady, visit your nearest salon to get your nails and hair done. You can even hire a professional stylist for the picture! If you’re a man, be sure that your hair is neat and try to look clean. Take a good rest a day before the photo shoot. Do whatever makes you feel good and go all out.
- Learn to relax: It can be very overwhelming when there are too many lights or people in your photo shoot. You may end up being too careful with your actions because you’re scared that these people will say something about you. You might not control their reactions but obviously, you can control yours. If you’re faced with this type of situation, learn to relax and breathe in before posing in front of the camera. Always remember your goal in your business headshot and focus on that one, rather than the other elements in the room.
- Choose the best pose: You have a goal for your business headshot and how you pose will help you acquire that. Days before the shoot, practice how you would pose. You can do this in front of your mirror at home and you can also ask your family which suits you best. The internet is also a gold mine for pose ideas so go ahead and make use of that resource. You’ll have greater chances of achieving that professional and friendly business photo once there’s a lot of pose options to choose from.
- Know the photographer: Your nerves might be getting you every time you’re dealing with someone new and this includes the photographer. Given that you don’t know who’s behind the camera, you become too tense and you know how this affects your photos. This is why it’s always a good idea to know the photographer. For one, you can communicate what you want in your photos and the photographer can help you get there. You can also tell them your best and worse angles so they’ll know how to work with your poses. This will create an environment for communication for the both of you. And once the photographer becomes your friend, it will be easier to work with them and pose in front of the camera. You’ll be at ease in what you’re doing.
- Choose the appropriate attire: No one would believe that you’re a professional when you’re dressed in your tank top, shorts and slippers - you’re not posing for a summer themed magazine. For you to look professional and friendly, dress appropriately. You can go for the typical business or casual attire, depending on your company’s culture, or go for a more casual look. You can also use jewelry but keep it basic and simple. You don’t want it to be stealing the spotlight from you!
- Look in the mirror before the shoot: There are instances when you look good personally, but your photos tell otherwise. You feel good about yourself, but your photo is nowhere that direction. For you to avoid getting into situations like these, look in the mirror before the shoot. Make sure that your hair is in place, your makeup is set, and your teeth are clean. You can even bring a compact mirror to the shoot so you can look at it at the last minute before the shoot starts.
The professionals taking the best headshots in Chicago know that having that perfect business headshot is vital in any business industry. It’s basically what people use to determine what your personality is and it gives them an idea of how to mingle with you. Your company might be shooting in different locations and backgrounds, but you should always make one thing certain – that your business headshot will reflect who you are.
Michael Schacht is a portrait photographer and photography educator based in Chicago, Illinois. As owner/operator of 312 Elements Headshot Photography located in Chicago's West Loop neighborhood, Michael oversees the day-to-day operations, and has had the opportunity to photograph thousands of corporate professionals over the last decade. Through his direction, attention to detail, and people skills, he's helped these clients to craft a narrative around their personal brand. It's his belief that the headshot is the modern day business card, and that a better headshot is essential for a better career. Michael, his wife Meghan, and his two daughters reside in Tinley Park, Illinois, where he is a community leader and active participant in the local business sector. Michael studied business at Ball State University, and photography with world renown headshot photographer, Peter Hurley. It was Hurley that trained Michael in the art of human expression. Michael is now a Headshot Crew certified Mentor, and active member of the Headshot Crew community where he was named one of the top 20 headshot photographers in the world.
by: Allison Sanka on
Social media holds such a prominent light in our society today, it seems we should all be using it for marketing, whatever we're selling. But is it really an appropriate and effective marketing vehicle for the planned giving industry?
We get asked this from time-to-time, and the short answer is not really. But please read on.
Our company's POV on social media for planned giving marketing is that it can be used sparingly, in very specific cases. For example, announcing and linking to an article about a large, generous planned gift that was featured in the press on Twitter or Facebook can help generate awareness of your planned giving program. Serving as an awareness-driver of your planned giving program in the wrapper of good news, this gentle promotion is appropriate context for planned giving on social media. Another idea is to use social media to introduce planned giving staff to your followers by linking from social media to an interview with your department staff on the organization’s website, telling about what they do, that ordinary people make planned gifts, and how important planned giving is to your organization’s future.
So why shouldn’t you put muscle behind a planned giving social media effort? First, the audience on social media is broad, and not just donors. Donors, volunteers, and beneficiaries of your services are the best planned giving prospects, and it’s most effective to target them directly. Second, donors are either planned givers or they aren’t. It’s not our job, nor is it interesting or effective to educate the general population about planned giving in the context of social media.
