Frequently Asked Questions

Below are some of the questions we get asked most frequently. Have a question that’s not on the list? Ask us!

How is planned giving marketing different from other types of fundraising?

Planned giving marketing differs from other types of fundraising in a few crucial ways:

  • Donor motivation is different. Donors tend to be more focused on creating a lasting legacy, reducing tax burdens, or ensuring financial security for themselves and/or their families.
  • Donations are often more complex. These legacy-creating gifts are often larger and more complicated than immediate gifts, creating a need for educational materials and relationships with allied professionals who can guide donors through the process and ensure compliance.
  • The timeline is typically longer. Sometimes, it can take years for donors to make the necessary decisions related to including a gift in their estate and financial planning.
  • Donor relationships are more important. The extended time frame requires building deeper, more enduring relationships, as a donor’s trust and confidence in your organization play a crucial role in securing gifts.

What are the key elements of a well-rounded planned giving marketing program?

A thoughtful, effective planned giving marketing program will include a number of critical elements, including:

  • A clear mission
  • Goals that align with the interests of both existing and potential donors
  • Personalized materials that highlight your organization’s impact
  • Consistent calls to action (even simply encouraging potential donors to reach out to you for more information)
  • Tools that foster relationships with allied professionals who may be working with potential donors (attorneys, financial advisors, accountants, trust officers, etc.)
  • An appropriate way to measure the program’s success over the long term (factoring in the time it can take for complex gifts to materialize)

How do I know if my organization is ready to implement a planned giving marketing program?

Assessing your organization’s readiness for a planned giving marketing program may seem like a daunting task. You might start by considering the following questions:

  • Is your organization considered a qualified charity?
  • Are you financially stable enough to dedicate resources to launching and sustaining the program?
  • Are board members and leadership engaged, informed, and in favor of implementing a planned giving marketing program?
  • Do you have one or more people with the time to help build the program? (Even if you outsource most of the work, it is usually necessary to have a dedicated person to coordinate the program.)
  • Have you discussed guidelines for how the program should be operated and created relevant policies and procedures?
  • Have you identified your specific audience?
  • Do you have a clear, persuasive message that you want to communicate?

Is it really necessary to allocate resources to a planned giving marketing program?

If your organization is ready, you will find that creating a planned giving marketing program is well worth the effort and expense you put into it.

Planned gifts can be transformational—for the donor and the organization:

  • Planned gifts can secure your organization’s future and support the continuation or expansion of your work, even in years when annual gifts decline.
  • Donors find the powerful impact of planned gifts particularly meaningful and take joy in creating a legacy while joining you in accomplishing your important mission.

A thoughtful planned giving marketing program can highlight these motivational benefits, educate potential donors on ways to give that fit their circumstances and help meet their personal goals, and even strengthen donor relationships by increasing emotional investment in your mission.

Is it possible to implement an effective planned giving marketing program on a small budget?

Yes! You don’t need a large budget to be successful. Consider the following strategies for building a cost-effective program:

  • Integrate your message into existing communications. Assess ways your organization is already reaching out to donors—newsletters, emails, outreach to allied professionals—and look for ways to add planned giving copy at no additional cost (say, a short article, callout box, or ad).
  • Expand into specialized messaging. There are cost-effective ways to begin educating donors about planned giving and encouraging them to consider legacy-creating gifts. Targeted emails are a great place to start (assuming you have enough donor email addresses to make this worthwhile). Postcards and glue-fold mailers are also highly effective without breaking the bank and can increase your impact when coupled with digital marketing. When you’re ready for a donor newsletter, remember that there are many options at varying price points.
  • Create a web presence. At some point, you’ll want to establish an online presence so potential donors can find you and learn more about your mission and their options for making a planned gift when they are ready and open to the idea. There are various ways to build a planned giving website, including budget-friendly options.

I’m thinking about adding email marketing to complement our print pieces. What’s the difference between open rates, click rates, and click-to-open rates? And which one is the most important?

