After 57 years in this space, Stelter has seen many industry trends come and go.
For decades we worked exclusively with the directors of planned giving, and no one else within our partnering organizations. But today, more and more nonprofits are prioritizing gift planning. This means they’re devoting more time, money and staff to their planned giving programs than ever before.
Planned giving is a special kind of fundraising. It is a long-term process, dependent upon building relationships with your prospects and then reaching them at the right moment. Consistent and thoughtful marketing outreach is key.
As donor giving life cycles and expectations evolve—based on donors’ individual experiences—collaborating, integrating and communicating with your internal marketing team has never been more vital to your planned giving program, and nonprofit as a whole.
Some shops talk, and some don’t. Here are 5 sure-fire ways to improve your internal communication, and optimize your planned giving marketing:
1. Awareness and Education
First things first: Educate your internal teams (and board) on planned giving.
Traditionally, nonprofits—not to mention their marketing departments—have little knowledge around planned giving. It’s important to make your entire organization familiar with what planned giving is, how it differs from annual giving and the impact it can have.
Try starting with why. Why is planned giving so important to your nonprofit? Share stories of how it’s impacting your donors, your organization and your cause. And don’t leave out the research:
- 78% of planned givers are also annual givers.
- On average, annual gifts increase by over $3,000 after donors make a planned gift. ¹
- The average planned gift is roughly equivalent to 100 annual gifts.²
- The average U.S. charitable bequest is worth $32,000.³
2. Building Relationships From the Inside Out
Connect with marketing from the get-go. Involving them at the starting line fosters trust and improves overall results.
Development and marketing teams first need to understand each other’s goals. Then, find common ground by identifying goals that both departments can work towards.
Give marketing the tools they need to properly advocate for planned giving. For starters, some tools to success are:
1) Understanding what planned giving is.
2) Understanding what the organization’s planned giving goals are.
Knowing this information makes it easier for your marketing team to fit planned giving messages into other communications, like annual appeals or online giving forms.
3. Get on the Same Page
Historically, planned giving outreach has been reactive in nature (e.g. gift annuity rate changes and tax reform). But it’s critical that communications are planful and proactive.
Sharing an editorial calendar is a tremendous first step. Having a joint calendar, accessible across marketing and fundraising departments, is one of the easiest ways to increase communication between internal teams. (No meeting, phone call or email required.)
Having a shared calendar allows everyone in your organization to know all of the messages your nonprofit is sending out each week. Is there a way you can team up with another department? Can you make some of your messages dual-purpose?
TAKING IT ONE STEP FURTHER: Some organizations are going beyond collaborating and are integrating roles and responsibility within the fundraising departments. Intrigued? Learn more about plannual giving here.
4. Identify Opportunities
Enlist the help of marketing to understand which channels are appropriate for each communication.
The first step of this process is defining your target audience. Next, fine-tune your messaging specifically for that audience. Using targeted messaging leads to connecting with your recipients on a much more meaningful level.
REMEMBER: Different messages will speak to different audiences. (A graduate and a faculty member may not respond to and resonate with messages in the same way.)
5. Ongoing Communication
Building a relationship with your marketing team is not a one-time meeting. Like with any successful relationship, you must steward.
Decide when your checkpoints will be upfront—and set calendar appointments. Are these check-ins monthly, quarterly or yearly? Find a cadence that works for both teams.
Determine other times that meeting with marketing may be valuable to the organization. For example, when will the results from your most recent survey be ready to aggregate? This information may affect marketing’s efforts as well.
How do your development and marketing teams work together: Are you a well-oiled machine, or is your process in need of some maintenance? What are your dos and don’ts of improving internal communication?
¹ Russell James from the National Institute on Aging
² Philanthropy 100 Performance Benchmarking Initiative
³ Tony Martignetti, Guidestar