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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

It’s Not About the Mug!

by: Jeffrey Stein on

Quid pro quo.  Tit for Tat.  You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours...Seems like anyway you say it, it still sounds dirty, unseemly, and definitely beneath the philanthropically well-intentioned and the esteemed organizations they would support.  

Like it or not, it’s how things get done.  And it’s not limited to politics, international business, or clandestine transactions.  A compelling offer is at the core of all human interaction.  "You want me to do something for you – what’s in it for me?"

Fundraising is no exception.  We see it all the time.  Subscribe to your local PBS station – they’ll send you a boxed set of Downton Abbey DVDs, or a mug that proudly claims "it's not about the mug."  Pay your alumni dues – an alumni association window decal is on its way.  Heck, just open the solicitation envelope from St. Jude and a life-time supply of return address labels are yours – even if you don’t make a gift (but how could you not?).

So why so much cringing and hand-wringing when it comes to including an offer in our planned giving solicitations?  We want our donors to respond, but the reasons we give them for doing so are totally lame. Let’s get real.  "More information" and "Our Free Estate Planning Guide" are not offers that show our appreciation for their inquiry. They aren’t offers at all.  They’re HOMEWORK.  And who wants more homework?

Planned giving lead-generation campaigns that include a compelling offer get measurably better results than those that do not.  And to anyone concerned about the cost and perceived value of the gift, here’s some great news: It’s not about the mug!  As trite as it may sound, it’s the thought that counts.  Sure, we’ve worked with organizations to create special promotional materials for the legacy societies – a nice touch.  But before you go blowing the budget on new tchotchkes, look in the corner of the prize closet or ask the bookstore if they have any discontinued items in the stock room.  You’d be amazed at what you have lying around and even more amazed how appreciative your donors will be to receive something that everyone in the office had written off as junk.  Swag not your thing?  That’s okay.  Consider invitations to events, a speakers’ series, or docents tour you host, recordings of your band’s or orchestra’s performances, or commemorative books about the history of your organization.  

Your token gift of thanks in exchange for a loyal donor raising their hand to answer a few questions about their most personal philanthropic inclinations doesn’t cheapen their gift.  It demonstrates your understanding of the social norm and facilitates a conversation between you and your donor.  You’ve asked them to become a lead.  They’ve consented to tell you what they’re thinking.  You thank them with a small gift.  You’re fulfilling a social contract.  It shows that you appreciate them as a donor and it builds trust.

To learn how Yellowstone Park Foundation used a compelling offer to achieve a 34% response rate (that's not a typo) to their planned giving marketing outreach, visit our case study page


by: Jeffrey Stein on

The DMA (Direct Marketing Association) reports print response rates are outperforming digital.  Yet fundraising marketing experts are touting technology based marketing automation solutions.  And planned giving departments are considering it as a way to lower their costs (while making the same impact). 

The DMA must be crazy, right?

Print is expensive

Print is time consuming

Print requires coordinating with multiple providers (copy writers, designers, printers, mail shops, etc)

Print can’t measure open rates or click throughs

Print doesn’t benefit from SEO

Print doesn’t work with social sharing

Print is for old folks

Print is obsolete

Print is dead!

Print is dead?  Really? Hmmmm…

Someone better tell that to the college admissions departments who’ve been flooding our mailbox since my daughter took her PSATs two years ago.  Not a day has passed (okay maybe a few) that I’ve not come home to a stack of mail addressed to my millennial child.  What are these admissions offices thinking?  What a waste!  The time.  The money. The landfill.  Millennials don’t read mail.  Duh!?!?  Send them email.  Tweet something.  Post on Instagram or Snap Chat.  Anything but print!

I’ll tell you what these admissions departments are thinking. In fact, I’ll tell you what they know – and you should know, too.

Print is tangible

Print is beautiful

Print is durable

Print is portable

Print promotes online channels

Print puts you in control

And here’s why that matters to admissions departments and why it should matter to the planned giving department, too.

Like a four-year degree, a bequest represents a significant financial decision.  A four-year degree costs in the range of $80,000 to $300,000 – in the same range as a typical bequest. 

Like a college bound student, your donors have a lot of choices.  Students begin their college search with dozens of schools and narrow it down to just a few. In their lifetimes, donors write checks to dozens of charities, but leave bequests to just a few.

