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3 Proven, Personalized Planned Giving Marketing Strategies

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.


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