Unlike print marketing, email marketing provides its own set of metrics to help measure effectiveness. The importance of each metric partly depends on your specific goals and objectives.

  • The open rate measures the percentage of emails opened. A high open rate may indicate a strong interest in your organization and/or a powerful, attention-getting subject line.
  • The click rate measures how many people click on at least one link or image within the email, shown as a percentage of all emails delivered. A high click rate indicates that the email content is interesting and engaging.
  • The click-to-open rate measures the number of unique clicks inside the email, shown as a percentage of opened emails. This gives you a better gauge of what parts of your email and design messaging resonate with your audience. A low click-to-open rate indicates that people are interested enough to open the email but aren’t engaged enough to click links.

While you might prioritize one metric over the others, the combination provides a comprehensive understanding of how your email campaigns are performing and where improvements can be made.

How do I measure my return on investment (ROI) for my planned giving marketing efforts?

Planned gifts are among the most important ways charitable organizations raise funds. These gifts can comprise up to 30-50% of your organization’s annual revenue and offer one of the highest returns on investment (ROI) of all types of fundraising. The ROI calculation compares marketing costs to donation dollars, with the resulting number expressed as a percentage or ratio.

Determining ROI can help your organization obtain other planned gifts and use your planned giving budget more efficiently. To simplify and improve your ROI measurement, consider the following:

  • Set clear marketing goals and targets, such as boosting website traffic, growing subscriber lists, or increasing engagement with the development office.
  • Ensure measurable marketing by using website tracking tools, engagement metrics, and conversion rates.
  • Track conversions. Assign values to conversions like phone calls, newsletter sign-ups, and event registrations to assess and guide your marketing efforts.
  • Segment donors based on engagement levels or affiliations for optimal results in planned giving marketing.
  • Utilize CRM systems. Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) software lets you assess segmented group responses and track interactions and contributions from leads generated through your planned giving marketing.
  • Employ donor surveys to reveal donor motivations and undisclosed gifts and assess various components of your marketing strategy.
  • Evaluate and adjust over time (since planned giving marketing operates on a long time horizon), making ongoing refinements to your planned giving marketing strategies.

How can I effectively communicate the importance of planned giving to potential donors?

When communicating with people who genuinely support your organization and its mission, keep in mind that they may not fully grasp:

  • what a planned gift is
  • how it can impact your work
  • how it can help shape their legacy and meet personal planning goals
  • how many gift options are available to meet their unique needs and circumstances

Approach your donor communications as a combination of education, motivation, and trust building. And don’t overlook the power of stories! Whether told by donors or those you’ve served, stories educate and highlight your organization’s achievements while engaging emotions and encouraging action.

How can I best address donor concerns about planned giving?

Making a planned gift can be a significant decision. Donors often hesitate to make a gift commitment because they are worried about timing, gift size, or maintaining their family’s future financial security.

Always begin by acknowledging the validity of the concerns—the donor should feel heard and understood. Then, consider the following:

  • Provide educational materials that allow donors to explore options at their own pace.
  • Cultivate trust and understanding through consistent, pressure-free communication.
  • Explore flexible gift options that allow donors to keep lifetime control of their assets.
  • Explore life income gifts that can secure an income for the donor and/or someone else.
  • Share tangible examples of the specific ways their gift can make an important difference.
  • Highlight the tax and planning benefits of various gift options using case studies and illustrations.

Handling concerns with knowledge, empathy, and patience helps nurture donor relationships and is likely to ultimately result in a successful gift that benefits the organization and the donor.

What type of marketing is most effective?

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to planned gift marketing. There are opportunities to market using traditional mail, email, a web presence (planned giving website), magazine ads, and social media. What works best for your organization may depend on your specific donor demographics, your mission, and the nature of your planned giving program. Experimenting with a combination of different strategies and being responsive to your donors’ needs and preferences can help you determine the most effective combination. Keep in mind that consistent donor outreach is key to keeping your organization top of mind whenever the donor is ready to give.