UNICEF USA: From Handfuls to Hundreds of Planned Giving Prospects

There are so many great stories here at Stelter. The ones we like best? The client “wins.”

Our new case-study series, “Why I Partner With Stelter,” highlights some of those great stories—and great conversations—with clients about their wins, or growth and success in planned giving as a result of working with Stelter to build their program.

Each story brings to light a different “why,” or need for growth, and a different “how come,” or context of circumstances. All demonstrate results using targeted data, tactics and planning and a mutual drive to do good work.

Today, Renee Durnin, Stelter Client Strategist, discusses the first of our many great client case-study stories: UNICEF USA. (Psst! Look for more stories in future blogs.)

A side note, Renee joined Stelter in late 2019 as a client strategist, enabling us to bring a deeper level of engagement, experience and tailored solutions for clients. Renee’s ability to dig into donor data and figure out what needs to be fixed and how to do it—to create stellar results—is pretty amazing too.

First, let’s set the stage: Our “makeover” for UNICEF USA, which began in late 2019, has already generated 5 times the planned giving results the program and its planned giving team have ever seen. Sixty percent of those results came from audience selection improvements. Read more about that, below.


This was the biggest win that moved the dial for UNICEF USA.

Honing in on what was or, more importantly, what wasn’t working in terms of UNICEF USA’s audience selection included refining data to incorporate recency, frequency, longevity and age, as well as discovering a database issue that resulted in only 10% to 20% of top prospects receiving emails and hindering a robust multichannel delivery.

We didn’t give up

After months of perseverance and talking the problem through with multiple departments, both at UNICEF USA and at Stelter, we’re now sending emails to target 80% of UNICEF USA’s top prospects. That means we went from engaging handfuls of donors to hundreds. (When one planned gift can range from thousands to millions of dollars, this increase can be tremendously impactful.)

What really advanced UNICEF USA in terms of audience selection and engagement: Discovering thousands of “do not solicits” and “solicit only one month/year” donors who had high potential to become planned giving donors.

Working with UNICEF USA’s outright giving team, we discovered the source of the problem: Donors’ requests for fewer solicitations were being applied to planned giving collateral. Removing that suppression resulted in a 29% improvement in responses with interest in planned giving and contributed 34% of newly identified planned giving responses over the course of the year.


Sounds simple enough to do—talking to one another and other departments. Yet it can be the hardest thing to actually do.

The age-old issue of development teams working in silos, and not coordinating the deployment of marketing campaign solicitations across teams, often results in confused donors wondering why they’re getting two newsletters, emails or texts from the same organization in the same week. Ultimately, the messages get muddled.

Bringing intention to UNICEF USA’s fundraising communication

Working with outright giving, UNICEF USA’s planned giving team and Stelter fine-tuned campaign timing and deployments. Specific improvements included widening the buffer between outright giving deployments and planned giving’s to keep messaging clear. We also made small but impactful changes to the tone and look of planned giving materials.

Goal accomplished by: Using stronger, more direct calls to action and subject lines, minimizing visual clutter and checkbox choices and subtly changing design and format, among other tactics.

Gaining control

Another key to building the program: determining goals, strategy and themes beforehand, so all collateral now complements one another in look, tone and effect. Also establishing controls and running A/B tests enable UNICEF USA to clearly assess what worked, what didn’t and what has potential to be better.  


Building on solid results! That starts with a now-robust prospect pipeline, thanks to a survey to nearly 15,000 donors in late summer of 2020. The survey not only blew previous survey results out of the water but also yielded more than 700 new leads.

Enhancing the donor journey, along with further audience segmentation and personalization, will continue to deliver more tailored planned giving messaging. The goal now is to create a more meaningful journey for each group—meeting them where they are at each stage of life and speaking to what may lie ahead in terms of their philanthropic intentions.

With the good news that UNICEF USA’s legacy society has grown by 25% since Stelter’s come on board, retention, moving ahead, also will be crucial as donors are increasingly choosing to modify their original estate plans. This includes revocable gifts. Plans call for more consistent touchpoints to strengthen stewardship and connection.

In 2021

Moving into the next year requires UNICEF USA—and all nonprofits—to be mindful of 2020 events and their indefinite continuation. American donors (70%) say they prefer to support local charities*, a fact that will intensify as local nonprofit needs will be greater in 2021.

That means UNICEF USA, a global children’s rights organization, must present the need in compelling, relatable ways around proven need/impact in saving vulnerable children. UNICEF USA’s donors, however, tell us they already believe the organization is trustworthy and has integrity, which is a positive place from which to tell that story and continue building donor relationships.


Want to get the story from the client’s perspective?

Read more about Stelter’s partnership with UNICEF USA, this time straight from the source—Karen Metzger, UNICEF USA’s Managing Director, Planned Giving.

*National Marketing Institute, 2017 Research Study

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