Prospects Lost? Give Them a Road Map to the Gift

Wait. Who uses road maps anymore? Aside from the GPS navigation on our cars or phones, I mean. The ones that tell us where to go, nicely, of course.

As much as we like to think that we always know where we’re going, do we, really? (“I think I can find it. Eh, I know the general area,” sound familiar?)

Turns out, we still need those road maps, whether they’re in paper form or GPS navigation.

The same can be said for our journeys with planned giving prospects. Do they—do we—really know the route and our final destination? (“I know generally what they’re going to give, based on what they’ve told me, and when they’ll make it,” sound familiar?)

If either of you becomes lost in the prospecting process, return to your road map. Going from point A (introductions) to point B (gift finalization) is not an aimless pursuit; follow the most direct route that gets all of you to the final mutual and rewarding destination.

Think of Your Job as Leader of the Caravan

There’s no going ’round in circles or getting lost in prospecting travels when there’s a clear leader.

Here’s how to stay on course:

1. Set introductions

Think of what you do as forever connecting prospects with what’s philanthropically most meaningful to them. You are creating their journey. Although marketing drivers (discussed below) serve to direct that journey and messaging, it is still you, behind that backdrop, guiding the conversation, whether in person or digitally.

Along the way, as you discover your prospect’s passions, aspirations, life histories, sometimes their deepest losses and happiest moments, you also are molding an opportunity to turn their life snapshots into a lasting charitable legacy. Honor their transparency and commitment with outreach that is personal, relevant and focused.

REMEMBER: Self-directed donors are more likely to do their own research on their own time before contacting your organization. Find out how you can best facilitate and track their research and gifting process here.

We love our friend Gail Perry’s chronological gift cultivation moves. A move, she explains, is a series of meaningful contacts with prospects that build upon each other. Curious about typical moves, or paths, to transform prospects into donors? Find Gail’s wise thoughts in “Step-by-step Cultivation Moves for Your Major Gift Prospect.”

2. Rev marketing drivers

Marketing drivers are the vehicle that point prospects in the right direction. Marketing drivers exist across all media, including print, digital and social.

While drivers comprise different tools, they work in tandem (imagine seeing a marketing caravan or convoy on the road map) with one mission: to educate and motivate prospects to learn more and make a planned gift.

While our blog post, “How to Get Your Donors Where You Want Them to Go,” tells you more about each driver, know that each must have a purpose. There has to be reason—and the reason made clear to the reader about why you’re sending the material.

As Stelter’s Editorial Director Katie Parker said, “It’s more than what is in your materials—it’s why. As you think about the various channels and devices you use to talk to your donors, consider the donor’s state of mind as they consume each one.”

3. Watch for roadblocks

Life can change on a dime. The stock market fluctuates drastically. A pandemic causes economic uncertainty. Global disruptions affect prospects’ decisions, behaviors and gift timing. Be sensitive to that feeling “out there”—not what you’re needing (i.e., gift intention or evidence of progression)—and respond appropriately with how your organization is positively responding.

“I hope this note finds you and your family well.

“Our staff and volunteers are experiencing a season unlike anything we’ve seen before. The hurricane-ravaged communities of the Gulf Coast continue to need us. Whatever the future holds, with your support, we are committed to ensuring their safety—today and whatever tomorrow brings.”

4. Check your course of action

As you move forward, you and your prospects evolve. Circumstances change. Be prepared to find a new course of action or another gift vehicle to better suit prospects’ needs. You don’t have to have all the answers. You must, however, have a team of financial and estate experts who you can tap to provide information and guide prospects appropriately.

5. Slow down to see the sights

My family and I were out for a hike recently. Getting caught up in the moment, I sat down in front of a still, quiet lake. My family let me slow down and take in the moment and suddenly it became bigger and more memorable than I had thought it could be.

Know when to slow down with prospects.

Encourage them to take a facility tour, watch a program in action, visit the school campus or chat with the kids. Those are the moments that make the imprints. Veer from the schedule, if necessary, to give them that special time.

Also, slow the speed of information, if necessary. What is second-nature to you may be totally foreign to your prospect.

TIP: Start with “easy” gifts. Will and beneficiary designations, which, says Charity Navigator, comprise more than 85% of planned gifts. But, please, refrain from calling them “bequests,” as that term tends to be industry speak and lowers charitable interest, according to Russell James, J.D., Ph.D., CFP®. Also, when it comes to beneficiary designations, focus on percentages vs. a dollar amount, as so much recent uncertainty may give donors pause when leading with a dollar amount. Designating a percentage is much more palatable given the current fluidity of our environment.

Share Your Journeys

Tell us about your organization’s “road map” to take prospects from point A (introductions) to point B (gift finalization). How did you navigate roadblocks and slow down to let prospects take in the sights? 

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