The fierce storm bearing down on the Caribbean and North America this week has us all wondering what its consequences will be. In the west, where I live, the local media has focused some attention on the possibility of higher fuel prices among other things. Affordable fuel concerns us all, whether it relates to our automobiles, our homes or our fundraising missions. Last month, I presented a session on marketing planned gifts at the annual National Conference on Philanthropic Planning in New Orleans. I’ve presented on this topic before but it wasn’t until this week that I connected the concept of fuel and marketing.

My expertise is in planned gifts and I’ve spent more than 20 years cycling through start and stop marketing efforts. The really successful ones are those that used data to fuel creation and success. Analytic data is abundant and available from a variety of sources, but it seems that until now, most organizations haven’t been using it directly for fundraising marketing. When it comes to planned gifts, I’ve got some suggestions for using data – this affordable fuel – you already have or can easily collect and purchase.

Consider the phrase “donors like you” and you’ll easily understand the concept. Take a look at your living bequest donors and charitable gift annuitants if you have them. Use age, economic background, ethnicity and gender to paint a “picture” of them. Alternatively, if you don’t have many known planned gift donors, use a national profile as your starting point. Next, read or look – really look at your marketing pieces. Are you portraying a “donor like you”? If you’re using a picture of an actual donor, does he or she represent your profile? Is he older, much older than your average aged bequest donor? Does she look like your “customary” gift annuitant? Chances are you’ve answered this question in the negative.

Now spend time with the content of your marketing piece(s). Is it text-heavy? Or worse, is it tax-consequence heavy? Have you vetted your marketing piece with real donors to see if they read it? Have you asked them if they relate to the donor in the story? If you’ve got another negative answer, you’ve got some work to do. I suggest that you spend some time collecting other organizations’ marketing pieces for a group review. Ask a group of colleagues in your program department or on your faculty and staff, doctors and nurses, your closest donors – What do they think? Do they like them? Did they read them? Was there anything of interest in them? Were they tempted, even for a second, to seek additional information?

Do these questions evoke another negative answer? If so, then turn these negatives into positives and do something else! Stop what isn’t working and go back to your data to fuel your marketing so that it really moves. Put some ‘vroooooom’ into it.

Consider these management concepts to get started on cultivating planned giving donors:
• Identify your organization’s first and second most commonly-received planned gift vehicles
• Determine if your present data is enough to “picture” these donors
• Purchase or begin to collect the data points that you feel are missing
• Conclude whether your organization has a single planned gift donor profile or if you have several (think young alumni and older alumni, grateful patients and the general public, annual donors and major supporters, etc.)

With these profiles in hand, find images within your organizational photo book that look “like me”. If you don’t have a bevy of images available, use magazines. Build relationships with your communications and marketing team, share your planned gift data and information and discuss your organization’s planned gift donor profile(s) with them. Finally, transfer all of your findings onto a spreadsheet that lays out a multi-year, multi-segment plan that eventually reaches full pool of planned giving prospects. Finally, you’ll have tapped into the resources that fuel your marketing plan.

I’d love to hear what you’re doing with your most affordable fuel – data. You can reach me at Katherine.Swank@Blackbaud.com. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Katherine Swank, JD, senior consultant at Target Analytics, a Blackbaud Company, helps nonprofits apply statistical analytics and donor research to their fundraising efforts with an emphasis on planned gifts. She has raised nearly $250 million for mission funding during her nonprofit development career. Katherine is an affiliate faculty member of Regis University’s master of Global Nonprofit Management degree program, teaching courses on wealth and philanthropy.  Along with writing for publications like Advancing Philanthropy and Philanthropy Journal, she is also a frequent presenter for industry conferences such as NCPG, AFP, APRA, and bbcon. Having grown up in a tourist destination in Colorado, Katherine has become an avid world traveler and is exploring her way through the 1,000 places to see before you die, albeit slowly.  Connect with her on Twitter @KatherineSwank.

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