When we think about sustainability, the first thing that generally comes to mind is saving our world’s precious resources. Sustainability is in the news daily. Just recently, it was reported that Cape Town, South Africa will run out of water as soon as April 2018! Sustainability is not just about being careful how we use our resources so as not to deplete or damage them. It’s also about “relating to a lifestyle involving the use of sustainable methods,” according to Webster Dictionary.

Sustainable methods = Something you can maintain

So how do you sustain your planned giving marketing program? 

While not as momentous a problem as sustaining our world, sustaining your planned giving marketing can be achieved through continuous repetition of a consistent marketing message. As a gift officer responsible for planned giving marketing, you are frequently faced with scarcity of time and financial resources. In many organizations, but especially in small to mid-sized ones where there is no planned giving department, this is a common challenge. As such, to have a sustainable marketing effort, you have to ensure that your marketing program leverages your existing marketing channels and programs.

In large organizations, access to existing marketing channels may be difficult because of competing messages and priorities within the Development department. However, leveraging existing channels is the most cost-effective and easiest way to carry the planned giving message to your largest audience. Any officer who wears multiple hats (of which planned giving is only one), can make their planned giving marketing program sustainable by following this strategy.

We work with a small community hospital in rural Illinois that has only two development staff – a major gift officer and an assistant. These two are not only responsible for fundraising, but also for donor relations! For years they struggled with getting their planned marketing program off the ground, thinking that targeted marketing and planned giving mailings were essential to success. Year after year, their planned giving marketing fell short of their goals because other priorities crowded out time for planned giving. We helped them find a solution that leverages existing communications, and includes an annual planned giving newsletter. Here are their planned giving “touch points” leveraging their existing channels:

  • Planned giving advertisement in their annual gala event program
  • Asking staff to consider planned gifts as part of their employee giving campaign
  • Remarks by leadership encouraging legacy giving at fundraising events
  • Planned giving checkbox on their donation webpage
  • Event thank-you receipts that suggest other ways attendees can give (image below)
  • Their annual planned giving newsletter

They have two to three fundraising events annually. After each event, the acknowledgement letter includes a thank-you insert with planned giving copy. The copy is updated for every event, because of the large circulation it receives. While the major gift officer has received some leads from this insert, prospect identification is not really the objective. Their marketing strategy is focused on the repeated dissemination of their planned giving marketing message. Over time, continuous, repeated messaging sustains their planned giving marketing program.

And now for the end of the story. The major gift officer received an email from a donor with whom she had been trying to develop a relationship for years. This donor had the potential to make a substantial leadership gift. The donor said she loved the insert and knew one of the pictured volunteers, and would like to learn more. While it is uncommon to receive such direct feedback on a given marketing piece, the feedback indicated that the sustainability strategy was working.



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