Like the college application process, gift planning is a family affair.  As easy as it is for colleges to stuff my daughter’s inbox with daily emails (they do and she hasn’t opened any of them), it’s impossible for them to stuff mine or my wife’s – they don’t have our email addresses. 

Like the decision of where to apply and where to attend college, a bequest is a contemplated decision, made over time.  Interest in the process ebbs and flows.  Interest in a particular college ebbs and flows.  Life happens.  Circumstances change. 

While rapidly changing marketing technology revolutionizes the way sellers (fundraisers) communicate with buyers (donors), we need to recognize that not all purchases (gifts) are the same.  Planned gifts are significant. A significant decision for your donors.  Significant revenue for your organization.  Too significant to abandon a tried and true, personalized, targeted direct mail strategy…like the one college admissions departments use to attract the next crop of millennials to their schools.

So before you scrap your direct mail program in favor of the latest, cost-saving, digital marketing innovation, consider what the leading planned giving programs are doing. 

  1. Devise a strategy that generates the leads you need to meets your goals – you need donors who want to talk to you about making a planned gift.
  2. Allocate a budget commensurate with the results you’re trying to achieve – you’re soliciting bequests, not $50 gifts to the annual fund.
  3. Commit to a plan to communicate relevantly, with appropriate frequency, and do it consistently – planned gifts are made on your donors’ timelines, not yours.

Planned Giving Marketing works with leading colleges, independent schools, healthcare foundations, and other causes to create highly effective direct marketing campaigns that resonate with donors and create more planned giving opportunities for their organizations.


Guest Post: 4 Hidden Fundraising Techniques

by: Allison Sanka on

Please join me in welcoming our guest author, Adam Weinger, President of Double the Donation. Adam covers 4 ways to fundraise that you may or may not already be utilizing, and some insight and tips on how these vehicles might be used by your nonprofit.

Four Hidden Fundraising Techniques

As a fundraising professional, you’re likely well-versed in how to raise money and increase awareness for your cause. But even the most seasoned fundraiser doesn’t know everything about asking supporters for donations.

Just like pirates use maps to find hidden gold, fundraisers need a guide for the fundraising techniques they may not know that much about.

X marks the spot! Use this treasure map to discover some fundraising treasure this year!

  1. Matching Gifts

  2. Prospect Research

  3. Fundraising with Social Media

  4. Mobile Giving

1. Matching Gifts

If we go along with our treasure map and pirate metaphor, matching gifts are the second chest of gold found underneath the first.

You didn’t know it was there, but you now have twice as much treasure!

In actuality, matching gifts are simply corporate giving programs that some employers offer their employees. After an employee makes a donation to an eligible nonprofit (note: eligibility differs from company to company) and fills out a matching gift request, the company will give the same amount to the organization.

How can you take advantage of matching gifts?

Pirates have to dig for a chest of gold, but your nonprofit simply needs to effectively market matching gifts to your donors. Let’s look at three of the ways you can promote matching gifts to your donors.

Within the Donation Process

It’s no hidden secret that donor engagement is at its peak when an individual is making a contribution. That’s why the donation process is the ideal time to pitch matching gifts to your donors! They won’t ever be more excited by the idea of doubling their donation to your organization.

Check out the example from the Association of Former Students at Texas A&M:

See how the information about matching gifts is bolded and in a different color? This makes donors’ eyes shift to the section to learn more.

Then, donors can simply check to see whether their company offers a matching gift program. If they do, the donor can then place the ratio at which their donation will be matched in a separate field.

What’s the takeaway? Promoting matching gifts during the donation process is the easiest way to find that second chest of buried treasure.

In Donation Acknowledgements

One of the best things about matching gifts is that the deadlines can sometimes extend to well beyond a year. What does this mean? It means that even if a donor forgets to look into matching gifts during the donation process, they still have time to submit a request to their employer (deadlines can be as short as 3 months, but some are over a year!). That’s why it’s so crucial to market matching gifts to your donors in your donation acknowledgements.

Take a look at this example from the Hereditary Neuropathy Foundation (HNF):

Notice that the email does two things at once:

  • It acknowledges the donor’s contribution and genuinely thanks him.
  • It contains a graphic that grabs the recipient’s attention and informs him about matching gifts.

It’s important to remember that an acknowledgement, whether it’s an email or a direct mail letter/card, should first thank the donor for their gift. That’s their purpose, after all!

