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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.

10 Tips for Email Marketing for Planned Giving Programs

by: Allison Sanka on

As part of a broad-scope multi-channel marketing strategy, email marketing is a timely and cost-effective way to keep your organization in the hearts of your donors, especially your most loyal ones. Offering an opportunity to inform, enlighten, educate, and connect with your most enthusiastic loyal donors, email marketing should be a critical piece of your multi-pronged planned giving marketing strategy. Email is a fantastic way to recap direct mail messaging, and yet another opportunity to keep your message front-and-center.
Following are 10 tips for marketing planned giving to your organization's most loyal donors via email:

  1. 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.
  2. 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. 
  3. 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.)
  4. 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.
  5. Include a firm call-to-action. Whether it's a response or click, encourage a dialogue and interactivity through your email. 
  6. 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. 
  7. 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.
  8. Timing is everything. Test different deployment times and days, because what works for you may not be best for your organization. 
  9. 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.
  10.  Combat list churn. Typically, 30% of email addresses become unreachable each year, so it's important to keep lists updated and healthy.

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

Learning a Thing or Two from Generation Z

by: Jeffrey Stein on

Serial entrepreneur, international speaker, and soon-to-be published author, Andrew Rosenstein, popped into my office yesterday to show me the outline of his work in progress, "Understanding the Drive of a Rising Generation."  You probably have never heard of Andrew, but something tells me that might change in the not-too-distant future. 

I’ve known Andrew since he was a pre-school prankster wreaking havoc on playdates, and before I blinked, there he was, all grown up. Andrew (now 17) is emerging as a thought leader for Generation Z, the just-being-defined generation that follows the Millennials – the cohort that’s coming of age right now.

We didn’t have time to delve deep.  I was between meetings with our marketing team, and Andrew had a conference call with his editor.  “So Andrew, as a marketer, what’s the one thing I need to know about Gen Z?”

Andrew didn’t hesitate, “The BS filter is on!” He elaborated, “You know how your daughters are way into Snapchat and not into Facebook or Instagram?  It’s because you can’t edit Snaps.  Snapchat is real.  It’s fast.  No BS.  It’s Authentic.”  AHA!  It’s Authentic!  I get it!

He went on to explain what was happening under my roof and right before my eyes, but I was never able to wrap my head around.  Marketing and media messages are coming in fast and furious, and my teenage daughters’ schedules are jammed packed with school, work, social and recreational commitments.  Rarely are they sitting around taking in long form communications and when they do, one hand is on the remote fast forwarding through the commercials and the other is on the phone skipping through the unwanted garbage.  You want to get their attention?  Your point better be concise, compelling, and above all, AUTHENTIC.  It all made a little more sense.  (I stop short of saying complete sense because, after all, we’re talking about teenagers.)

So what do snapchat and teenagers have to do with marketing bequests and gift annuities for non-profits?  Actually, a lot more than meets the eye.  While Gen Z is an extreme example of how the immediacy of communication directly affects the urgency to process it and move on has put their BS meters on high alert.  This is the same technology and steady onslaught of marketing messages that is affecting older generations, albeit at a somewhat slower pace.  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. 

What if you want to get the attention of your best planned giving prospects, in between all these other messages?  I’m not suggesting we start Snapchatting with them, but we can learn from Gen Z how to package and present the message to incorporate it into our own marketing communications:  Be concise.  Be compelling.  Be authentic.  The BS filter is on!

Five Things to Keep in Mind about Planned Giving During a Capital Campaign

by: Allison Sanka on

So many times during a capital campaign, planned giving marketing stalls or takes a backseat to the marketing for the campaign. The two should not affect or depend on each other. In fact, they should run in tandem. The main reason is that your capital campaign supporter and your planned giving donor usually aren’t the same segment of your donor file. The same way you wouldn’t stop your annual appeal during a capital campaign, you shouldn’t derail your planned giving marketing efforts either.

