Case Study: Yellowstone Park Foundation

How two small words brought in a large number of planned gifts.

Create a multi-channel marketing campaign targeted to loyal Yellowstone Park Foundation (YPF) donors. This strategy was designed to identify and cultivate prospects most likely to make a planned gift to this national organization based in Bozeman, Montana.

The donor pool has been asked frequently for outright cash donations, risking “solicitation burnout.”

PGM proposed a strong, single-message strategy designed to appeal to YPF’s commitment to stewardship. For Valentine’s Day 2015, PGM mailed a beautiful, keepsake postcard to 2,525 longtime, loyal donors.  This card featured the donor’s first name (ex: Roger) with the message “Roger, thanks for the love.” The card also featured a personalized URL (PURL). For example, “" The donor was invited to visit their PURL to receive a free gift.  

Once a donor visited their PURL’s personalized landing page, they were greeted by name, asked one question about charitable estate planning, and clicked through to choose their choice of two free gifts. YPF chose to offer a special Yellowstone Park t-shirt or a Yellowstone Park trail map guide. 

In addition, as a multi-channel marketing campaign, an email echoing the messaging was sent to donors in the days after the initial postcard mailing.

A note about the card design and messaging: This mailing leveraged YPF’s Old Faithful Society (legacy society) image and messaging, but this was the only “nod” to planned giving. This marketing strategy did not feature any planned giving copy or other hallmarks of traditional planned giving mailings. It did not ask the donor to “consider” making a planned gift, offer “more information,” urge donors to “learn more,” or provide contact information for development officers. But it did use two magic words: Thank you.

  • Overall response rate of 33.87%. This response rate is astounding in planned giving marketing, let alone for any direct marketing campaign. A typical planned giving marketing appeal may yield an OVERALL response rate (any type of response) of just 3-10%.
  • 190 donors indicated they would be interested in considering a charitable bequest or other planned gift. The YPF planned giving staff will be busy all summer following up on these 190 solid leads.
  • The YPF received immediate confirmation of 13 NEW planned gifts they didn’t know about, and the Foundation continues to receive additional planned gifts rolling in from this single direct marketing campaign.
What the client had to say:

J.D. Davis, Yellowstone Park Foundation’s Senior Director of Development, tells PGM he liked our “outside of the box” solution and creative expertise. 

“You really understood why our donors are unique and brought us a creative solution we wouldn’t have come up with on our own.”

Like most fundraisers, J.D. is busy and says he appreciated PGM’s creative and production team’s “expertise and friendly professionalism.”  He is “extremely pleased” with the results of his multi-channel marketing campaign.

“You delivered a phenomenal number of new, quality planned giving prospects and revealed a whole group of donors who already had YPF in their estate plans but hadn’t shared that news before.”

J.D says he’s going to be “very busy” following up with these new prospective planned giving donors and having “many meaningful conversations.”

“Our donors care about wildlife and the future of Yellowstone Park and so do I. My job now is to simply make sure they know about options for making a planned gift that will help Yellowstone. We have a shared vision.”

Since stewardship is “always top of mind” for J.D. he liked that this campaign was “about the donor” and since it offered a beautiful, professional nature photograph unencumbered by organizational logos and extraneous text, the donor could keep the card – putting it on their bulletin board or refrigerator.

“At the end of the day, we want to send donors something that reflects why they support us. And we always want to show our appreciation. 'Thank you' may be two small words, but they matter a great deal.”

PGM wishes to thank J.D. Davis and Yellowstone Park Foundation for sharing their story. Founded in 1996 as the official fundraising partner of Yellowstone National Park, their mission is to preserve, protect and enhance this national treasure. Learn more by visiting