Marketing corner is one of the features of PG Calc’s monthly eRate eNewsletter. This page is a digest of marketing insights provided in that newsletter from the past year.
July 2013 - Want to increase you planned giving leads? Start at the top.
I see many planned giving programs that follow a grass roots approach to generating leads. They concentrate their marketing effort on traditional activities such as print, online, advertising, and the like. But if you really want to put some punch into your lead generation, start at the top with your organization’s board.
Your board can be a critical catalyst for growing the circle of friends that support your charity. Your board can be an important force multiplier in identifying, cultivating, closing and stewarding planned gifts. Board members have access to peers, colleagues, and family members who are unavailable to development staff. While development staff typically have limited access to board members, they can and should leverage that access to their best advantage. There are a variety of roles that board members can play that will help you increase your prospect pool and close more planned gifts.
It’s important to understand the dynamics of asking board members for names of those likely to make a gift. These are their friends, business associates, and family members. Win their trust that you will act appropriately and honor these important relationships. If you have successfully worked with a prospect identified by a board member, have them give a testimonial and describe how the process worked for them.
Work with your prospect researchers to prepare lists of individuals who are either already donors or individuals known to your organization who might be likely donors and have the resources to provide financial support.
A brainstorming session with board members can be a great way to discover connections between your board members and your prospects. Convene over lunch, dinner or cocktails. Don’t gather in a conference room with blank pads of paper and expect to get much information. Open-ended solicitations for names are likely to be met with silence.
Report back to your board on your progress with the prospects identified! Board members will conclude that their time was wasted if you don’t show tangible progress with the information they provided.
There are probably individuals that you suspect have the capacity and inclination to make a planned gift to support your organization. However, you may not have any connection to the prospect or have been unsuccessful in securing a meeting with them. Members of your board can make introductions and help you secure meetings that would otherwise be out of your reach.
The introduction may be merely a referral, but preferably the board member will approach the prospect on your behalf and accompany you on your first meeting. This approach lends credibility to your efforts and validates the importance of your work.
Board members may have a deeper understanding of your prospect’s priorities and resources and can help formulate a plan to successfully solicit an identified prospect.
Donors want to know how their gifts have made a difference. What better way to thank your supporters than to have a policy making representative of your charity express their appreciation? Brief the board member on specifically how the donor’s gift has been used.
Involving board members in gift solicitations will result in more and larger gifts. The board member has a degree of influence over their peers that development staff will never have. Board members are generally reluctant to ask for money, unless it’s part of their job description. However, there are a number of things you can do to address these concerns and put your board members at ease.
Recognize board member reluctance. Validate your board member’s reluctance to solicit gifts. Prepare the board member to respond to questions from prospects about the board member’s own financial commitment.
Engage your board to value, encourage and make their own planned gifts. No amount of marketing will improve your fundraising results as much as having your board involved in the planned giving process.
Demystify the process. Role playing can help ease a board member’s fears and misunderstanding about the process. You can use successful solicitations as a script for your role playing.
Accept board member limitations. Board members will express reluctance to address certain topics and may want to impose limitations on your contact with their identified prospects. To build trust, you must acknowledge and accept these limitations.
June 2013 - Defining Your Marketing Strategy – One Piece at a Time
Step 4: Metrics
This final article in the Defining Your Marketing Strategy series is about metrics.
One comment that I hear frequently is that development officers are asked to justify planned giving efforts. A disciplined approach to metrics is the answer.
Being disciplined about tracking metrics is a lot like being disciplined about eating well. Many people talk about it, but few practice it with regularity. A healthy diet means changing not only your eating habits, but also your perspective, in order for it to become a permanent way of life. A successful application of metrics requires a similar behavioral shift and commitment. Metrics have to be built into the daily work of your program and not applied as an afterthought. Otherwise, they won’t stick.
Metrics for New Planned Giving Programs
Metrics are especially important to planned giving programs because deferred gifts have “lag time.” Not fully appreciating that time period between commitment and receipt of these gifts may give senior leadership pause when it comes to allocating resources to the program.
