So, We’re here today to talk about marketing to your donors about planned giving. Let’s start with a fact about marketing. Back in the 1970s, the average person in Canada was exposed to roughly 500 ads a day. These days, that number is closer to 5,000. That’s a pretty high number, but think about it. Just on your ride into work today, how many billboards did you see? How many signs in store windows promoting some special or other? How many ads in your morning newspaper? Clearly, nonprofits need to do something really special to be noticed on a large scale. Even if people do happen to cast their eyes on your direct mail, website or ad, whether they actually take any notice or process the information is a different matter. So, the question of the day is “how do you get your planned giving message noticed in the crowded modern marketplace?” Luckily, we can get some guidance from donors themselves. Over the past ten years, we’ve conducted almost 50 focus groups. These groups have been made up of donors to various Canadian charities who have the highest propensity to give a planned gift. Specifically, monthly and loyal donors. All those focus groups had a singular focus: to test marketing messages, ask donors what leads them to consider a planned gift, and ask them how they prefer to be communicated with. We’ve also conducted numerous polls of the general population to ask them some of the same questions.
Let’s start with the basics. Most charities use the terms “planned giving” or “legacy giving.” As part of preparing for this webinar, I visited dozens of charity websites and didn’t find a single one that didn’t use one or the other of those terms (that, of course, doesn’t include the websites that don’t include any information about planned giving at all… that’s a whole different issue). So, guess what? The terms planned giving and legacy giving are fundraiser-speak, not donor-speak. When donors are asked to what “Planned giving” means, they have no clue. Seriously… they don’t know what it means. “ Legacy giving” is slightly better, but not much. When asked to explain what legacy giving is, most donors will describe having a building named after them… that kind of legacy.
So, here’s my first tip: if you want to market planned giving to your donors, don’t mention planned giving or legacy giving: call it what it is. “ Leave a bequest” “ A gift in a will” Virtually every donor I’ve ever asked can tell me what a bequest is. How many of you are thinking, “well what about the other planned giving vehicles, like life insurance and gift annuities? Well, here’s your answer…
If 95% of planned gifts are bequests, why do we use equal amounts of real estate to market gifts of life insurance, charitable gift annuities… and so on? Why not focus the majority of your marketing efforts on bequests? In focus groups, donors know what a bequest is and are comfortable with the concept. All other planned giving vehicles are unknown and confusing to them. Are you planning a legacy direct mail piece to your donors? Talk about bequests and only bequests. Including planned giving information on your website? Don’t make donors dig for information on bequests…. Make it prominent and easy to find. I’m not saying you should never mention other types of planned gifts, I’m just saying that you should lead with bequests.
Guess what? Donors already know how to leave a bequest. Not only do they already know how to leave a bequest, but they get kind of offended when a charity starts preaching to them about seeing a lawyer, making sure they have a will, and so on. They don’t feel it’s the charities place to do that. Put your hand up if the planned giving information on your website focusses on how to leave a bequest. You know, things like the language to use, the different types of bequests. If you only do one thing after this session, it’s this: stop talking about how to leave a planned gift and start talking about why your donors should leave one to you. Focus on inspiring the donor. How do you inspire them? Tell them about the future you believe in. Tell them about your hopes and dreams. Show them what you’ve been able to accomplish, and the amazing things you’ll be able to do in the next 25 or 50 years.
You’ve heard this before. It’s the essence of donor-centred fundraising: “communicate with donors in the way in which they prefer to be communicated.” So, what do donors tell us about how they’d like to be communicated with when it comes to planned giving. Well, the first thing they tell us is that making a bequest is an extremely personal decision. They will react badly to an aggressive approach, and are offended by a direct ask. They prefer for you to present the information to them, then allow them time to consider it on their own, with their family. If they want more information, they’ll ask, or even more likely… they’ll visit your website to learn more. Most of the planned giving officers focus a lot of their time on meeting with donors. In fact, I’ve been in that position myself: looking for opportunities to get to know donors, to call them, and, ultimately to sit down to chat with them over tea and banana bread. And, no doubt about it, the most successful relationships are built on face-to-face contact. But guess what? The percentage of donors who are open to meeting with you is very small. The vast majority of them aren’t at all comfortable with that. And they aren’t much more comfortable with discussing these things over the phone. They’d much prefer to receive information by mail. So, whatever you do, don’t forget to include mail in your marketing efforts. True, you won’t get the instant gratification of knowing whether or not your message is being received and considered, but you will, ultimately, have greater planned giving success if you use all marketing channels. And don’t be alarmed if you send out a legacy marketing letter and don’t receive hundreds of bequest confirmations. Our research has shown that only one in ten bequests will come from donors who had told you their intentions. In other words, 90% of bequests you receive will be from people who you didn’t have on your list of expectancies. So, if you receive three bequest expectancies from your mailing, remember that another 27 have likely taken that step but are never going to tell you.