But, once you’ve expressed your gratitude, feel free to market matching gifts creatively by:

  • Including a graphic that links to more information (like the HNF does).
  • Including a line of text with a link to more info.
  • Adding a button at the end of the email that discusses matching gifts.

What’s the takeaway? Even if a donor forgot to look into matching gifts during the donation process, hope is not lost! Promote matching gifts in your acknowledgements.

In Your Other Communications

You aren’t just talking to donors when they give to your organization (at least, I hope you aren’t!). Therefore, it doesn’t make much sense to only talk about matching gifts during the donation process and in your acknowledgements. You should also be promoting them in your other communications to donors.

Let’s take a look at example from the ALS Association:

The ALS Association lets their Facebook fans know about matching gifts with a quick post paired with a graphic. When it comes to promoting matching gifts in other communications (whether it’s social media, emails, or anything else), it’s important to get to the point. This post is only three sentences long, but it got 235 likes and was shared over 70 times!

What’s the takeaway? Keep your matching gift promotions short and to the point when placing them in your communications to donors!

Matching gifts are a great way to potentially double your fundraising revenue, but you have to let your donors know about them!

2. Prospect Research

Prospect research is the metaphorical treasure map that leads the fundraising pirate to the island of major gift and planned giving donors. Of course, your donors probably aren’t all living on an island together, but you can still use prospect research to get a better idea of who your major gift and planned giving donors are.

Prospect research can tell you a couple of things:

  • A donor’s willingness to give.
  • A donor’s ability to give.

These two points go hand-in-hand when your organization is looking to pinpoint planned giving and major giving candidates.

Willingness to Give

A donor could have all the money in the world, but unless they are willing to give, your organization won’t be able to receive any of it.

Some ways you can determine a donor’s willingness to give include:

  • Past giving/involvement to your organization.
  • Previous giving/involvement with nonprofits like yours.
  • A donor (or someone close to them) being a recipient of your nonprofit’s services.
  • Political giving.

These four facets are just the starting point, though!

What’s the takeaway? Willingness to give is just one of the factors that impacts major giving and planned giving decisions. Use prospect research to help you discover how likely your prospects are to donate to your nonprofit!

Ability to Give

The second component of fundraising that prospect research can help with is determining a prospect’s ability to give.

Calculating a donor’s ability to give means you analyze:

  • Real estate ownership
  • Stock ownership
  • Financial situation
  • Business affiliations
  • And more!

What’s the takeaway? A donor’s ability to give uses traditional wealth markers that can help you determine if they’re a good major giving or planned giving candidate.

Prospect research can help you identify both a donor’s willingness and ability to donate. But the most important thing is to listen to your donors when you talk to them.

You may have crafted the perfect donor profile thanks to prospect research, but it isn’t going to do you much good if you dominate the conversation during the fundraising pitch.

Here’s the main point: When you tie a donor’s ability to give and their willingness to give together, you can uncover a treasure trove of information that can help you make better major giving and planned giving asks.

3. Fundraising with Social Media

Jeffrey Stein recently published an article entitled, “Learning a Thing or Two From Generation Z.” In that piece, he stated that,

“Grandma and grandpa may not be Snapping between bites at dinner, but they are consuming and digesting marketing and media at a much faster rate than ever before.”

This is a crucial point to remember if your organization wants to start using social media to raise more money. Fundraising with social media isn’t just for your millennial and Gen Z supporters.

Baby boomers are on Facebook and Twitter, too!

Using social media to ask for donations and get the word out about your mission is easy. You just have to be consistent with your content! You can’t create a Facebook page, post a status, and hope that the donations will come rolling in.

In addition to donation appeals, you should post:

  • Updates about projects.
  • Info about upcoming events and fundraisers.
  • Shout-outs to thank your star donors and volunteers.
  • Information about corporate giving programs.
  • Success stories.
  • And more!

Social media can be a great way to get in touch with a lot of donors and inform them about giving and volunteering opportunities. Just make sure that you mix other types of posts in with your donation appeals.

You don’t just have to post statuses, though! Send out:

  • Images on Instagram.
  • Videos on Snapchat.
  • Pictures with links to your donation page on Pinterest.
  • Questions on Facebook.
  • Livestream videos of fundraising events on YouTube.
  • And more!

