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Is Your Planned Giving Website ADA Compliant?

by: Allison Sanka on

We are working with several colleges on their planned giving websites, and for many that includes incorporating the Americans with Disabilities Act requirements into their web design. All federal institutions’ websites must meet ADA compliance on all items in WCAG 2.0 by January 2018. 

If your site hasn’t been updated in a while, are these requirements an issue for your organization? Has your web team tested your PG website to ensure it passes the requirements outlined in WCAG 2.0

If we can help bring you "up to code" please give us a call.


How will the 2017 tax law impact nonprofit fundraising?

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.

How to Make Sure Your Business Headshot is Both Professional and Friendly

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.

Should you use social media for planned giving marketing?

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.

Cast a Wider Net

by: Jeffrey Stein on

When our clients tell us about realized gifts that came in response to our marketing efforts, I temper their praise by reminding them we have little to do with their mission and their donors philanthropy. We're just helping to bring the two parties together. 

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.

Best regards,

Jeff Stein

8 reasons why your organization needs a simpler planned giving website

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.

Guest Post: Planned Giving Also Means Planning for Fundraising Compliance

by: Allison Sanka on

Please join me in welcoming our guest author, Ify Aduba, a Nonprofit Compliance Specialist at Harbor Compliance. We hope you enjoy this guest post on charitable solicitation registration compliance for nonprofits.

Planned giving is just like any other type of fundraising. Broken down simply (but with much respect to the art of donor relationship building), you identify prospects, cultivate them, and ask them to give. You can find countless resources about the myths and facts about planned giving. What you and I both know – your organization should be actively implementing a planned giving strategy as part of your overall fundraising plan.

Not all planned gifts are deferred gifts. With the investment of some time and resources, many see a return on investment in a very reasonable time frame. And is has been demonstrated that, like other fundraising, proactive planned giving is more successful than employing a passive approach.

In their published study of donor behavior making the case for bequests, Adrian Sargeant and Elaine Jay found that "88.7% of supporters indicated that they believe it is appropriate for nonprofits to ask for a legacy gift." Whether you integrate the solicitation into your annual appeals or send a stand-alone mailing, post it to your website, or write it into your print or online newsletter, organizations won’t usually get the gift unless they ask for it. I’m not sure who said it first, but people give to people with causes. You have a great cause and you must ask.

Since you’ve mapped out a strategy for planned giving that engages your donors far into the future, fundraising compliance is essential. You don’t want anything to derail your donors’ confidence. Being compliant keeps their focus on your cause – and we already established that people give to people with causes.

41 states require charitable solicitation registration. There is an excellent chance that your organization is incorporated in one of those states. There’s also an excellent chance that your cause, your message has spread to donors in one of those states. You want to ask those donors to give to your cause, wherever those donors may be. If you are going to ask there, you need to register there.

It’s not enough to just pay attention to where you are. It’s about where you’re asking. Planned giving is a lifetime relationship and one of the greatest demonstrations of loyalty from your donors, a loyalty that you need to cultivate no matter where your donors may live. Don’t allow technicalities to slow you down. Register before you solicit so you achieve better fundraising and don’t leave money on the table.

Here are four simple best practices steps to stay compliant with your planned giving:

  • Research: You need to know your status in each state. Once you know that, you can easily map your path to compliance, including which application to complete and what fees may be charged.
  • Apply: Each state has its own application process, so be sure you are preparing the correct forms in the most streamlined and cost-effective manner.
  • Monitor: As with any other submission you make, you’ll want to follow these applications through to approval, for your – and your donors’ – peace of mind.
  • Renew: Mark your calendar so that once you’re compliant, you stay compliant. Track due dates and fees so that your renewals are on time and complete.
Donor relationships are built on trust. Transparency, accountability, and compliance preserve that trust. Your donor is making a lifetime gift because they trust and believe in you and your cause. Honor their planned gift with the transparency, accountability, and compliance it deserves!

Author Bio:
Ify Aduba is a Nonprofit Compliance Specialist for Harbor Compliance, a leading provider of compliance solutions for organizations of all types and sizes. Headquartered in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Harbor Compliance partners with organizations in every state and over 25 countries abroad to help solve the most challenging compliance problems. With clients that range from the largest organizations in the country to fast-growth startups, Harbor Compliance fully manages government licensing compliance in both nonprofit and business sectors.

In her spare time, Ify actively volunteers within her community. She currently serves as President of the Board of the Pennsylvania Association of Nonprofit Organizations (PANO), President of the Administrative Ministries Team at Doylestown United Methodist Church, and Board member for the Bucks County Women’s Advocacy Coalition. She is also a member of the Doylestown Branch of the American Association of University Women and Doylestown Rotary.

