While it’s often easy to approach nonprofit fundraising in silos, some experts suggest that this approach is no longer working in the current economic landscape. What’s more, as baby boomer donors continue to age, fundraisers have the unique opportunity to cultivate relationships with a large population of donors that could lead to planned gifts.According to the FLA Group’s “Legacy Marketing Overview,” charitable bequests—one of the most popular forms of planned giving—has the potential to deliver a staggering $42 billion to Canadian charities. But while a healthy 48% of Canadians think that charitable bequests are ‘a good idea,’ the majority of donors surveyed have never been asked to consider it by any of the charities they support.

For those needing a refresher, planned giving, sometimes referred to as gift planning, is a method of fundraising that enables donors to make larger gifts than they could make from their income. A planned gift is essentially any major gift, made in one’s lifetime or at death as part of a donor’s overall financial and/or estate planning.

Planned gifts can come in many forms—cash, appreciated securities or stock, real estate, artwork, personal property, life insurance, a retirement plan and more.

Here are a few tactics to consider implementing into your current fundraising marketing efforts to turn donors into lifelong advocates:

  • Recognize and thank loyal donors
    Research conducted by nonprofit solutions provider Blackbaud® suggests that most planned gifts emanate from habitual annual donors—loyal giving behaviour frequently trumps gift size as a predictor of planned giving. Handwritten notes, public recognition in the annual report and on your website are all common and effective tactics. Brighten their day further with a special in-person delivery of a cookie tin or a jelly bean caddy.
  • Start marketing your planned giving option with the channels you already have
    Start out slowly and build your marketing program. Begin by using your existing publications, direct appeals, website and events to advertise the types of planned gifts your organization offers. Newsletters—print and electronic—should carry stories and photos of planned giving donors. Add the URL of a link specific to planned giving information on your website to promotional materials like a Piggy Bank or The Bank’R Key Tag.
  • Offer planned giving seminars
    Free get-togethers that allow donors to continue their education on the work of your organization and its mission will strengthen the bond. Seminars that also include a word or two from an expert financial advisor explaining the basics and the benefits of planned giving has also helped many nonprofits reach the planned giving ask successfully.
  • Reach out to local financial advisors and estate planners
    Establishing connections with the very people responsible for facilitating planned gifts can lead to referrals. Meet with them in-person and leave them with information on your organization in case their clients seek advice on local organizations to develop relationships with.
  • Loop it all back to personal connection
    Direct mail and online channels are effective at reaching out to donors, but don’t forget that when it comes to planned giving, it’s the personal, face-to-face interaction that really secures commitment. Arrange coffee dates, outings that allow donors to see the work of your mission first hand, send birthday and holiday cards—anything that contributes to true relationship development. Create themed invites for these interactions, too. For example, invite donors to coffee by sending a mug or out to cocktails by sending a classic stem-less wine glass.

Planned giving, for many, is a treasure trove of untapped resources—both the financial kind and the kind that comes in the form of relationships. Review your planned giving efforts and marketing tactics today in order to refocus and reenergize them for successful fundraising well into the future.

FLA Group. “Legacy Marketing Overview.” FLA Group. Web. March 2010.

“What Is Planned Giving?” Planned Giving Marketing Newsletters, Postcards, Toolkits, Pocket Guides, Policy Manual, Resources Gift Planners, Jobs. Web. 02 Dec. 2010.

Henze, J.D./Blackbaud, Lawrence. “How the Right Marketing Strategies Can Enhance Your Planned Giving Program.” Blackbaud. Web. 2 Dec. 2010.

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