What Are You Doing to Connect with Your Self-Directed Donor?

How long have you been in planned giving? Think back, say 15-20 years, and you may remember taking a more traditional path to cultivating prospects’ and donor’s planned gifts.

Broadly speaking, you first cast a wide net through generic collateral and/or targeted personal outreach. You “talked” with prospects through future mailings or in person, hoping to develop more serious intentions and notifications from prospects.

You then developed curated planned giving materials and information, nurtured the relationship over time and moved them “up the ladder,” from annual giver to major donor and finally into an estate gift. The idea was the process moved in a linear fashion, from point A to B to C.

That Was the Silent Generation

The growth in planned giving started largely with the Silent Generation, or those born between 1928 and 1945. We got to know them, the way they act, the way they make decisions, even the way they give. We also had the luxury of time and experience to evolve how we fundraised, tailored programs and created marketing campaigns around their behaviors.

True, it’s not always been easy to raise planned gifts from this generation. But the key—and this is important—is that throughout the time with them, you were in the driver’s seat, controlling the communication.

The digital revolution has swiftly transformed that process, not only in how today’s donors get information but also how, when and why they make their decision to give.

As a result of our faster-paced digital technologies, people now have access to lots of information about your nonprofit, as opposed to previously receiving it in a more controlled, one-way format. Today, they can pick and choose where they’ll go to get what they’re seeking, the good and unfortunately, sometimes the bad.

No longer can we cast those big, wide nets in hopes of landing a planned gift, even to be so lucky as learning of a gift intention. Our direct mail MUST be more focused, targeted and personal, and our digital outreach must operate under the auspice that we’re moving toward looking directly at them while they’re looking at us. We must understand when, where and why they’re engaging with us or, as I like to think of it, going “fishing where the fish are.”

Join Me at the CGP National Conference to Learn More

I’ll talk more about this idea at the National Association of Charitable Gift Planners’ National Conference October 2-4 in New Orleans.

My co-presenter, Kevin Bauman, director of Philanthropic Initiatives at Capture, and I will lead a breakout titled “Oh Behave! Behaviors That Signal Planned Giving” on Friday, Oct. 4. Among other thought-provoking tactics, we’ll discuss how to:

  • identify online behaviors that indicate planned giving intent
  • target real-time planned giving messaging on every page of your website
  • measure user behaviors on non-advancement pages to gain critical insights into individual points of affinity

Looking through a larger lens, what we’re beginning to examine industry-wide—and what we’ll talk about at CGP—is how to better “track” prospects’ behavioral engagement with nonprofits in real time. Where are they going on your website? How long are they on each page? What does it tell me about their propensity for planned giving?

Data for nonprofits that informed serious prospecting used to be based on factors like wealth and past affinity. Today, we’re looking at ways to connect that add real value in real time, across all digital technologies, while keeping planned giving messaging top of mind.

Morning Coffee with Your Planned Giving Website?

Although Stelter creates, hosts and markets planned giving websites for charities all over the country, I’ve long shared the observation that “nobody wakes up first thing in the morning and goes to your planned giving page.”

As great as that would be (and as easy as that would make our job), it’s just not the case. In fact, visits to a planned giving page represent less than 1% of all activity on a nonprofit’s website. That’s OK, as we’ve always known planned giving is a low-incidence activity (only 7% of the U.S. population makes a planned gift) and we’re focused on quality vs. quantity (something our clients are constantly battling over with their annual giving colleagues).

TIP: Remind your colleagues that the average planned gift is over 100x larger than their average annual gift. That will get their attention!

While donors may not be going directly to your planned giving website every morning, they are actively and regularly checking on you—your projects, research initiatives, blogs, scholarships and, of course, sports scores. They’re matching their interests to your content pages. This is where you can build the affinity and identify passion.

Expanding your mindset and tracking engagement across all pages allows you to identify prospects who are 20x more likely to document an estate gift. Targeted messaging with dynamic content—on-screen and in real-time—delivers the planned giving message your most passionate donors will regularly see.

How are we beginning to do that? Think of your own Internet searches or recent online purchases. Perhaps, for example, you’ve spent time on several home improvement websites; the next thing you know, you’re getting Facebook ads or emails advertising those very same products and/or companies. These are tracked, real-time messages that reflect your current passions and subtly nudge or encourage you to finalize a purchase.

Tracking Really Means Connecting…and Connecting Leads to Engaging

Businesses have been doing this for years—tracking your moves across their websites and social media to encourage that final click to buy. However, while we can learn from their tactics, we must also remember that we, as charities, are entrusted with being ambassadors of our brands and stewards of our donors.

We must use and apply this technology differently than our favorite airline or online store. While using these tools can no doubt make our programs more efficient and effective, it’s critical that we use them in a smart, tactful and appropriate way.

A softer approach, or less intrusive tactics, falls more in line with online donor engagement for nonprofits. Perhaps you’re giving those “anonymous” prospective donors a reason to engage with you and ask more? Maybe it’s as simple as sharing a tip or a highlight from a donor or student story? Whatever it is, it needs to be personal, relevant and focused.

We’ll talk more about this at the conference and share examples of how to connect with donors across your entire website.

Let me know if you plan to attend the CGP conference. We’d be happy to spend some time talking with you about this concept, and how it can work to enhance and target your planned giving messaging even more. Not planning to be there? Not a problem! We’d still love to connect and talk.

Before we leave you today, I’m curious: Have you had any success so far with real-time prospect tracking (or connecting as I prefer to think of it)?

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