Additionally, developing a strong presence on any of these social media sites makes it easier for your nonprofit to engage in peer-to-peer fundraising (more on that here).  

Here’s the main point: Social media is slowly becoming another quick and easy avenue for fundraising. Make sure that your nonprofit isn’t left at the port when the social media fundraising ship sets off to sea!

4. Mobile Giving

Many nonprofits are looking for ways to connect with donors in an increasingly technological and on-the-move age.

Mobile fundraising to the rescue!

Mobile fundraising allows you to raise more money and connect with more donors.

Most importantly, it’s a fundraising method that meets your donors where they are.

Did you know that:

  • 64% of American adults own a smartphone.
  • 90% of American adults have a cellphone.
  • 42% of American adults have a tablet.

Source: Pew Research Center

With numbers like that, it just makes sense to start fundraising with mobile technology! What do I mean when I say “mobile technology” though?

Well, it usually is a combination of:

  • Text-to-give or text-to-pledge platforms.
  • Mobile-responsive donation forms.
  • Email appeals that are viewable on smartphones and tablets.
  • Mobile-responsive peer-to-peer fundraising pages.
  • And more!

Your nonprofit can use one, all, or a combination of these fundraising strategies to reach the donors who can’t walk out the door without their iPhone or iPad.

Here’s the main point: Mobile fundraising is taking off. Make sure that your fundraising strategy includes mobile methods!


As stated at the beginning of this article, you likely already knew about some of these fundraising strategies. But a ship can’t sail without a captain, crew, sails, and rigging; your nonprofit needs all of the resources available. Happy treasure hunting--I mean, fundraising!

Adam Weinger is President of Double the Donation.

Why Hire a Professional Photographer for Your Nonprofit Marketing? (Part 2)

by: Allison Sanka on

Please join me in welcoming our guest author, Naomi Liz for the second of our two-part series on photography for nonprofit fundraising and planned giving marketing campaigns. Naomi is a writer and photographer whose work focuses on nonprofit, humanitarian, travel, and nature projects. Passionate about helping non-profits communicate stories of hope and transformation through genuine, compelling photographs, we couldn't imagine a better person than Naomi to give advice about how to choose a photographer for your nonprofit organization's marketing campaigns and materials. We hope you enjoy this guest post on photography for planned giving marketing direct mail, marketing campaigns and donor stories.

Photograph by Roman Boed, va Flickr

Hiring a Professional Photographer for Your Nonprofit Marketing

In the last article, I shared about the importance of using compelling photographs for nonprofit fundraising, what elements make a great photograph, and how to get great photos for your nonprofit. For those of you who are considering outsourcing this task, today I want to dive a little deeper with some tips on how to hire a professional photographer for your nonprofit marketing. 

Why should we hire a professional photographer for our organization’s marketing materials?

It ensures quality. 
  • Experienced photographers not only know the fundamentals and mechanics of photography, they know how to capture great storytelling images in a variety of settings—indoor, outdoor, events, candids, details. 
It helps you communicate your nonprofit’s story instead of sharing snapshots.
  • Think about the most compelling narrative you’ve heard or read. Whether it was a fictional short story, a memoir, an anecdote from a public speaker, or a documentary, it’s likely that not every detail was included, and the story may not have been told in a linear way. The author or speaker very carefully crafted their words. From subtle descriptions of people to engaging details about the setting, the storyteller knew what he wanted you to feel and how he wanted to draw you into the story. An engaging story is not the same as a simple transcript of events, just as an excellent photograph is not simply a visual representation of a person or place. 
  • A skilled photographer shoots deliberately—she knows what the subject is, how she wants her viewers to feel, and where she wants their eyes to be drawn. She feels the story and shoots intentionally to capture the subject in a way that will engage her audience.
It keeps the photography from becoming an afterthought or a last-minute scramble.
  • Hired photographers will work within an assigned deadline, which ensures your marketing doesn’t get pushed to the back burner when other priorities arise in your organization. Additionally, investing money into your visual media—as with web design and marketing materials—ensures that it remains a priority.
It helps you stay focused on your own strengths. 
  • Outsourcing tasks that aren’t your area of expertise helps you focus on what you do best, rather than spending your time and energy on something you don’t excel in. Someone who is an expert in this area will get it done better and faster, and this takes the stress off your shoulders.

