Stories That Appeal to Planned Giving Prospects (PSA 10)

Stories That Make Donors Engage (… so you can have more conversations about planned gifts)

Practical Solution Announcement 10

JEFF: Hi everybody, this is Jeff Stein from Planned Giving Marketing. And, as always, I’m joined by my friend Greg Wilson. Greg is the Senior and Major Planned Giving Officer at Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Center in Allentown, PA. This is another in our series of PSAs: Practical Solution Announcements focusing on helping you market your planned giving program more effectively.

I have ranted myself over the past several weeks, particularly with the appeals from colleges. My alma mater, my wife’s alma mater, and now where my kids go to school keep sending us marketing, “We need money. We need the money. We need the money.”

You were in the middle of the semester. You have money in the coffers. Why do you keep asking for money for the kids? My kids are at home! I’m feeding my kids. Right? What’s going on? I don’t mean to look at it very, very selfishly, but you keep asking for money and I have no idea why you need the money.

I spoke with one of our clients in higher ed who we have a great relationship with, and I feel comfortable saying, “You’re a well-endowed college. You crank out very, very successful alumni. Your fundraising efforts are very, very strong,  yet here you are generically asking for money for the kids. I’m not feeling it. I don’t get it.” Is this the best way to talk to planned giving prospects?

And she reveals, “You know it’s kind of hard to realize these things when things are going normally. But when things aren’t going normally, you realize the number of kids who work at on-campus jobs as a means of supporting themselves. You don’t realize how many kids are on campus who are otherwise homeless. Maybe they came out of the foster system and now they’re out of the foster system and their dorm room is their home. Or the kids who have traveled from foreign countries who can’t afford to fly back and forth halfway around the world. And even if they could afford it, they aren’t sure if they leave if they’ll have the opportunity come back and finish the college program that they’ve invested 2 or 3 years in already.

When you put it that way, stories asking for money don’t seem so off-putting anymore.  As a matter of fact, she gave real tangible examples of how the university could really use help taking care of kids. Examples that the university does not have the means to take care of because of the circumstances. And these would be good stories to share with planned giving prospects.

Yet, those stories never make it into the planned giving marketing. They never make it to the messaging. And I don’t think it’s because anybody is trying to keep it a secret. I think it’s because organizations are coming to the realization that things are very, very different now than they were under normal circumstances. They’re just beginning to be able to explain what that looks likes to planned giving prospects who aren’t there on a daily basis.

So, you know, we talk a lot about this in our planned giving marketing–focusing on the mission, having the donors, you know, say in their own words why they did what they did and what impact they want to have.

But now I’m beginning to realize that we need to do an even better job talking about the opportunity to have an impact. Because most  planned giving prospects don’t realize what goes on day to day. And the people who are in their day-to-day are now only beginning to realize how different things are going to be moving forward, and how budgets of the past don’t address the reality of the present and the future.

This is going to be up to us as fundraisers and marketers to make our donors aware of what’s really going on, and to appeal to their emotions to get them to help us in ways that we never asked them to help us before.

Even though we kind of ran into this with you know an open-ended conversation, we’ve kind of merged to this point where things are going to be very very different and our donors really don’t understand what that is. I think it’s our job is markers and fundraisers to fill that in and tell that story because if they don’t understand the story if they don’t understand the impact they’re not going to be compelled to help you meet your budgets.

GREG: Yeah I think so. It’s at that intersection of being evergreen and yet specific stories kind of deal. If your marketing focuses more on your mission, it’s easy to just to into …  hey, how is the new normal of today impacting our mission and how does it change our mission delivery. So you’re not you’re not changing you’re not coming back out and going, “hey Jeff give us a gift because of covid-19. There are 100k other people asking for help with Covid.

You could now say, you know, in our case–again to pick on Good Shepherd in a good way–like this is Good Shepherd. This is our mission. This is how the mission delivery has changed because of what the new normals are.

And even to fully wrap it around. This is just to find these people who say, “This is something I can get around. That’s something I find really cool. To put my two cents in again, marketing’s job is to get my target list smaller. So I don’t have 500 people to call; I only have five people that I need to call who I know I’m going to have a good conversation with who will then lead to a gift.

Some of the calls that I’ve had over the last couple weeks, that I have been fortunate enough thatI’ve known the right people–or they have self raised their hand and have said, “You know what, I know you guys are going through a lot of challenges right now. What can we help with and what can we do?”

And then it’s me just putting those puzzle pieces together. But unless there is that planned giving marketing message that is going out and saying, “This is Good Shepherd’s mission and in this case, things have changed in how we deliver that,” no one is going to know to raise their hand.

We talked about this letter before, but we sent out an informational soft-ask letter that more than paid for itself in postage in the  fist couple of days or so. People said, “Oh my gosh, I never thought about all these changes giong on.”

All we did was say, “We are still about providing compassionate care to those who need it most–especially in the traumatic/nontraumatic brain and spinal cord injuries and long-term care. This is still our core mission. And these are some of the challenges.”

Like I said, within the first couple days, it more than paid for itself. It all comes back to putting it out there and helping people say, “That’s what I believe in.”

JEFF: I would say it’s marketing’s job to plant the seed in the donor’s head that there is a problem that their philanthropy can fix. And I would take it one step further to say that the more specific you can get about any one particular problem, the better chances you have of ringing the bell with that donor AND planting the seed in other donors’ heads about other things that they had not thought about that they could have an impact on.

So we give the example of new technology for patient communications as one thing. You might argue, “Well that’s only going to appeal to the people who don’t view technology in patient communications as a problem worth solving.” But I would argue that seeing this specific need would trigger the imagination of somebody else who may have no interest in technology or patient communications, but it would cause them to think about other areas of specific need where they DO have an interest and a desire to have an impact.

Going back to your letter “by committee”–the one that has to go through a process and then gets so watered down that,  in the end, it says nothing in particular. You run a greater risk of being completely generic than being incredibly specific.

The reason is because when you’re able to appeal to that handful of people for whom a very specific appeal is of interest, you’re also going to get other people to start thinking about their particular areas of interest and the ways they can make an impact.

So, you don’t have to be all things to all people. Specificity works in two ways. It gets the people to take action … and it helps other people to think about specific ways they can take action.

Thank you again for joining us.

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