Planned Giving Marketing Plan: Best Ways to Approach Donors

Planned Giving Marketing Plan: Best Ways to Approach Donors

December 13, 2019
Nandini Singh

The core of planned giving is donor relationships. If a donor has given to your organization over time, and you’ve cultivated a relationship with them, they will be more inclined to create a future gift. But, before you can discuss planned giving with donors, it’s important to understand how to approach them. Let’s explore the necessary steps you should implement in your planned giving marketing plan. With the help of Steve Maughan⁠—VP of Planned Giving and Estates at the Humane Society of the United States and the Humane Society International⁠—we’ll also explore some tips on how to navigate challenges you may face.

Planned Giving Marketing Plan: 4 Key Steps

Step 1: Creating Your Planned Giving Donor Profile

The first step in your planned giving marketing plan is to identify which donors and prospects to reach out to. As discussed in our previous article in our Planned Giving series, there are two primary planned giving tools you can use: wealth screenings and modeling. Both tools allow you to gain insights into the unique qualities of your planned giving donors. At what age have most of your donors contributed planned gifts? And, what are the commonalities among these donors in terms of interests and behaviors? By screening and modeling your donors, you can also identify which have the greatest propensity and capacity to give. So, you can get a clear impression of how to segment your donor base and who you should target.

For the Humane Society, they have been highly data-driven in their approach. They have primarily looked at the wealth affinity and ages of their donors to determine who to target. For example, the average individual who contributes a planned gift to the Humane Society is either a single or married woman or man with no kids. And, they typically have a liquid net worth between $500k and $5M. Individuals within these segments have the highest likelihood of making a bequest. Additionally, out of these segments, they identify which individuals have the highest likelihood of making a decision in their lifetime. In short, the more decisive the donor, the more likely they are to reach out. So, not only is it important to reach donors based on their potential interest, but it’s also important to reach donors based on the likelihood that they’ll take action.

Step 2: Pinpointing the Best Channels to Communicate With Donors Through

The next step in your planned giving marketing plan is to determine how best to communicate with your donors. This is best done through a highly coordinated, cross channel marketing system. So, instead of just doing a direct mail campaign, you would do email and social media campaigns as well.

A marketing channel that should be leveraged, which is gaining more traction, is social media. Most baby boomers (who are now being targeted for planned gifts) flock to social media to stay connected with their networks. In a 2016 study done by the Pew Research Center, experts found that 81% of adults over the age of 65, with an income over $75K, owned a smartphone. Additionally, the average Facebook user is a 63-year-old woman. So, it’s important to focus your marketing efforts on the areas where your target demographic is communicating. Once you’ve done that, you can create tailored messages that allow donors to begin thinking about planned giving, without you having to persuade them to contribute a planned gift.

Step 3: Meeting Interested Donors in Person

Once you’ve focused your marketing efforts, the next step in your planned giving marketing plan is to set up time to meet with interested donors. Through your cross channel marketing approach, interested donors may begin approaching you, expressing that they are considering contributing a planned gift. So, when you meet with donors in person, it’s important to invite them to learn more about your organization, your mission, and the results you’ve seen.  If donors feel that their personal values align with the mission of your organization, they’ll feel more inspired to give. This is especially important as most baby boomers typically give to two or three charities. So, it’s incredibly important to cultivate and nurture your donor relationships. Show your donors how their interests can be realized in actionable and impactful ways.

Also, if a donor is ready to give, it’s important to follow the donor’s lead when it comes to determining gift size. Since a planned gift is made for future use, the amount can be pretty nebulous. So, it’s important to discuss gifts in terms of the percentage of an estate, or other tax vehicle, rather than a specific amount. That’s for the donor to decide.

Step 4: Collecting Planned Giving Donor Testimonials

The last step in your planned giving marketing plan is to ask donors to share their testimonials. By collecting stories highlighting why donors decided to contribute a planned gift, you have authentic anecdotes that have the ability to connect with prospects. Most donors can look at the testimonials of people who have given and empathize or identify with them. For the Humane Society, they noticed that most of the testimonials didn’t come from wealthy donors. They came from average middle-class donors. They had the opportunity to explain their passion for the cause; why they wanted to give; and how they hoped their story would inspire someone else to do the same.

Connections like these (in-person conversations, donor testimonials, and social media engagement) can also have a major impact on how much donors give. For example, at the Humane Society, they noticed that when donors hadn’t been reached out to, they contributed about $40k. But, when a dialogue had been initiated with them, most would gift $130k or more. That’s a 225% increase. So, by prioritizing connecting with your donors, in different forms through different channels, they’ll feel more inspired to give all they can to support your efforts.

Potential Challenges in Your Planned Giving Fundraising Strategy

Although these steps should help you navigate your planned giving campaign, there are always challenges that may present themselves along the way.

One of the biggest challenges organizations face is receiving gifts from individuals who may not know enough about the cause. Some have very specific ideas of how they would like their gifts to be used. This can be restrictive if their goal doesn’t align with the projects or strategic plan of your organization.

In situations like these, if you can’t fulfill the obligations associated with the proposed gift, it’s better to decline it. No matter how large the contribution may be. It’s important to remain true to the intentions of your donor and how they seek to create change, while also continuing to serve your organization’s mission. Be sure to refer these donors to other resources they can use so their intentions and goal intersect, and can be seen to fruition. Additionally, be mindful when you’re communicating with prospective planned giving donors. Make sure that they have a clear impression of your objectives and initiatives going forward, so your future projects can be supported.

Planned Giving Campaign: Tips for CDOs and Gift Officers

Now that we’ve gone over the necessary steps to implement in your planned giving marketing plan and how to navigate potential challenges, here are some additional things to keep in mind as you communicate with your donors and prospects:

  • Focus on donors who have contributed consistently over time.

If you’re building a program, don’t just focus on individuals who’ve contributed large sums. Talk to the donors who have contributed $5, $10, or even $15 every year for the past five to ten years. These donors consistently support your efforts and display loyalty and passion for your work. If approached for a planned gift, they’ll likely feel inclined to give.

  • Have a board member who’s an advocate and will keep your program going.

When you upsell to your board, it’s important to keep an eye on your progress. Be sure to track the number of new donors and bequests you’re working with annually. It’s also important to track the dollar value of people who’ve committed to contributing a planned gift and shared the confirmed value of their bequests. This reinforces to your board that you’re gaining traction in your program and that it can continue on. Also, don’t be discouraged if you don’t see results immediately. If you start and stop your program, it can impact your momentum and potential success.

  • Remain donor-centric in your approach.

It’s important to remain cognizant of your supporter’s time. If you’re having a meeting with them, they know exactly why you’re there. So, be very clear and focused on your objectives in your conversation. Remember: it’s the donor’s timeline and decision, not yours. If you establish a system around needing goals, donors may feel that their connection to the cause isn’t valued. This may inhibit them from supporting your efforts beyond their lifetime.

  • Don’t disregard the use of social media.

As most baby boomers flock to social media to stay connected, it’s important to communicate with them in those spaces. You can generate tailored and relevant messages to connect with them. And, because they are active on these platforms, there’s more likely to see and respond to the messages you’re generating about planned giving. Additionally, this also gives potential donors an opportunity to familiarize themselves with your organization’s mission and initiatives. So, they can see how they fit into your efforts, and find ways to make a significant impact.

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