The Planned Giving Blogger

The art and science of planned giving.

Archive for February 2010

Romance your donors with feminine copy.

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Jeff Brooks, the immensely talented fundraiser and Future Fundraising Now blogger, published a great post last week on how to address gender differences in copywriting.  I’m not excerpting it, because Jeff’s post, in its entirety, is worth a read.

Thanks, Jeff!



Written by Phyllis Freedman

February 23, 2010 at 11:52 pm

The dreaded legal department.

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One of the most popular posts I’ve written was entitled “The dreaded communications department.”  I figure I should give equal time to the other bane of most gift planners:  the legal department.

I’m prompted to write because I got a great blog post from my friend and marketing pro, Kirk Kirkpatrick, of Marketing-Fix who writes a wonderful blog on marketing called “100 words” (hint:  all of his posts are only 100 words long.)  Recently he wrote about a clever Valentine’s Day promotion he saw in the NY Times that completely fell apart because of the fine print.

His takeaway: “never hire the legal department–or Ebenezer Scrooge–as your marketing guru or copywriter.”

My takeaway:  never let your legal department unnecessarily burden your gift planning marketing materials with too much legalese or disclaimer.  Gift planning marketing is, for the most part, a lead generation activity.  Complicating mass marketing pieces with too much legalese can dissuade and even frighten donors whereas in a one-on-one conversation with a donor, the necessary legal content can be explained in a relaxed setting where concerns can be addressed.


Written by Phyllis Freedman

February 22, 2010 at 11:44 pm

The end of gift planning as we know it.

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If you haven’t yet read the article “Are Demographics Destiny?” in the 4th Quarter 2009 issue of the Journal of Gift Planning, you owe it to yourself to do so immediately.  In it, Mary Beth Martin and Susan Raymond of Changing Our World describe looming shifts in American demographics and their implications for gift planning.  The authors quote Jack Welch, former CEO of GE, who famously said “It has long been our observation that, for any institution whose external environment is changing faster than it is changing internally, the end is in sight.”

Gift planners should take heed of their observations:

● Because the elderly are living longer, philanthropic decisions will be made by families and not individuals.

● The gender gap is closing with life expectancy of men starting to match or even exceed that of women.

● This longevity will constrain funds remaining for charities.

● Our society will be more diverse, with planned giving prospects no longer older, white women.

And their recommendations:

●  Broaden your audience and your message.  Create the biggest tent you can afford.

●  More than half of American adults do not have a will.  Broadening your message to reach these prospects can produce dividends.

●  Encourage self-identification of bequest prospects but only if an effective stewardship plan goes along with it.

● Stewardship will be critically important.

The article is extensive with lots of other observations, recommendations and accompanying charts.  It’s an important read for all gift planners.


P.S.  The pdf  provided is from the Journal of Gift Planning, authored by Martin & Raymond, copyright 2009.  Used with permission of the Partnership for Philanthropic Planning, Indianapolis, IN (317)269-6274,  All rights reserved.  The Journal is a benefit of PPP membership and a valuable resource for gift planners.  If you are not already a member, I strongly encourage you to join!

Audience selection redux: Part II

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Yesterday’s post revisited the question of transactional data (propensity) vs appended data (capacity) for identifying your best planned giving prospects.  Two acknowledged experts in the field, Chuck Longfield and Peter Wylie, both come down on the side of both/and.  But what transactional data are most powerful?

The answer is “it depends.”  It depends on your organization and the opportunities a donor has had to “transact” with you and it depends on whether you’ve captured those data so they can be leveraged.  Some organizations collect what is called “affinity” information, that is, information about the connection the donor has to the cause.  But even seemingly unimportant data can be powerful.  In the early days of Longfield’s Passion Index, he found that donors who call to tell the nonprofit of a change of address are better planned giving prospects.  I guess it makes sense that if a donor goes the extra mile to make sure you can find him or her, it means the donor is really committed.

Wylie, who has studied higher education institutions extensively, asserts that “You can get surprisingly good results from just these six variables: home phone, business phone, e-mail, marital status, class year, and whether the person was ever assigned to a gift officer. If you have a yes on each of those variables, you have a very good chance of success with that prospect.”

Both men suggest that analysis will show which data elements are meaningful for your organization.   Unfortunately, most organizations don’t do the analysis.  As Wylie notes, “It’s all commonsensical when you look at it, but many institutions don’t look at it.”


Written by Phyllis Freedman

February 9, 2010 at 11:54 pm

Audience selection redux: Part I

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There is probably no more perplexing question in planned giving marketing than ‘who should I be mailing to’?  I’ve previously blogged on this topic but since it is such an important question and since the answer is so complex and nuanced, I think it’s worth more ink.

I’m prompted to write on this topic now because I ran into Chuck Longfield at the recent DMA Nonprofit Federation conference.  Chuck was the brains behind the Passion Index created years ago by Target Analytics.  Although now spending much of his time with his kids and on his philanthropic work, Chuck is still serving as Chief Scientist for Blackbaud, which acquired his companies. Then, right after I saw Chuck, I read an interview with Peter Wylie entitled “Adjusting Your Gaze” on the CASE website.  In it, Wylie, the author of books and reports on data mining for fundraising, also tackles this subject.

I asked Chuck about his latest thinking on planned giving audience identification and he confirmed his earlier research showing that transactional information on donors, what he refers to as passion indicators, are still the most powerful data available.  When coupled with external, appended data, segmentation models become especially powerful, providing guidance on both propensity and capacity.  External data alone typically address the capacity question.  And, as we all know, just because a donor has capacity doesn’t mean he or she will make large gifts to our organization.  It’s the passion indicators that help identify donors who might.

Wylie shares this view.  In response to a question about wealth screening, he notes, “Those services are aggregating public information. It will tell you who is rich, what are their stock sales, what are their real estate holdings. But just because your alumni have money doesn’t mean they’re going to give it to you.

Why aren’t you looking at what you already know about these prospects? Your proprietary data is so much richer than anything you are going to find out from a public-records search. Wealth screening is one tool, but to my mind it is a supplement to data mining, not a replacement for it.”

Tomorrow I’ll address the next logical question:  “What data elements are important?”


P.S.  To read earlier posts on the subject click on the Categories drop down on the right side of this page and select Audience Segmentation.

Written by Phyllis Freedman

February 8, 2010 at 11:27 pm

Communicating impact effectively.

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Lisa Sargent, in her Loyalty Letter blog describes how our usual way of talking about our work using numbers and statistics makes comprehension challenging for most people.  We are a nation of innumeracy–mathematic illiteracy–so our readers have difficulty with large numbers and percentages.

Lisa says, “So instead of writing, “63% of prison inmates can’t read,” you instead write: More than six out of every ten prison inmates can’t read. Now for the larger-than-life number: 774 million.

Most humans have no way to process a number that big. We simply can’t get our heads around it. Adding a reference point, though, changes things considerably: 774 million people in the world are illiterate — more than the entire population of North America.”

Read Lisa’s blog post for the full details and great references for even more information.  And then take a look at some of your fundraising and stewardship letters and planned giving marketing materials, including newsletter articles.  Check the numbers and statistics you’ve used and see if they pass the Human Scale Principle test.  Verify that you are giving everyday meaning to your numbers.


Written by Phyllis Freedman

February 1, 2010 at 11:45 pm