This relates to the why not how. Humans are emotional animals. Human existence is deeply affected by our feelings and reactions. To be fair, rational thought has delivered some significant advances for us humans. But it is pretty much completely against our nature. It’s really hard work for us. We are simply not wired this way. Feelings, not analytical thinking, drive donations Why? well science tells us that human’s are not ideally set up to understand logic; they’re ideally set up to understand stories… and stories make us feel Stories also get and keep the reader’s attention They help you communicate better Enhance credibility Linger longer in reader’s minds All important attributes when it comes to planned giving.
What are the characteristics of really good narrative? in the first person It entertains the reader It uses a lot of describing words It’s usually told in the past tense Stories are concrete, so they illustrate your concepts better than abstract, noncreative techniques do. And because people derive a visual image from a story – as opposed to a blind recitation of facts – stories literally help your audience see things your way. People believe information more readily if it’s delivered in story rather than through statistics. One of the most recent focus groups I did had the participants review the organization’s ‘old’ planned giving brochure and a mock up of a new one. The donors liked the old one better. Why? Because it was full of stories: stories of people who had benefited from a bequest via the charities programs; stories of donors who’d decided to leave a bequest; stories of the charity’s staff who were so committed to the organization that they had decided to leave a planned gift. The new brochure was all about the financials, the statistics, and the ‘how’ of planned giving. It didn’t contain any stories.
So, what are appropriate stories to tell? Well, I’ve given you a few. Tell the story of a bequest donor: what motivated her? How did she become involved in your cause? What difference has her bequest made? How did she provide for her family and her favourite charity? Invite a direct beneficiary of your work to tell their story? It could be a patient at the hospital, a student at the university, a former resident of a women’s shelter Write the story of the people who founded your organization. Tell the story of the Chair of your Board: why she volunteers so much time and energy to the cause, and why she’s made the decision to give a gift of life insurance. An important note here. Older donors hold the staff and volunteer leadership in high regard. How your CEO or your Board President is perceived, especially their integrity, may dictate whether a donor leaves a bequest.
People give to people. In focus groups, we always give donors planned giving materials to review. Invariably, they will start talking about what we call the ‘contact us’ information. Typically, charities will write something like “for more information on planned giving, please call us at 1-800-123-3456 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.” Remember I mentioned that donors see these kinds of decisions as very private and personal? Well, giving them impersonal contact information doesn’t sit well with them. Why not include the actual planned giving officer’s name, phone number and email address? Don’t call them a planned giving officer (remember, they don’t know what that means). If possible, write this section in the first person. For example, put a small photo of the planned giving officer, then write “My name is Jennifer, and I’d be happy to answer any questions you might have about leaving a bequest or gift of life insurance to ABC Charity. Please feel free to call me at 819-123-4567 x 234 or send me an email at…” Give them the name of a specific person to speak with. Let them know you’re there to help them.
Too often in our fundraising, we forget that we aren’t our target demographic. We sit around a board room table talking about how much we dislike long direct mail letters, flowery imagery and boring design. In fact, who reads letters anymore anyway? Guess what? We aren’t our target demographic. Good Works has done quantitative research to find out who the typical Canadian donor is and we call her Jacqueline. And, in everything you write and design, you need to remember that your typical donor is your great aunt Mary: a 70 or 75-year-old woman, often widowed, with children grown up and a handful of grandchildren she dotes on. She grew up in a different era than we did… she may remember the depression, she still does her banking by walking into the branch and she sends her cheques by mail. You know what I suggest? Find a photo of Jacqueline and stick it on your bulletin board. When you’re writing to or communicating to your donors, imagine you’re communicating with Jacqueline.
Speaking of effectively communicating, does Anyone know what grade level it’s recommended we use in our fundraising writing? Grade 6, and certainly no higher than 8. How many of you know someone in your organization who would say “Our donors are highly educated, it would be a big mistake to talk down to them by writing at a low grade level.” Guess what? It's not about education. It's about ease of comprehension. Low grade level copy is not "talking down" to educated readers or treating them like children. Think of it instead as a form of courtesy, like enunciating clearly when you talk. The most super-educated PhD. will appreciate and respond to copy that's easy to read. Did you know that MS Word will tell you what the readability statistics of your document are? Just go under ‘options’ then ‘proofing’ and choose to enable readability statistics. Then when you check spelling and grammar you’ll get a little pop up box that tells you the readability. Why do I have a photo of Obama here? No matter what you think of him as a policitician, you have to admit that he is a powerful speaker. He speaks in clear, plain terms… and his state of the union address has been written at a grade eight level three years in a row. If your fundraising message has a grade level higher than 7, it will draw a lower response than one written at 7 or less. It’s a tested reality.
