The Future of Planned Giving: 5 Marketing Trends for the New Year

Nobody has ever had to plan for a year like this.

We are still “navigating the unknown,” but what we do know is this: Now is not the time to let off the gas. Staying connected and in front of your donors paid huge dividends in 2020 and continues to be critical as we learn what 2021 has in store for us.

While it’s difficult to plan for the unpredictable, I took some time to put together five planned giving marketing trends that I think will prove to be timeless.  

1. Continuing creative remote engagement

We’ve grown accustomed to the way we have worked and lived for almost a year now. Moving forward, even with a vaccine, travel and home visit schedules will adjust to accommodate donors evolving needs.

Continued two-way conversations with your donors will spark connection and forge a bond—even from afar. Picking up the phone, building relationships for their own sake and multichannel campaigns are all tried-and-true means to connect. In addition to these methods, finding new inventive ways to enrich your relationships with your donors and prospects is paramount.

Try some of these creative ideas nonprofits have found to be successful:

  • Make it personal. Send a personal postcard—or even a video. For a holiday, in lieu of your in-person annual event or “just because,” let your donors know you’re thinking of them with postcard or video. Not convinced of the power of video? Check out this blog from last year.
  • Have fun with it. Become part of their day-to-day life at home. Try virtual coffee breaks or hosting a Zoom event, like a concert, game night or viewing party of a video pertaining to your mission.
  • Keep them informed. Setup virtual “town halls” featuring essential administrators. Keep loyal, long-time donors in the know about how your organization is making an impact right now.
  • Remind them of why they love you. Send out content from archives. We’ve seen this work well for a variety of arts organizations, but it can apply to other types of nonprofits as well.
  • Be a trusted advisor and offer assistance. Provide resources that can help them, when they’re ready, with any planning questions.
  • Share social proof. Tell stories of the important work your organization has done and is doing. When appropriate, highlight examples of the investment donors, like them, have made in the past that are paying off today.

2. Stewardship

2020 forced us to take a closer look at stewardship. It’s not the galas, luncheons or cocktail hours—it’s the connection.

This year, we had to construct new ways to meaningfully connect with donors. What is one of the best tools to create a two-way dialogue with your donors, especially given that face-to-face meetings are on an indefinite hold? Survey.

While Zoom calls have become the norm in the business-to-business world, this technology may not be a viable option for some donors. Surveys are an easy, noninvasive solution.

Unsurprisingly, Stelter has seen a definite uptick in survey responses, in both print and digital, since March. Not only do we have fewer distractions, as travel plans and events have been cancelled, but so do our donors. Provide them with an opportunity to express themselves to you and your organization. Learn more about the opportunity to connect via surveys here.

Interested in other stewardship ideas? Read our blog, “3 Must-Haves for Stewarding Donors Successfully.”

3. Authenticity

Candor, transparency and humanity all became even more important. So, show your human side!

This time at home has broken down some professional barriers, and it’s time for us all to take advantage. Move away from corporate lingo and don’t be afraid to use different voices in your organization other than leadership.

TIP: Want to thank your legacy donors? Record a candid video from your computer/phone and send it on its way. In today’s environment, scripted and polished videos can be received as unauthentic, impersonal or simply too corporate. A moment of realness can be more impactful than a refined (and costly) production.

4. Framing transformational giving in a new way

We are seeing a shift from the use of “planned giving” to “major gifts of assets” and “asset-based philanthropy.” By positioning planned giving this way, it allows donors (and your boss/board) to better understand the opportunity in front of them and, in turn, help gain more support for your mission.

Remember: The organizations that best weather economic storms plant seeds years in advance. Asset-based giving is a powerful, long-term solution, and can help your nonprofit not only survive, but thrive during these trying times.

In fact, according to Dr. Russell James, shifting donations from disposable income (cash) to wealth (assets) is the single most powerful way to transform a nonprofit. In his recent Stelter webinar series presentation, “Putting Research to Work in Your Planned Giving Program: Getting Leadership Support and Donor Dollars,” Russell showcased the impact asset-based philanthropy can have on an organization. See his example below.

For more strategies to sell planned giving to your donors—and to your organization—watch the recording of Russell’s webinar here.

5. Remembering the “why”

It can be second nature for fundraisers to focus on the “how” (i.e., gift vehicle). 2020 showed us that the “why” for donors continues to be what’s most important; without the “why,” there is no “how.”

With your donor’s journey in mind, offer genuine experiences and moments between them and your organization. Over time, these memories will motivate donors to further extend their values and hard work with a gift that perpetuates those ideas at your nonprofit.

January is a fresh start. Use this month to plan for the year, but also to remember your “why.” Share your reason with your supporters. Inspire them with your story and your passion.

We want to hear your “why.” Tell us why you love what you do below.

P.S. Looking for a blast from the past? Try (re)visiting planned giving marketing trends of 20202019 and 2018.

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