Today’s guest post is from the “Planned Giving evangelist,” Tony Martignetti. Tony is the host of Nonprofit Radio and the creator of the Planned Giving Accelerator. Both as a frontline fundraiser and as a consultant, he’s helped nonprofits raise over $100 million. You can follow him on Twitter @TonyMartignetti
10 Tips for Creating a Highly Effective Planned Giving Appeal
By Tony Martinetti
Most direct mail fundraising appeals follow a well-tested set of rules that are influenced by decades of data.
Planned Giving appeals, however, are a different sort of animal.
While most fundraising letters aim to persuade readers to make an immediate gift, that isn’t true of planned gift mailings.
Instead, they should have a different feel — and follow a different set of rules.
Because your goal is to start a long-term conversation, it requires a special touch to create a letter that introduces donors to Planned Giving.
Thus, you should aim to write from the heart.
Be warm, factual, sincere, and straightforward.
Your objective isn’t strictly to hit a rate of reply by a certain date. Quite often, the response comes much later.
This is long-term fundraising. You’ve hit a home run if someone saves your letter and retrieves it years later when it’s time to prepare or revisit a will. We know folks are doing just that in droves right now. Just search “pandemic wills surge.”
With that in mind, here are 10 things to consider when you craft a Planned Giving appeal letter:
- Keep it simple. Devote your letter exclusively to promoting a gift by will. No other subjects should distract from that purpose.
- Write with a tone that appeals to older readers. Write for people in their 60s and older. Most people who make Planned Giving decisions are older – so you should consider that your target audience.
- Keep it short. Write one page or less.
- Personalize it. Use a full inside address and a formal salutation (Dear Miss/Mrs./Ms./Mr.). Avoid using salutations such as “Dear friend” or “Greetings!” While first names and a lighter touch work for other appeals, you’re looking to be both formal and personal with a Planned Giving appeal.
- Get a testimonial. If you have a willing donor who has decided to make a planned gift, a testimonial from them can be incredibly powerful, especially if it articulates what a lasting legacy for your nonprofit means to that person.
- Let your ask stand alone in its own paragraph. I like to underline it.
- Use a closed outer envelope, not a window carrier. The subject is personal, private, and serious. Your letter shouldn’t look like an invoice.
- Enclose a reply card. Give readers the opportunity to tell you they’d like more information. That’s how you grow your prospect pipeline.
- Include a return envelope. Because this is a personal and discreet conversation, don’t design your reply card as a self-mailer. The information being shared is sensitive.
- Postage decisions matter. Apply a stamp. You can use the first-class, presort rate (if you want to save money over a regular first class). It’s important to avoid bulk mail or metering for this personalized, earnest, and important letter. Perception matters.
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