Many organizations, particularly small to medium-sized ones, have the potential to raise as much or even more money through planned giving as through major gifts. How come this truth isn’t a reality for many of us?
The answer is: Because we lack patience, foresight and knowledge.
To reach your often-elusive planned giving prospect pool or target market who want to be major gift donors at the end of their lifetimes, you’ve got to understand the unique characteristics that set them apart from larger current-gift donors. You’ve also got to understand human nature. Only the right marketing techniques can promote the growth of legacy giving and facilitate an integrated fundraising effort. But before you ever begin to market deferred giving messages you need to identify your best planned giving prospects within your constituent ranks.
Planned giving donors are usually loyal to the organizations they choose as well care about the fiscal health and volunteer. You’ll find most of your legacy donors within your annual giving donor pool. They’re joyfully living in anonymity and often like it this way. Both informational and fiscally conservative, these future major gift givers are happy just being one of the crowd. They often don’t ask for, nor seek, special attention. They read all of your publications received and, in return, support your annual fundraising efforts consistently. They begin thinking of their “in the future” legacy early – very early and continue to consider it through mid-career, as they approach retirement and just after. But as they age beyond 60 or 65, they turn their attention to family and friends and begin to reign in their annual support in favor of uncertain financial and physical health. By this time, your appeals and urges to make planned gifts with constutents over 70 are falling on deaf ears. In short, you’re too late.
The Stelter Company and Selzer & Company published their research findings on Age Differences in Planned Giving a few years ago. I recommend you read the report to understand how life-stage and the receipt of, or absence of planned gift messages influences gift-making actions. If you’re not educating and soliciting planned gifts from people currently age 30 to 59, your planned giving program will fail to grow. It’s that simple.
We’re all keenly aware that the absence of a planned giving program places extraordinary emphasis on current cash support to the detriment of deferred money. This short-sighted strategy eliminates the possibility of receiving most constituents’ largest gift they’ll ever make – their planned gift.
Prospecting for the real planned gift donor requires courage, confidence, consistency and a commitment to a long-term strategy. It means taking action today and giving credit in the future. Here are a few things you should consider to retool your planned giving strategy:
- Use an age overlay screening to get ages of your constituents
- Market different messages to supporters at different life-stages
- Educate younger donors about planned gifts and urge them to put one in place
- Tell stories about the impact planned gifts have had on your organization and encourage mid-age people to increase their current planned giving amount or create an additional planned gift using an appreciated asset
- Ask older donors and past-donors to your organization to notify you of a planned gift they have already created but have not yet made you aware of – invite them into your Legacy Society with educational and informative benefits
- Collect and use photographs and testimonials from planned gift donors of all ages in your organizational publications
- Reassess the components of your marketing campaign each year to make certain you have an inclusive picture of what works and with whom; include social media, your website, print publications, telephone and in-person visits
Like the mighty oak tree, your planned giving program planted today will long outlive its caretaker but can truly be a legacy for future generations.