6 Reasons to Hire a Marketing Firm Instead of Trying to Do It All Yourself

by: Allison Sanka on

There is a big hidden cost of trying to do it all yourself; the “high cost of low cost” as one of our colleagues says. While purchasing the paper writing a letter, and stuffing envelopes yourself seems like it’s the better way to go, you lose two things: effectiveness and efficiency. 

The case for using a professional service provider isn’t just the out of pocket cost. There are hidden costs that impact your ROI.

  1. Professional service providers add value by bringing to the table experience gained from working with similar organizations. Marketing agencies have worked with other organizations like yours and you can benefit from that experience and track record. They have had many opportunities to refine and improve the messaging, design, and delivery. Do you want to hire the people who’ve done it effectively hundreds of times, or trust your own first-time judgement?
  2. Marketers have years of experience writing for organizations they don’t have a personal interest in. This distance allows the marketer to do what is best, rather than what they think their boss wants. Being able to detach that investment makes for more effective marketing.
  3. You are paying for service so that you can do your job, not ours. Thinking of DIY marketing campaigns? Are you prepared to become a marketing agency project manager instead of a fundraiser? How much time will it take to manage the entire creative and production process? Do you have the experience and talent to write effective copy? What about assessing effective design and photography? Do you have time to research and compare bids for a print house? What about checking colors and proofs? Is your branding and quality representative of your organization? Ready to deal with postage permits and USPS red tape? Ready to haul the boxes of mailers to the post office? It’s a lot of work. We know – we do it all the time and love it!
  4. Taking time away from your duties costs you lost gifts. The week(s) you take off to write, design, print and mail your campaign costs you way more than the difference between postage and paper and the agency’s cost to professionally manage the project for you. You are losing traction and momentum in your own fundraising; maybe even lost gifts because you were distracted.
  5. Direct marketing works while you sleep. Don’t wait to kick off your campaign. Now is better than never. A week of blind cold calls is a week your marketing campaign could have been in mailboxes, inspiring your donors to respond, bringing in a steady trickle of qualified leads and gifts.
  6. While it requires funds upfront, a direct marketing campaign will help raise more. Which is preferred:  A campaign that only cost $600 + days of DIY labor that raises $3,000, or one that cost $4,000 that raises $10,000, and allows you to continue your fundraising duties?
Don’t let the fear of investing in your marketing result in more work for lesser results. Pay now, or pay later, but the results will be better if you invest upfront!

How does the world’s largest online advertising platform attract new business?

by: Jeffrey Stein on

Google owns my inbox, my browser, my search engine. They know my every digital move. And even when I’m not on their platforms they’re still serving me ads elsewhere. So, you’d think if Google wanted my attention and my business, they’d know how to find me and get my attention. And you’d be right!

That’s why Google sends me DIRECT MAIL. Yep. Google uses old school direct mail and applies the same, tired techniques direct marketers have been using for years. That’s right. The company synonymous with SEO and all things digital cuts through the very clutter that has earned them billions with a technology whose obituary they started writing 20 years ago.

Google does direct mail right –

1. Get personal. More than just ‘your name here’ personalization, Google leverages our location, industry and advertising history to let me know they’re paying attention.

2. Make an offer. This isn’t about a one-time purchase. This is about a long-term engagement with a solution provider. The offer isn’t ‘more information’. The offer is an enticement to use their service. Test them out. See how it works.

3. Drive responders online. Sure, they got my attention via direct mail, but they want to make it easy for me to respond and they want to use their technology to track it. Campaign specific URLs take responders to the right page, and offer codes or personalized URLs allow them to track them.

4. Give them a deadline. Deadlines create a sense of urgency. It’s the push some people need to decide. I’m sure Google would extend the offer if I asked but it’s a lot easier for me if I respond in a timely fashion.

5. Leave them an out. Not everyone is comfortable responding the way we want them to (online). That’s why in every instance they point me to their landing page, they give me the name and phone number of a person who would be happy to take my call and help me personally.

Like an advertising campaign for a business, a bequest or major gift represents a considered decision for your donors. Relying solely on email or hoping interested parties will look for ‘more information’ on your website is a strategy that leaves too much to chance. Cut through the clutter and use personalized direct mail to your advantage. It works for Google, and it can work for you, too.

To try an effective direct mail strategy for yourself, visit URL for a ready to use template. Or, give us a call and one of our marketing specialists would be happy to walk you through the strategy and help you get results!

Best Wishes,

Jeffrey Stein
Planned Giving Marketing

©2017 Planned Giving Marketing | 620 W. Germantown Pike, Suite 440, Plymouth Meeting, PA 19462 | P:484-680-7600 | F: 877-865-6812  | info@pgmarketing.com