Here are five things to keep in mind about your planned giving marketing during a capital campaign:

  1. Planned gifts are the major gift of the rank-and-file donor. For donors who aren’t cash-rich enough to make a capital campaign or major gift, the capital campaign may be just the opportunity your more moderate-but-loyal donors are looking for. And because your PG donors usually aren’t the same as your capital campaign supporters, there should be little fear that planned gifts identified during a capital campaign will cannibalize the capital campaign’s goals.
  2. Planned giving happens on the donor’s time-frame, not the organization’s. Just because the organization’s big focus is the capital campaign, don’t lose sight that planned giving happens all the time, even during a capital campaign. The two may coincide unintentionally—and that can work to your benefit.
  3. Consistency and frequency is the key to success for any marketing campaign. Ensuring your message is in front of potential donors when they decide to make the gift is critical. Because you don’t know when that is, going silent for months could mean losing out on this opportunity. If you stop, then restart, you slow the momentum and efficacy of the campaign, and like will end up a few steps back from where you were. A consistent and frequent marketing campaign is always the best practice.
  4. Stopping planned giving marketing sends the wrong message to your donors. In addition to losing momentum, a lack of planned giving marketing messaging could imply that the program is not important to the organization.
  5. Capital Campaigns mean increased marketing budgets. It’s a great opportunity to tag along on bigger marketing initiatives, at little to no additional cost! Work with your development colleagues to ensure there is a planned giving option and messaging in all capital campaign media and public relations.

While planned gifts don’t technically count towards a capital campaign’s bottom line goal, fostering participation from a segment of your donor file who wouldn’t be able to participate in the capital campaign encourages those who want to make a planned gift to come forward during this time. They can feel part of the campaign to “give big” in a way they can, even if the dollars are deferred.

Including planned giving as part of the capital campaign marketing encourages philanthropy, which ultimately is the goal of all fundraising marketing. Including planned giving messaging during your capital campaign is a great way to drive awareness of your PG program, build your PG pipeline, and show the value of planned giving to the bottom line. It’s a win-win-win!

Claire's Coffee Time Quick Tip #1: Perk up your planned giving instantly!

by: Allison Sanka on

PGM's Editorial Director Claire Meyerhoff brings her "Coffee Time Planned Giving" presentation to AFP and other nonprofit groups around the country. She enjoys sharing her simple, fun and effective ideas for perking up your nonprofit's planned giving outreach and most her ideas will cost you absolutely nothing but a little time. Following is the first in a series of Quick Tips for your planned giving marketing campaigns. We hope you enjoy them and find them useful!

Allison Sanka (like the coffee)
Director of Marketing Operations

Claire's Coffee Time Quick Tip #1: Perk up your planned giving instantly!

This Quick Tip is something you — the busy fundraiser — can implement QUICKLY. Just pour a cup of coffee, read the tip, then do it! Right now, some of your favorite long-time donors have three charities in their will and yours is NOT one of them. That's because no one from your org has asked them in person, online or in print… 

Quick Tip — Grind up that OLD boilerplate bequest message and brew up something NEW!  

(Note:  this week's Quick Tip, our placeholder, fictitious charity is "General Hospital."  Paging Dr. Quartermaine!)

Old! You've seen it a million times, hunkered down at the bottom of a newsletter or anchoring a fundraising appeal. It's the boilerplate bequest message:

Remember General Hospital in your will.

It just sits there. At the end. Like death itself. 

Yes, it's better than nothing. Yes, you've done it this way for 37 years. But it's like saying "have a nice day," and doesn't engage your prospective bequest donor. What do you expect them to do after reading this? Run to their attorney? Call you? Did you tell them how to call you? Did you put your phone number there? Did you tell them why they should call you? Maybe. Maybe not.

New! The next time you're doing your newsletter, engage your donor with a question:

Is General Hospital in your will?

Right out of the gate, you're engaging your donor with a question and triggering a more lively thought process. "Is it in my wil? Really? Do I have a will?" People put the hospital in their will? " By begging a question, you're guiding the reader towards some kind of answer, and maybe the answer will be….


Yes! That's the answer you want the most! There are two types of your constituents who will read this question and think, "Yes," and both are fantastic. One is the bequest donor KNOWN to you — and your question prompts her to think "Yes! I have done that, I have my charitable act together!" It affirms her action. The other donor who thinks "yes" is the bequest donor who is UNKNOWN to you. So for him, he needs a little prompt to raise his hand:

Is General Hospital in your will?

If the hospital is in your will or other estate plans and you have yet to inform us, would you please take a moment and call me?  Even if you wish for your bequest to remain anonymous, it's important to let us know so that we can ensure your gift will be used exactly as you intend. We would also like to send you a thank you gift. If you're still making estate plans, I can provide you with all the information you need. 