What should we look for in a professional photographer?

A photographer that connects with your mission and cares about helping you tell your story. 
  • Do they take time to get to know more about your organization and understand your goals—both for the project that they’re working on and for the bigger picture?
A photographer who has some level of experience.
  • There are a lot of excellent aspiring photographers, and working with a less veteran photographer may be a way to hire a professional if your budget is tight. However, if you are going to be paying them to capture photos for your marketing materials, they should have at least some level of experience and a portfolio they can share with you.
  • Remember that not all experience is equal. Someone that only photographs portraits may not have the expertise to capture an event and tell a cohesive story. Someone who shoots landscapes may have the technical knowledge to handle lighting, but might not have experience working with kids who never stand still. Someone who shoots outdoor family portraits may know how to handle groups of people, but they may not have experience dealing with indoor lighting, which is much more challenging.
  • Look at their portfolio with your project idea in mind. Is it head shots? Is it candid photos at an indoor event? Is it an overview of your organization, capturing a variety of shots? The photographer you choose should have a good variety of images in different settings. Make sure that their portfolio isn’t just outdoor portraits and head shots if you need them to work indoors. 
Someone who offers the type of photography that you’re looking for. 
  • A photographer specializing in family portraits or weddings might not take on corporate or nonprofit clients. 
  • Look at their portfolios as well as their pricing or “work with me” page to see what type of photography clients they work with. Depending on what you are looking for, the galleries or pricing could be labeled nonprofit, commercial, or head shots .It’s not as clear cut as searching for “wedding photography,” so you may have to dig around or even just reach out and ask.
  • Think outside the box! There may be photographers in your area that specialize in nonprofit photography, as well as organizations that focus on nonprofit storytelling (such as Silent Images which focuses on humanitarian organizations). Instead of Googling “city name” and “photographer,” try “nonprofit photographer in city name” or “nonprofit photography in state name.” 
Working with a professional photographer to help meet your nonprofit marketing needs offers many benefits! I hope these few tips help with some of your questions about working with a professional photographer. What other questions do you have? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter!

Naomi Liz is a writer and photographer whose work focuses on nonprofit, travel, and nature projects. She enjoys exploring the great outdoors, drinking great coffee, and chasing her elusive goal of becoming fluent in Spanish. Naomi is a Maine native, has traveled extensively in Latin America, and now calls southeastern Pennsylvania home. Follow Naomi on her Blog, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Guest Post: Photography for Nonprofit and Planned Giving Marketing (Part 1)

by: Allison Sanka on

In developing your planned giving marketing campaigns, have you ever wondered:

  • What is a "good" photo?
  • How do I take and identify "good" photos for marketing?
  • How do I choose photos for marketing materials?
  • Why do I need great images for marketing?

We have your answers! Please join me in welcoming our guest author, Naomi Liz for a two-part series on photography for nonprofit fundraising and planned giving marketing campaigns. Naomi is a writer and photographer whose work focuses on nonprofit, humanitarian, travel, and nature projects. Naomi is passionate about helping non-profits communicate stories of hope and transformation through genuine, compelling photographs. We couldn't imagine a better person to give advice about how to take, identify and select quality photographs that make your marketing campaigns stand out and drive response and action. We hope you enjoy this guest post on photography for planned giving marketing direct mail, marketing campaigns and donor stories.

Photography for Nonprofit and Planned Giving Marketing

When planning fundraising campaigns for your nonprofit organization, there are numerous elements to consider. You may have to make decisions about things that are outside of your wheelhouse, such as photography. As a photographer who has worked with local and international nonprofits, I want to offer you a few tips that can serve as starting points for anyone who wants to improve the quality of photographs they use for their fundraising campaigns.

Why do we need high-quality photos for nonprofit marketing?

1. Images amplify your story and help you reach more people. 
“An image is worth 1,000 words.” We’ve all heard this adage more times than we can count, but what it speaks to in nonprofit marketing is that photographs powerfully enhance your story. When used well, photographs and text work together to deepen and strengthen each other.