While there are a few opportunities where it makes sense to take up your organization’s social media manager on a tweet or post, crafting the message carefully is key to having it contribute towards your marketing goals. What it comes down to is that you will probably not be contacted about a planned gift because someone saw a post on Facebook or Twitter, so focusing your efforts elsewhere, particularly on direct marketing, is likely to bring in more qualified leads and gifts.
by: Jeffrey Stein on
Last evening, a client called to let us know they closed $275,000 in gift annuities today. One was for $250,000 from a donor with lifetime giving of $7,200.
That's right; a guy who graduated more than 60 years ago and who averaged $120 in giving per year funded a $250,000 gift. Why? He has no heirs, he's getting little-to-no return on his savings, and he figured this was his way to make his major gift. What inspired him do it now? He received our personalized CGA illustration in the mail.
The full analysis is incomplete, but it's pretty clear this donor was way off the organization's planned giving radar. And had he not been included in the highly targeted, personalized direct marketing effort, he may never have stepped forward.
This organization has a mature annuity program and they've had success in the past. However, they struggled with developing and deploying consistent and compelling marketing communications. Their previous efforts were a combination of ads and postcards produced in-house and drab, generic and cheaply produced mailers and brochures from the industry's subject matter experts, but not marketing experts.
Your best prospects may be outside your typical target radius. Adding to your target list of a well-crafted, thoughtfully designed planned mailing or marketing initiative will likely pay for itself with just one additional planned gift.
We helped this planned giving team to expand their campaign, casting a wider net, and now their pipeline has never been as full. Yet another example of what's possible for forward-thinking organizations when they leave the marketing to marketing experts.
Want a team of marketing experts to help fill your call list with qualified leads? Give us a call at 484-680-7600 or contact us today.
by: Allison Sanka on
Does the industry need another planned giving website product? We weren't sure, but our clients told us yes!
We created our planned giving website product because our clients asked for one. Developed based on research, concerns and feedback gathered from our customers, the result is an affordable, results-driven, clean, modern solution. We dismantled the planned giving website concept and developed a product that includes only what you need, to get you the results that you want.
It’s simple, affordable and backed by really great, attentive service. Our stand-alone site gives you a powerful and beautiful web presence that gets you what you need – qualified leads that result in more conversations.
If you’ve been holding off on subscribing to other services because of the prohibitive costs, or you’ve been struggling to create this content yourself, we think this is the solution you’ve been waiting for!
The PGM Planned Giving Website really is different. Here are 8 reasons why.
- Marketing know-how. It was created and developed by a team of online and direct marketers, many of whom have worked in digital marketing for years. (One member of our team has been a digital marketer since 1997!) All of us have worked on planned giving website products. We took the concept apart and developed a product that only includes what you need, to get you the results that you want.
- Objective-focused simplicity. The focus of the PGM website product is not planned giving education, because that’s not your objective either. We know donors do not come to a planned giving website to learn about the intricate mechanics of a CRUT, or how to give a tax break to their heirs. They are looking to learn ways they can support the organization, what types of gifts and opportunities the organization offers, and who they need to contact to talk through the details of their gift. We think putting this information donors want upfront makes the site the most user-friendly product out there.
- Inspiring and useful content. Donors make planned gifts because they love the organization, its people and what it does. Our expert storytelling (what are known as “donor stories”) reminds donors why they support your organization and inspires them to want to do more.
- Content that speaks to the true audience. Donors are either the type of people to make a planned gift, or they aren’t. Planned giving website content will not convert a donor into a planned giver, so we don’t talk to those people. Our content focuses on the needs of these donors who are planned givers, letting them know you are in the business of planned giving, that it’s normal and easy to make a planned gift to your organization, and who (and how) they need to contact to take the next step.
- Easy, modern, clean design and interface. We utilize modern, clean design that is easy to use. (See some examples here.) We use a custom web address, specific to your organization or legacy society, which means zero IT department involvement to get your site live. Your own URL/web address also means no technical headaches like conflicting navigation or page templates; plus, it makes it easy to direct donors your marketing campaigns via a simple website address.
- Responsive design. Whether you load our planned giving website on a laptop, phone or tablet, it’s fully functional and easy to read and navigate, as intended, on any device.
- Customer service. We are in business to serve you. Our team is responsive and accessible. If you call or email us, you can expect assistance. If you need help, we are here for you. Period.
- Transparent pricing. $1,495 per year plus a one-time setup fee of $500 makes this a great value. Year-to-year, with no multi-year contracts required!
In sum, our planned giving websites offer exactly what you need; nothing that you don’t. To learn more and see examples, visit our planned giving website product page, or contact us for a consultation.