Thank you!

Bobbie Spencer, Director of Development

555-123-4567 | Bspencer@GeneralHospital.orb

This example has all the "Call to action" you need. See how this also speaks to the "haven't done it yet crowd?" This one brief blurb packs a lot of planned giving punch. I've seen an organization take up a whole page in a newsletter to explain their entire planned giving program, and if any donors had bothered to read it, they wouldn't have known WHAT to do next.

Use the format I've given you here and you can place this boilerplate language in many of your existing communication platforms. 

• In a newsletter inside a nice graphic design treatment
• Annual report
• On a buck slip to include with appeals and other mailings
• House of worship  program 
• On your Facebook page (stay tuned for another Coffee Time tip to show you a great way to do this)
• On a postcard mailed to a group of top planned giving prospects
• In some communities, for certain organizations (hospitals, ASPCA and other "iconic" orgs) you may consider making this into an advertisement and buying ad space in a local paper or special-interest publication.

I hope you enjoyed reading about my easy way to perk up your planned giving! If you're a program coordinator for your local AFP or other group, I'd be happy to bring the entire Coffee Time Planned Giving presentation to your meeting or conference. Feel free to contact me by email to discuss dates.


What Works in Planned Giving Marketing?

by: Claire Meyerhoff on

What Works in Planned Giving Marketing?


That's a question we hear every single day here at PGM! What "works" for one organization can be entirely different for another. All nonprofits are different -- and more importantly, so are their donors.


But there are some common goals. The organizations we work with all want two things:

1. They want more donors to ‘raise their hand’ and say "YES, I'm including a gift in my will to your organization!"

2. They want more top-tier prospects. These are prospective planned giving donors who are identified as more likely to consider making a deferred gift to your organization and would be open to a conversation or other engagement to move them closer to making the deferred gift.


A good planned giving marketing campaign is an authentic, natural extension of your stewardship. Way too often, nonprofits send donors planned giving information that seems completely disconnected from the usual donor communications. The donor is left wondering, “Why is the Springfield Animal Rescue sending me a brochure about something called a “unitrust?”


So...what does work? Here’s one thing that works:


Reaching and engaging your donor with a compelling offer.


Check out this great example of how PGM recently helped one organization identify more planned donors and top-tier prospects...


In February, 2,500 personalized mailings arrived in donors mailboxes. These donors were a select segment identified by our client organization. It featured a Valentine’s Day theme and two very important and very simple words--




The personalized postcard was, first and foremost a stewardship piece. Time and time again the research tells us donors don't feel that they're thanked enough-- or in the right way.


Because we utilized a personalized strategy, the card thanked the donor by name and then did something quite extraordinary. It asked the donor for...nothing. That's right -- nothing. It didn't ask the donor if the org is in his estate plans, or to consider a planned gift, and it didn't ask the donor if she'd like an estate planning guide or more information.


Instead, this card OFFERED a free gift to the donor, simply for being a supporter of the organization. All the recipient had to do to receive their gift was to visit their personalized landing page (also known as a PURL or Personalized URL).


There's much more to say about this mailing, like the creative concept, back end logistics, the personalized landing page content and the strategic questions posed to respondents. But you'd probably rather get right to the good stuff and see the results. After all, you want to hear about a planned giving marketing strategy that works, right?!


Here are the results:


2,524 donors around the country received this personalized mailing. Within one week, we'd heard from 127 donors. One week later, all the "non-responders" received a follow-up email. That very same day, another 153 donors responded. Within two weeks, an additional 221 donors responded.


Now, here's the good stuff:

A whopping 33.8% of the 2,524 prospects visited their personalized landing page. 

Right away, this organization learned of TWENTY new planned gifts. 

Right away, this organization had 120 top-tier leads. These were donors who, once they arrived at their personalized landing page, indicated they were interested in a specific planned gift and/or an information kit.


The key "What works" takeaways:

A good planned giving marketing campaign is about PROSPECTING. How can you get highly-involved donors to engage a bit more? Some are calling this "engagement marketing", but shouldn't ALL marketing be engaging? We think so and we have the outcome to prove it – and the ROI the client was looking for.


Would you like to see exactly what PGM did for this client?  Contact PGM President Jeff Stein at jeff@pgmarketing or 484-680-7600 and he'll tell you more.


Thank you!

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