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Planned giving

Planned giving marketing

This week’s blog is based on a presentation Amy Wong, president of Dot Org Solutions, gave to a group of fundraising professionals, sponsored by LEAVE A LEGACY® Summit, Portage, Medina and Huntington Bank

Do you have a charity you love enough that you are ready to donate some, most or all your life savings to it?

If you said yes, are you ready to have that conversation with loved ones who likely think that they will be inheriting that money?

Why am I asking these questions? Because, when you talk with a donor who has made or is considering making a planned gift to your organization, these are likely things they have thought about.

And you need to think about them, too.

When you approach prospects and market planned giving opportunities to them, it takes a different set of strategies than other types of gifts. Unfortunately, many organizations treat planned giving prospects and gifts like they do other types of giving. They often miss the essential element that makes a planned gift so special – an emotional connection so deep that someone feels compelled to make a difference to your organization when they are gone.

Securing a planned gift requires making a connection, building a relationship and sustaining the relationship with your prospects and donors. Remember – everyone you talk to about a planned gift is potentially giving your organization a contribution that took them a lifetime to save.

It is important to market your planned giving program; however, marketing must include much more than a brochure, web copy or social media. While these are important, there are other nuances that will help you be more effective in securing planned gifts for your organization.

So, let’s talk about what planned giving marketing is and is not.

Planned gift marketing is:

  • Relationship driven
  • More than just print, digital and social
  • Focused on matching donor need to gift type
  • Reliant on stewardship

Planned giving marketing is not:

  • Transactional
  • Impersonal
  • Short-term
  • Random

Successful planned giving takes time, focus and planning. Anyone involved in this process must:

  • Know the product
  • Be the “seller”
  • Find the donors
  • Be front and center
  • Look for clues and cues

Know the product

If you are talking to anyone about planned giving, you must know the basics. You don’t need to be an expert in planned giving to talk to donors about making planned gifts – but, you DO need to know the basics.

For example:

  • You don’t have to know how to write a bequest, (nor should you ever do this for a donor) but your organization should have language you can share. You also need to know the difference between types of bequests – specific, percentage, residual and contingent – in case a donor asks.
  • If you offer charitable gift annuities, you don’t need to know the intricacies of how the IRS discount rate is determined, but you absolutely need to know it changes monthly and has an impact on the donor’s deduction for their gift.
  • If you promote life insurance policies, understand the types of policies your organization wants to accept.
  • Know how to accept gifts of stock and other assets in order to avoid making a mistake that could significantly impact a donor.

How do you do this?

  • Attend as many local events as possible to learn. Look for programs offered by organizations like LEAVE A LEGACY® and the National Association of Charitable Gift Planners. Both have local chapters throughout the country.
  • Read – I cannot stress this enough. The rules around giving have changed and can continue to change. If you want to be proficient, you must stay up to date on trends
  • Attend immersion seminars if you can.
  • Create a planned giving advisory group or talk with professionals who specialize in this area to learn more.
  • Research organizations who do planned giving well by checking out their websites.

Be the seller 

I know fundraisers aren’t salespeople; however, there are some sales strategies that can help you think differently when talking with donors.

  • Provide solutions to the donor’s problem. When “selling” a product, the focus is on solving a customer problem. Consider this: Is your donor looking for a solution to a problem? For example, do they need income? A gift annuity may be an option. Do they have significant assets in an IRA but don’t want heirs to be taxed upon transfer? You may suggest a direct IRA transfer.
  • Build relationships. Most people have a relationship with the brands they buy. The same goes with donors. Make sure you are building a strong relationship that will last as long as 10, 20 or even 30 years.
  • Follow the “buyer’s” journey. The sales process involves understanding how a buyer behaves and thinks. The same goes with donors. Ask yourself: How did they get involved with your organization? Why do they give? Why are the considering a legacy gift?

Find your donors

Effective marketing requires knowledge of your prospective audience. When thinking about potential planned giving prospects, you need to know who may be an ideal candidate to make a legacy gift. Some places to start include:

  • Age (retirement age or older)
  • Gender (female)
  •  No kids/single/divorced (Few or no heirs)
  • Frequency/regularity/longevity of giving (Have they given small amounts regularly for years?)
  • Frequency/regularity/longevity of volunteering (Have they volunteered regularly for years?)
  • Start a planned giving society - ask people to self-identify
  • Discussions with donors – verbal cues (Are there things they say that indicate an interest?)

Be front and center 

Regardless of the techniques you use, planned giving is about telling a story and educating donors on the benefits of planned giving.

  • Brand it. Give your planned giving program a name, i.e. Heritage or Legacy. Name it after a key founder.
  • Have a plan. Your marketing plan must be manageable, regular and diverse. Don’t create a plan you cannot execute.
  • Put information online. More than 80% of people go online to do research before making a decision. If you don’t have information, people may think you don’t have a program.
  • Talk about planned giving in your existing marketing materials. Some materials include newsletters, magazines and e-newsletters.

Clues and cues 

Listen to and learn from your donors. Often, they offer clues on what type of gift may suit them.

Examples of cues and clues include:

  • “I’d like to make a gift, but I still need income now.” (Consider a gift annuity or remainder trust.)
  • “I’d like to do something and need the income after retirement. But I’m still working.” (Consider a deferred gift annuity.)
  • “I really want to leave something to your organization, but I want to leave something for my children.” (A bequest or trust.)
  • “I have a life insurance policy that I don’t think I’ll need.”
  • “I don’t have anyone children or spouse to leave my estate to.”
  • “I’d really like to support the organization when I am alive and leave something to my grandchildren after I am gone.” (A lead trust may be an option.)

Overall, planned giving donors love your organization so much that they are willing to donate some, most or all their life savings to it. Treat them with care.


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