Marketing planned gifts: Part 2

By Todd Cohen

The most effective planned-giving message and the best medium in which to deliver it change as prospects’ get older and their circumstances and needs change, experts say, creating an ongoing challenge for charities to understand, reach and engage donors.

The focus, says Margaret Holman, president of Holman Consulting in New York City, must be to understand donors and prospects, customize a message to fit their needs, and deliver it in the medium they use.

It has been only in the past three to four years that planned-giving marketing generally has moved beyond “blanket” letters on the same topic to people over age 65, she said.

While planned-giving prospects typically are in their 60s, the type of planned gift to market will depend on the prospect’s age and circumstances, she says.

Bequests and gift annuities, the two most popular planned-giving strategies, for example, should be targeted to different groups, she says.

With an estimated 40 percent to 60 percent of Americans not having written a will, marketing bequests to people age 55 to 65 is a “useless exercise,” she says, and generally should be limited to people age 70 and up.

And because people typically consider gift annuities as a supplement to their retirement benefits, she says, they can be marketed to people as young as 65.

Yet it is not uncommon for people over 75 or 80 who have created one gift annuity to create others, she says, and people under 60 may not be required to get a physical exam to buy life insurance and so may be good prospects for a planned insurance gift.

“The days of sending the same letter to everyone are long over,” she says. “Prospect bases really must be segmented by age and wealth ranking because what might appeal to an extremely wealthy 80-year-old is a vastly different gift from what might appeal to a moderately wealthy 75-year-old.”

Segmenting also should help determine the medium used to market planned giving, Holman says.

With two women making a charitable bequest for every man who makes one, for example, it is more cost-effective to distribute a mass mailing to older women than to “get in our car and drive looking for ladies living in nursing homes,” she says.

Other stories in the series:

Part 1: Charities target donors in increasingly competitive market. 
Part 3: Fundraisers segment planned-giving prospects. 
Part 4: Charities mix multiple strategies to reach donors.
Part 5: Online strategies integrate donor data, marketing.
Part 6: Colleges, community foundations court planned-giving prospects.
Part 7: Charities use events to reach and engage donors, advisers.

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