Why Gift Planning Campaigns Should Be an Integral Part of Your Direct Response Strategy

By: Kurt Worrell

Why Gift Planning Campaigns Should Be an Integral Part of Your Direct Response Strategy

Gift planning campaigns, in direct-response marketing, often take the shape of an article in a newsletter, a link on a remit device, and a micro site. All of these tactics are great and recommended — but don’t stop there. Targeted and donor-centric campaigns can yield a wealth of leads and opportunities.

According to Schervish and Havens at the Boston College’s Center for Wealth Philanthropy, we are in the midst of the largest generational wealth transfer in history. Estimates are that $59 trillion of wealth will transfer in the next 40 years. Currently, about 5% of donors make planned gifts, but 30% would consider if asked. Gift planning options enable many donors to make a larger gift size and impact they would not be comfortable making in their lifetime. 

The path to planned gifts is paved with annual fund donors. It is no secret that donor loyalty is one of the biggest indicators for gift planning. Giving USA released a special report, “Leaving a Legacy,” which indicates most planned giving donors have given for 10+ years to the organizations they support. Bequests are the most popular instrument used. The report showed most donors write their first will at age 43 and most made their first planned gift around age 53. The most common reasons for writing a will are life stage events like getting married, having children, buying a home, retiring, and gaining wealth. More than 40% of survey respondents indicated they learned about planned giving from a charity.

This data shows we need more education around gift planning options available to a donor and the importance of understanding their state of consideration. Direct-response campaigns are an ideal way to learn more about your donor’s life stage, their intent, and their openness to make this type of gift either today or in the future. 

Here are some tips to help you prepare for your next campaign:

  1. Create targeted segments for gift planning appeals.  
    • A focus on donor loyalty, number of lifetime gifts, age, income, and home value can all be indicators of gift planning potential. In addition to these donors, also consider longtime volunteers and donors making gifts from donor-advised funds (DAFs) or family foundations.
  2. Utilize surveys to learn more about donors state of consideration. 
    • This is done most effectively through conversations, but can also be done digitally or through the mail. Telephone provides a tremendous opportunity to engage a donor, and fully understand a donor’s life stage, intent, and state of consideration. As a channel, the phone will also produce your highest response rates.  Utilize telephone with digital and print communications to maximize response and meet donors in the channel they prefer.
  3. Focus on your donors’ stories. 
    • Having a conversation and capturing each donor’s autobiography and their “why,” is incredibly powerful. When recounting their “why”, donors focus on their legacy which creates an optimal environment to engage.
  4. Ask the right questions.  
    • Focus on donor intent, the legacy they wish to leave, the reasons they give, and why they feel your mission is critical for the next generations to come.
  5. If a donor indicates interest in learning more about gift planning, it is important to connect around that specific interest in a timely manner.  
    • Make sure as you generate leads through your direct response processes that you have the ability and capacity to follow up in order to answer donor questions and identify the most attractive instruments of giving for your donor. Meter your outreach appropriately so you can respond in a timely fashion.
  6. Track donors who indicate future interest in gift planning. 
    • Many donors will indicate future interest in the process and it is important to keep your finger on the pulse with these donors. When they are ready to engage, you need to be prepared. Incorporate a thoughtful track of gift planning information to move your donor into future stewardship activities. Have a plan to stay in touch.
  7. Consider annual appeals that focus on gifts from assets.
    • This may include DAFs, but you can also focus on qualified charitable distributions for donors showing interest from your outreach.
  8. Have a stewardship plan for existing and new planned giving donors.  
    • The Giving USA report showed donors were very interested in opportunities to continue to build relationships and community. They also shared
      and appreciated personalized and tailored communications. Perhaps most importantly, they indicated the best content was from focused reporting on impact, while the least desirable was constant future asks, impersonal or unwanted recognition, and use of premiums.

Many donors tend to actually increase their annual giving after making a future gift commitment, so don’t worry about cannibalizing annual giving.  Understand your donor’s intent for their planned gift and what they are capable of in their lifetime.  Almost everyone is capable of making a planned gift. Understand what your donor’s intent for giving is and nurture that intent. For a donor who has made smaller lifetime gifts than say a major gift prospect, set your ask strategies appropriately to keep them in their comfort zone. For donors who have major gift potential, consider a combined ask that includes gift planning options. 

To learn more about our story-based approach to generate gift planning leads, please reach out to us today or read more on StoryCause.com