One thing I’ve been noticing for years is that marketers, both for-profit and nonprofit, continue to make serious design errors in their print materials for mature audiences. Here are my dos and don’ts of design: Type size must be larger than average. Use 12 pt type at a minimum, and I would suggest 13 pt for planned giving materials. A serif type is much easier to read in printed materials, whereas a sans-serif type is easier to read on a website. limit the use of all caps, italics, script and ornate typefaces. Use sufficient leading - (the white space around each character) between characters so that the letters don't seem to run together. Make line spacing larger than usual. Single space may be too hard to read so try 1.5 or double spacing. Use dark type on a white background. The brighter the white and the blacker the type, the easier it will be for older eyes to read. Write short paragraphs and use subheadings, in bold, to break up long copy. Make generous use of bullets, numbered lists, sidebars, and pull-out quotes to help break up your pages. Line length should be short--about five or six inches. When using color for headings or backgrounds, choose carefully. The older eye develops a yellow cast, and it becomes harder to distinguish between certain colors. For instance, blue, purple and green may look alike when used together. Yellow, orange and red are much easier to tell apart. Never use glossy paper. Light reflects from the gloss and makes it very difficult for the reader to see the print. Use a matte finish. In your newsletter, use jumps, where an article is continued on another page, rarely. The reader should be able to read an article through without having to look for the continuation. That's a good reason to keep those articles shorter too.
Another element of design is photography. In focus groups, donors gravitate toward large photo on the front showing an individual person (too often we use head shots, or groups of people, or some kind of inanimate object). Never put type over a photo, not even your headlines. Here is an easy test for readability: photocopy the page. If the photocopy is easy to read, then you can be sure the original is readable. Type printed over images will not be readable when photocopied. Use photos that are sharp and crisp. Using something fuzzy for artistic effect will have older readers trying to clean their glasses. Favor photos of people, especially faces. A face looking directly at the reader is a powerful force. Yes, a reader will make eye contact with a facial image, so make sure the subject's eyes are nice and big. Black and white images work fine and can be very effective.
Donors will not make legacy commitments if they’re at all unsure about how well you manage money. They’re very mindful of the cost of fundraising and administration. They want their dollars to go to programs. Go to great lengths (honestly!) to show donors that their dollars are carefully stewarded and efficiently invested.
Donors do not see themselves as monthly donors or lapsed donors or major donors or planned giving donors…. Or online donors or text to give donors. They’re just donors. So often we see a direct mail donor hit a certain giving threshold and suddenly they’re pulled out of the direct mail program because now they’re major donors. Guess what? That donor likes to give through direct mail… so send them direct mail. So, just because you have a group of a dozen planned giving prospects who you have tea and banana bread with on a regular basis, doesn’t mean they don’t still want to get your e-appeals, direct mail and newsletters. Recent studies have shown that multichannel marketing increases revenue. Today’s donor may read your direct mail religiously, but only give via your website. Cut out the direct mail and the online donations may end… both of which certainly decrease the odds of getting a planned gift. Integrate your marketing: have you sent out a legacy marketing mailing? Make sure you have a specific landing page on your website for those who choose to then visit a URL? Send a pre- or post- mailing email that tells the same story in a different way. And speaking of websites…
Don’t forget that older donors are increasingly tech-savvy. The vast majority of focus group participants will visit your website before making a final decision about leaving a planned gift. How easy is it to find information about planned giving? Are you calling it planned giving? I find myself having to search through 8 or 10 levels of menus to find information about bequests. What planned giving information do you have on your website? Is it all the ‘how’? How many of you include donor stories? What better way to illustrate how easy it is to make a bequest than by having a donor relate their story? What better way to demonstrate impact, than by having student talk about the scholarship she received as a result of a bequest? What better way to reassure donors that they can take care of both their family and their favourite charity by having the surviving loved one of a bequest donor tell their story? And don’t forget the design guidelines we talked about. Make the website accessible.
I’ve given you lots to think about, so let’s quickly summarize the critical points> Use stories not stats Think like Jacqueline: when it comes to writing, design, showing impact and inspiring Be authentic… donors can tell if you aren’t Talk about why donors should leave a planned gift, not how Use all the marketing channels available to you Be emotional and speak from the heart Remember that donors give to the cause, not the institution Remember to listen to what your donors are saying, or what they’re behaviour is telling you…
Have Ligia explain context this is used in. Font Text on top of log No photo No emotional/inspirational language
Have them explain the context If used as follow up to inquiries, good Love that it doesn’t say planned gift of legacy give Great photo Reading score is 14
Have them explain context: Message from the CEO… dull Very modern design… not suited to older audience Would be very hard to read (colored text on coloured background) Excellent photos Reading score is 7
Have them explain context Great use of real photos White text on blue background hard to read
Planned Giving Marketing: How to Inspire your Donors
Planned gift marketing: How to inspire your donors Leah Eustace, CFRE Principal & Chief Idea Goddess @LeahEustace
In summary• Tell your stories• Put yourself in the shoes of your donors• Be authentic and compelling• Talk about why, not how• Use multichannel marketing• Use emotion, not logic• Beware of institution-speak• Be mindful of design• You have one mouth, but two ears