The Planned Giving Blogger

The art and science of planned giving.

Archive for August 2009

Estate planning for blended families.

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It never occurred to me before I saw this article but it might make sense to offer estate planning content aimed at blended families.  After all, Boomers are in the sweet spot for planned giving based on their age.  And the boomer divorce rate is triple that of their parents’ generation, according to Ken Gronbach, author of “Common Census: The Counter-Intuitive Guide to Generational Marketing.”  Although we know that individuals with no children are exponentially more likely to leave a bequest to charity, we also know that there are tax-advantaged gifts and income-producing gifts that can actually benefit heirs.  The key is to prompt a conversation with a donor.  Providing useful information, as an occasional article in a newsletter or as a free informational brochure might not be a bad idea.



Written by Phyllis Freedman

August 11, 2009 at 11:50 pm

Changing the Conversation.

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How can you ensure that your planned giving marketing pieces are written to prompt an increase in gift commitments?  That was the question answered by Kathy Swayze of Impact Communications and Dan Pritchard of Mercy Home for Boys & Girls in our session at the recent Bridge Conference.  To summarize:

1.   Rethink what 60, 70 and 80 look like.  Susan Sarandon is 60, Dennis Hopper is 70 and Sean Connery is 80.  All remain vital and youthful.

2.  As noted in a previous post about the Pew Research Center study, take off 15 years at least!  Beginning in the 50s, we feel 10-15 years younger than we really are.

3.  Words like “seniors,” “golden years” and “sunset of our lives” are taboo.

4.  Eliminate technical information and translate jargon into donor-friendly language.

5.  Stay away from text-heavy content.  Use lots of white space and photos and other techniques to enhance readability.

6.  Ask for the gift or for the return of the reply card.  Incorporate “calls to action.”

7.  Don’t be predictable (a la Susan Boyle).  Show your organization’s personality in your materials.  One humane organization transformed poorly attended estate planning seminars into successes by changing the content to estate planning for your pet.

8.  Tie your message to your audience.

You can download the entire power point presentation here.


Moving beyond the “stuck” points.

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Whether the communication method is face-to-face or via printed planned giving marketing materials, donors get stuck in the estate planning process for a variety of reasons.  Our job is to focus on overcoming the donor’s specific “stuck point” to make way for the gift. Stuck Points

So said Jay Steenhuysen of Covenant Calls and David Whitehead of AARP who spoke together at the recent Bridge conference.   Here’s a chart that shows how/where donors get stuck and how to transform the conversation to help the donor over his/her particular hurdle.

Until you speak with a donor it’s difficult to know where they are stuck so mass marketing materials should speak to all of the potential hurdles.  When you speak with donors one-on-one, whether it’s in follow up to a returned reply form, a stewardship call or a face-to-face meeting, one objective should be to identify where the donor may be stuck so that subsequent communication, in writing and on the phone, can address and, ideally, remove the obstacle.


Written by Phyllis Freedman

August 4, 2009 at 11:50 pm

Power of persuasion. Tip #2

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A recent issue of Inside Influence, the e-newsletter of Dr. Robert Cialdini, expert on ethical influence and the power of persuasion, included some interesting new research that can be of use to fundraisers.  In fact, it might explain the results of the annuity postcard test I reported about previously.

The article explains that new research has altered how we should think about communications designed to persuade.  Historically, the focus has been on the message itself, it’s clarity, structure, and logic.  Now, a new cognitive response model suggests that the message is not what is responsible for any change in behavior.  Instead, what matters is the “self-talk” that occurs as a result of the message.  What that means is that people don’t remember the message as much as they remember the messages they said to themselves after reading or hearing the message.  So, when you’re crafting your message you should think about what your recipient might be thinking in response, both positive and negative.

So, how do we promote positive self-talk and counter the negative?  On the positive side, Cialdini suggests tying your message to PR that might be happening in the public domain.  Those public messages can reinforce your own.  For countering negative self-talk, Cialdini suggests quoting trusted experts.  This is where the annuity postcard example comes in.  Quoting trusted experts may be the reason that version of the postcard got a better response than the postcard featuring the annuity rate table.  It may also help to explain the success of peer-to-peer fundraising, whether it’s done face-to-face or via web tools.  Implicit in the “ask” of a peer is endorsement by a trusted friend.

How else might this insight be used to improve planned giving marketing results?  Here are two ideas:

(1)  More use of Q & A and FAQs in newsletter articles and other communication.  The questions themselves can be keyed to what we expect the negative self-talk might be and the answers can counter those concerns.

(2) Articles in your newsletter authored by a noted estate planning attorney.  Most articles now are published without attribution but perhaps putting key information in the words of a trusted expertand giving a brief bio of the expert to establish her credentials might work.

I’m sure there are other good ideas out there.  Care to share?


P.S.  Thanks to readers for alerting me to a broken link for the download in my last stewardship post.  If you had trouble downloading the chapter from Julie Emlen’s book, the link is working now.

Written by Phyllis Freedman

August 3, 2009 at 11:50 pm