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Promoting Your Planned Giving Program: What You’ll Need 

Promoting Your Planned Giving Program: What You’ll Need 

A robust planned giving program is an incredibly valuable asset for your nonprofit organization. 

With it, you can consistently source and steward new bequests and other planned gifts from passionate donors eager to create a lasting impact on your mission. These gifts bring unique benefits and represent one of the highest-ROI forms of fundraising you can conduct. A solid program can help stabilize your budget and sustain your operations for years to come.

But if your organization is new to this type of fundraising, it can definitely feel awkward to talk about planned gifts with donors one-on-one, let alone promote them to much larger segments of your community. Even if you’ve taken initial steps to get your planned giving program off the ground and are excited about its potential, you may be wondering—what next?

Your planned giving program will only scale and yield serious returns if it’s visible to a larger audience than just your hand-picked major prospects. You’ll need to actively promote it.

How? You’ll need a few resources and tactics on your side. We break them down into these groups:

  • Planned giving materials and resources
  • Communication best practices
  • Engagement techniques

Planned Giving Materials and Resources

The actual tools and marketing materials you use to educate donors about planned giving and facilitate gifts will play a critical role in the success of your program. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • A dedicated web page. Create a web page specifically about your planned giving program and use it as the central hub for sharing resources and contact information with donors. Link to it from your general Ways to Give page. Lead with descriptions of the incredible impact and benefits that these gifts bring. From there, provide clear explanations of what planned giving is, how it works, and how to learn more.
  • Management tools. As with any new program or initiative you roll out, you’ll need a system for keeping records and learning more about your performance. This could be a standalone platform specifically for your planned giving program or one that integrates with your nonprofit’s CRM or database.
  • Donor-facing tools. Consider the donor experience. You can provide tools for them to easily create new bequests—the simpler the giving process, the more gifts you’ll receive. A bequest platform can also provide additional support and professional partnerships that simplify the process of running your program. These tools can also double as a backend management system that tracks your program’s performance.
  • A variety of promotional materials. You’ll also need the marketing collateral to promote your program in various contexts. Emails, taglines or one-liners for inclusion on other materials, social media templates, phone scripts, graphic design assets, and more will all be useful as your program grows and evolves.

Communication Best Practices

Success with planned giving hinges on effective communication with donors. Some of this will be filtered through your marketing materials, but a good deal of running your program will involve direct, one-on-one conversations with donors and prospects. In both cases, you need a solid foundation in how to talk about planned giving and represent your program in compelling ways.

  • Communication cadences. Give your outreach structure by implementing clear schedules and strategies. Take a look at your nonprofit’s larger marketing calendar and chart out a standalone campaign to promote the program and identify other campaigns where you can add integrated mentions of planned giving (to generally increase the program’s visibility). Consider hosting a special campaign for Make a Will Month, too!
  • Segmentation. You’ll need to adjust your messaging to best appeal to different audiences based on their demographics, capacity to give, and likelihood of being interested in planned giving. For broader mentions of your program, segmentation is less important, but one-on-one outreach lists and promotions specifically about planned giving should be more focused. FreeWill’s guide to planned giving prospecting outlines key audience markers to look for when discussing different types of planned gifts.
  • Thoughtful messaging. What exactly should you say when promoting planned gifts? It can be a tricky topic, but following a few best practices will help get you started. Use an empathetic tone and don’t mention death. Instead, focus on emphasizing the incredible impact that leaving a legacy will have on your mission, as well as the benefits that donors themselves can enjoy. Be sure to personalize your outreach with names when possible, and use second-person “you” pronouns to better connect with recipients.
  • Social proof. Showing prospective donors that others have already chosen to create a legacy through your program can be a powerful motivator. Gather testimonials from existing planned donors (or make a plan to ask for them), highlight them on your program’s web page, and use them to create new content like blog posts, videos, and newsletter features over time. 

Engagement Techniques

Beyond effectively communicating with planned giving donors and prospects, you’ll need ways to keep them deeply engaged with your program specifically and with your organization more generally. Remember that planned gifts represent a donor’s passion for your mission and desire to leave a long-term impact—you owe it to them to take extra steps to express your gratitude and keep them involved.

  • Legacy societies. A special membership just for planned gift donors is a tried-and-true way to foster continued engagement. These kinds of groups lead to higher retention and continued giving, and they make communication much easier as you reach out and promote new opportunities and events. With the right perks, the legacy society itself can become an important selling point for your program. Just be sure to focus on providing real value and fostering a feeling of involvement in something special.
  • Special events. As part of your legacy society, you’ll need to host a handful of special events each year to engage planned donors. Exclusive events (ranging from formal to casual) and unique volunteering or tour opportunities will work well. You can also use these opportunities to provide donors with knowledge and resources relevant to their interests, for instance, talks or workshops given by local professionals on topics related to your mission or financial planning.
  • One-on-one contact and inclusion. A necessary part of running a planned giving program is ongoing stewardship of your donor relationships. For higher-value planned donors, this means regular personal outreach from their gift officer. For broader segments of your planned donors, a yearly or twice-annual phonathon to check in can also be a good choice. For both groups, ask for feedback or send a survey to see what kinds of events and communications they’d enjoy seeing from your organization.
  • Flexibility. Planned giving is uniquely personal. Let prospects and secured donors alike know that you can work together to lay out the kind of gift that works best for them. This may mean exploring other forms of non-cash giving, like gifts of stock. The key is to make it easy for donors to want to support you and continue supporting you as they build their legacies.

Using these communication strategies will set up your organization’s planned giving program to thrive. 

If you’re starting from scratch, begin by making the communication best practices an integral part of your approach. Create a dedicated web page and templates/scripts for communication. Have a plan to personally steward your relationships with planned donors. Form a legacy society and lay out initial perks and small events. Then, continue to fortify your donor relationships with personal check-ins and other perks. And remember, as with the other standalone or annual fundraising campaigns you conduct, gratitude and engagement are essential for long-term success. Best of luck!

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