It's Time for Gift Planning to Jump on the Bandwagon

segment1.jpgWe talk about target marketing, about segmenting a list so that you can create messaging that is specific to each segment of your audience. Unfortunately, gift planners rarely segment their lists. This is partially because planned giving mailings tend to be small in comparison to broader appeals, such as for annual gifts. Further, segmentation is not only more time-consuming for the person involved, but also can be more costly. So, what to do?

Plan For the Future

I would suggest planning for the future. There are two distinct donor characteristics that should influence our marketing more than any others – gender and age. 

We know from existing research that a woman typically inherits wealth twice in her life, once from her parents and again from her husband. With this inheritance comes the capacity for significant giving to charity. And this notion is not just theoretical. Everywhere you look, there is evidence that women have an influential role in philanthropy. The Chronicle of Philanthropy reported just this month in How to Build a Strong Women’s Philanthropy Program that “few organizations are actively working to cultivate female donors. Nonprofits that fail to do so are losing out on significant potential revenue.”

Likewise, there is considerable research and reporting on marketing to different generations, including articles published recently in the Chronicle of Philanthropy entitled Generation X Comes of Age as Donor Group with Big Potential, and Traditional Charities Dip Into Digital to Draw Millennials, to name just two. We all know this is very relevant to overall fundraising, but to gift planning? Yes, to gift planning, too.

Tailor Your Communications

Tailoring communications about philanthropy to the gender and age of the audience is here to stay. Gift planners need to adopt this approach as a goal for their marketing programs. Whether achieved next year or in five years, the important thing is to get there. How you promote a life-income gift should vary significantly depending on whether your target audience is a 75 year-old man, a 60 year-old woman, or a 45 year-old woman. Only when your message is aligned with the recipient’s life experience and priorities will you be segmenting your communications in a way that maximizes your odds of success, i.e. attracting more planned gifts.  

An Example

A recent client example illustrates age demographic messaging. The organization, which came to PG Calc for help starting a bequest program, is fairly young. It started only 25 years ago. However, they have a strong donor base that has been giving since the organization’s inception. As we were working on their marketing material, the client was critical of the copy we produced, and finally just said, “Our donors are boomers, but mostly they are Gen X and Millennials, so we can’t talk about death.” Try writing a gift planning brochure without saying “passing on!”  

After initial hesitation, I realized that their criticism had tremendous value. The client knew what copy would work with their supporters, and more importantly, what copy wouldn’t. We had to find “death alternatives” if the message was ever going to be meaningful to the client’s audience.

We considered using the phrase “upon realization,” but I didn’t think many readers would understand what we meant.  “Realization” is a term of art used by fundraisers, but not by the wider population.  We agreed on the following words instead: “Our charity receives a generous gift and your estate receives a charitable tax deduction when the account terminates and the proceeds are distributed.”  It may not be the most elegant copy, but it conveys the meaning the client was after in a way the client believed was appropriate to its intended audience.