2. Photographs compel people to read further and inspire them to take action. 
Ultimately, your goal is to have your audience take action, but they will never do that if they haven’t been drawn into your story. There are countless studies that show that people react more quickly to images than to text alone. A great photograph elicits an emotional reaction with your target audience, and this emotional connection inspires action.
For example, look at these powerful statistics about how our brains process images:
  • The brain can see images that last for just 13 milliseconds. [MIT News]
  • 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual. [Shift eLearning]
3. Quality photographs make the overall look and feel of print marketing pieces more cohesive and attractive.
If you’re investing in great design and professional writing to get your message to your audience, it’s important that the quality of photography is on the same level. Mediocre photos dilute your overall appeal, but compelling photographs of your nonprofit’s work combined with great design and copy will make your fundraising message more likely to be heard.

What elements make a compelling photograph for marketing materials?

1. It includes a person or a few people. 
People are relational, and they connect better to photos of other people. Consider this compelling fact: “One of the first things we focus in on when we are born is the faces of our family. This isn’t just because they are always around in those first few weeks. The brain has a specific circuit for recognizing faces called the fusiform gyrus, or the fusiform face area.” [Canva Design School]

2. It doesn’t include too much.
A photograph that includes too many details will be lost in the noise. Capturing a photograph is about selecting what you do and don’t want to include in your story. Remember: not every detail has to be included! 

How to eliminate distracting details and make your photo stand out:
  • Focus selectively on one part of the image. For example, if the photograph is a candid shot of several people in a group talking, perhaps there is one person that is in sharp focus, and the rest are out of focus. This isolates your subject and tells your viewers’ eyes exactly where to go!
  • Watch out for distractions in the background or foreground! The culprits can be telephone poles, tree branches, bright or colorful objects, water bottles, trash cans, or extra people.
3. Most importantly, the image conveys a story and tells your audience why they should care. 
A strong photograph of people shows connections or relationships. This doesn’t always mean there are multiple people in the photograph. Relationships can be shown through: a subject interacting with the camera or photographer; a subject interacting with other people in the photo; or a subject shown in her own environment.
  • A powerful photograph shows and elicits emotion. What do you want your viewer to feel when they see this image? Surprised? Happy? Nostalgic? Curious? Look at the facial expressions, actions, and interactions of your subjects. 
  • A strong photograph is relevant to the text. What is the story you are telling? A great photo draws people into it, and the written story brings depth and perhaps even surprise. 
Photograph by Marjan Lazarevski (www.flickr.com/photos/mlazarevski/9035247869)
Photograph by Marjan Lazarevski via Flickr

How do we ensure we get these photos?

1. Hire a professional. 
It’s understandable that you have a budget for your nonprofit with many competing demands for the dollars you spend. But marketing the work that your organization does is your opportunity to reach more people and amplify your message, thus allowing you to grow and continue the work you are doing. Hiring a professional photographer for your nonprofit organization is something that multiplies your marketing efforts. 

I’ll talk about this in greater depth in the next photo tips article, so stay tuned!

2. Assign a project to a volunteer or staff person.
If you have someone on your team who has photography skills and you are opting not to hire a professional (for now), give your internal photographer some guidance on what you’re looking for.
  • Consider giving him or her a project or assignment with a deadline. This person probably has competing demands for his time, so placing some boundaries around when you need a particular photography project completed keeps it at the forefront for a specified period of time.
  • Brainstorm a shot list with this volunteer. This will include photos you want him or her to capture and possible locations. For example, if your story is about the impact of teachers who invest in the lives of their students, your internal photographer could look for the following shots that highlight this relationship: teacher at the front of a classroom (from various angles and perspectives), teacher having lunch with students, and the teacher meeting one-on-one with a student in their office. 
  • Those are just a couple of basic ideas—your particular situation will help you come up with your own creative shot list! This doesn’t have to be seen as a checklist of photographs he must capture, as it’s good to allow for creativity within the project. Your internal photographer may need more or less guidance, depending on his experience, but a brainstorming session is always a good way to gather ideas as a springboard for a photography project. 

I hope these tips help with some of your photography needs, questions, or frustrations. What other questions do you have? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter! Be on the lookout for the next article about hiring a professional photographer for your nonprofit marketing. 

Naomi Liz is a writer and photographer whose work focuses on nonprofit, travel, and nature projects. She enjoys exploring the great outdoors, drinking great coffee, and chasing her elusive goal of becoming fluent in Spanish. Naomi is a Maine native, has traveled extensively in Latin America, and now calls southeastern Pennsylvania home. Follow Naomi on her Blog, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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