The Planned Giving Blogger

The art and science of planned giving.

The dreaded legal department.

with 5 comments

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

5 Responses

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  1. At the risk of sounding repetitive, this is yet another reason why gift planners MUST get out of the office, and do so frequently and for a great amount of time. Org’s that have their development officers (and senior managers) occupy a cube all day long are the ones that will also fail to meet their mission’s objectives. A pretty, well-phrased marketing piece with all the right legal mumbo-jumbo is OK, but the face of the org is the planner in the field.

    steffan cress

    February 23, 2010 at 8:46 am

    • Couldn’t agree with you more. However, many organizations have few, if any, boots on the ground and so must rely heavily on more mass marketing approaches. Not to mention the fact that many donors, even when identified, don’t want a visit. In an ideal world, we would have one-on-one interaction with donors but when that’s not possible, for whatever reason, we need to have the very best marketing possible.


      Phyllis Freedman

      February 23, 2010 at 8:50 am

  2. Right on the mark. We have enough trouble with jargon in our field without further convoluting marketing copy with legalize.

    James Preston

    February 23, 2010 at 10:29 am

  3. As a planned giving lawyer, my advice is to pick the right lawyer! In-house counsel generally are completely uniformed in this area and tend to be excessively conservative.

    Have a special counsel you go to for planned giving things who is an expert in the field like Jerry McCoy, Conrad Teitell, Phil Temple, Lisa Newfield, and Jonathan Tidd. There are lots of others out there.


    February 23, 2010 at 12:47 pm

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