The Planned Giving Blogger

The art and science of planned giving.

Using the phone: tip #2.

with one comment

In my post on measuring success I noted that a big part of getting the overall return on your marketing investment has to do with appropriate follow-up.  Standard practice for following up on donor responses to planned giving marketing materials seems to be fulfillment with a brochure or booklet providing more information on the gift type the donor is interested in.  These mailings typically go in a #10 envelope with a cover letter and, in the case of gift annuities, an illustration of the payment rate and tax benefits, usually generic but sometimes personalized if the birth date and gift amount are known.

I don’t know about you, but my experience is that for most organizations that’s where the effort stops.  Since most of those prospects were not qualified leads and since even the qualified leads may need more than a simple fulfillment package to make the gift commitment, the vast majority of the expense (human and financial) to fulfill the mailings may be wasted.

Instead, here’s an idea for how to improve your results.  Try calling the donors prior to sending the fulfillment package!  Response rates are low so we’re not talking huge numbers here.  And if you’re lucky enough to have large numbers of respondents, you can outsource this piece of the follow-up.  This “pre-call” helps in a variety of ways.  You can qualify the lead and only send the fulfillment package (and incur the human and financial cost of doing so) to the donors who are truly qualified.   If you’re marketing annuities, you can realize the additional benefit of obtaining an exact age and gift amount from the donor, so instead of sending a generic annuity illustration, you can send one that’s customized. Have you noticed my fixation on this idea of personalizing and customizing your communication with donors?   And, when you talk with donors who are qualified prospects, you can notify them that you will follow up again in a few weeks, after they have had time to receive and read the package you’ll be sending them and to answer any questions they may have and, ideally, close the gift.

The time and effort to call and speak with donors who are not qualified leads isn’t wasted.  These turn into cultivation calls, a good thing when you’re talking about contact with loyal donors.  And since we know that most donors will never tell you of their commitment, these calls may, in fact, be to donors who are making a bequest, you just won’t know it until much later.   Of course, donors you are unable to speak with, either because they have no machine or because no one was reached, should get the fulfillment package.


P.S.  Dan Pritchard, the brilliant mind behind the hugely successful planned giving program at Mercy Home for Boys and Girls in Chicago will be speaking with me at the upcoming Bridge Conference in DC.  Dan has instituted an innovative multi-part follow-up to planned giving marketing leads that is a key component of their success.  I’ll be blogging about Dan’s presentation during the conference in July.


Written by Phyllis Freedman

May 27, 2009 at 11:40 pm

One Response

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  1. Such great advice, Phyllis. Recently I spoke with a nonprofit that ultimately decided to do their planned giving through their regular direct mail consultant rather than with a planned giving consultant. It was all about the costs to them and clearly a lack of understanding about what to do once there was a response. Here’s a chance to grow a campaign that will attract millions over the years and the concern is more about cost than process.

    Lorri Greif

    June 1, 2009 at 12:33 pm

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