Advisor Marketing? No, Advisor Stewardship

advisor_pic.jpgIn the planned giving community, there is considerable controversy about how much time (and money) should be spent “marketing” to financial advisors. When working with our clients, we often ask about strategies they have found to be effective when working with and marketing to advisors.  Here are a few simple guidelines we have developed to help ensure that investing time with advisors produces the desired results:

  • Identify the geographic audience - target a local community, region, large metropolitan area, or national reach
  • Identify scope of effort - market to attorneys known to the organization, or identifying new attorneys to “market”
  • Identify the goal - referrals directly to clients are not likely; a smarter strategy is to cultivate advisor relationships by sharing information about the charity's work

Charities that are regional, who have a cadre of attorneys known to them, whose mission is unique in the community, and can demonstrate impact have a much higher likelihood of running a successful advisor program. Those are the conditions, when present, that make investing time and money worthwhile.  But how?

Focus on Advisor Stewardship

Many organizations still follow the old paradigm of advisor marketing. What does that actually mean? Advisor marketing has traditionally consisted of having an advisor section on the planned giving website, sending periodic planned giving newsletters, and providing regular legislative updates. I would argue that is not an effective approach. In order for an advisor program to be truly effective, it should not “market planned giving,” but instead focus on stewardship.

In this case, stewardship means treating advisors like members of an organization’s legacy society. Advisors should be invited to the annual legacy society luncheon, where they are exposed to the latest happenings at the organization, and where “insider” information may be shared. Implementation is clearly dictated by the size of the overall planned giving program and its budget.

Some Examples

Here in the Northeast, we have a healthcare client that doesn’t have the time or budget for a separate, formal advisor program.  However, that doesn’t prevent the hospital from stewarding those advisors. As mentioned above, advisors are invited to the annual luncheon. In addition, advisors receive mailings twice a year. The first mailing piggy-backs on the legacy society newsletter, which discusses the hospital’s latest breakthroughs and innovations. The organization creates a letter specifically for advisors and includes that with the newsletter.  The second mailing is a year-end thank-you to advisors, sharing with them the results of the planned giving program. The thank-you communicates the number of new legacy society members, the amount of realized bequests received, and what, if any, are the plans for those monies. Whether or not the advisor may have played a part that year is irrelevant. The point is inclusion and transparency.

Another national hospital has a comparable strategy, but in addition, it takes the advisor program on the road, in an effort to personally deliver their message from the hospital physicians.

And then, there is the next level of stewardship, in the form of planned giving advisory committees. The scope of an advisory committee typically includes legal advice and business connections, but should also have a broader focus on the charity’s programmatic opportunities with its clients.

What Advisors Want

From the advisor’s perspective, organizations should provide three distinct things:

  1. Confidence in the organization's programs and financial management
  2. Access to leadership and advancement professionals at the highest level of the organization
  3. Knowledge of the charity’s resources within the community

The most successful advisor programs are not based on marketing. They are the the programs that cultivate advisor interest in the charity’s mission.