Since it takes approximately five years before an organization starts to see the true ROI on a planned giving program, your metrics should be used to capture the progress that can be reasonably expected. The primary metrics for assessing planned giving efforts and successes at these early stages should be based on three critical areas relating to activity, not revenue generated:
- Making planned gift discoveries
- Cultivation of existing planned gift prospects
- Stewardship of existing planned gift donors
Here are some common ways to measure your program’s successes:
- Number of targeted direct mailings and response rates
- Leads or activity from website
- Referrals from professional advisors
- Number of proposals sent
- Number of bequest intentions
- Number of communications and/or events that feature planned giving information
- Number of planned giving visits by development officers
- Number of blended gifts (outright and deferred combination)
- Number of development communications that feature a planned giving message
- Number of referrals from board members
- Annual visits, phone calls, and letters to donors
- Birthday cards/calls to donors
- Number of stewardship (non-solicitation) communications
- Number of events held
- Realized bequests processed
Metrics for Legacy Society Programs
Because gift officers spend part of their time stewarding existing donors as well as trying to close gifts from planned giving prospects, they should also capture and report on metrics that are relevant to quantifying the positive impact of their legacy society, such as:
Metrics for Mature Planned Giving Programs
- Number of new members each year
- Average size of annual-type gifts from donors before and after they joined the legacy society
- Current gifts that result from the society stewardship efforts – cross referencing giving history with stewardship activity
- Repeat planned gifts from society members
- Increases in size of planned gifts from society members
- Average size of realized bequests from legacy society members versus those received from previously unknown bequest donors
As a program gains momentum and matures, its key success metrics should expand to include revenue goals. Looking at both the revenue generated from planned gifts along and your program’s activity paints a more complete and realistic picture of how the program is progressing. When assessing one’s program, it’s important to look at the performance over the last five years. Many organizations only look at a year-to-year comparison, and that is not as informative because planned giving is cyclical in nature; there are always exceptions from year-to-year. If the trend is heading in a positive direction over time, you and your supervisors will know that the investment in your program has been the right decision.
May 2013 - Defining Your Marketing Strategy – One Piece at a Time
Step 3: Strategic Priorities
In the last two Marketing Corner topics, we discussed the importance of setting realistic and relevant objectives and identifying the right audience. Now it’s time to discuss how priorities fit into the overall strategy.
The strategy takes into consideration a variety of factors about the existing program, including the following:
- Marketing efforts conducted to date and their associated levels of success
- Preparedness of the organization to implement actual marketing tactics
- Existing marketing efforts that can be leveraged,
- Assessment of database readiness to support the proposed marketing efforts
As part of the discussions within the organization that inform the overall marketing strategy, the first step is to identify and document organizational-specific priorities. These priorities become the backbone for your marketing plan. They differ from the “objectives” in that they serve mainly to guide the marketing tactics by focusing on the right message and medium with the right audiences at the right time. These priorities are an important part of the process given that one thing all organizations have in common is limited staff and budget. Naming your organization’s priorities for its planned giving program helps to ensure that activities are undertaken strategically in order to meet the program’s objectives.
Here are some common planned giving marketing priorities:
- Focus on prospects and donors age 65+
- Focus on prospects and donors age 45-65
- Cultivate the top 50 donors
- Test different marketing techniques to increase prospect self-identification through traditional print channels
- Ensure the planned giving content on the website is current, accurate, easy to find
- Create a digital media platform
- Whenever possible, approach prospective donors individually or in small groups
- Create (and then maintain) sound, fundamental messaging in support of the organization’s planned giving program
- Leverage the influence of highly-regarded board members who, having arranged their own planned gifts for the benefit of the organization, can persuasively invite others members to join them
Establishing the priorities prior to your implementation provides the roadmap and the focus to make your marketing program successful.
April 2013 - Defining Your Marketing Strategy – One Piece at a Time
Step 2: Your Audience
In last month’s Marketing Corner, we discussed the importance of setting realistic and relevant objectives. This article covers audience identification.
Donor acquisition is not the primary issue for most organizations that have an existing planned giving program. They have a large pool of donors from which to tap. The major challenge of any gift planning program is having a sufficient number of planned gift prospective donors from that pool. In my experience, planned giving prospects are commonly identified in three ways:
- Traditional marketing tactics
- Data mining and profiling
- Referrals from others
The issue is that most organizations focus primarily on #1, traditional marketing, and don’t give enough credence to #2 or #3. Yet when we look at the most successful planned giving marketing programs, internal referrals and data mining are where the majority of the quality leads come from.
Data mining and profiling
Identify the top 25 planned giving prospects who have a propensity and capacity to make a planned gift by using common industry criteria – FLAG (frequency, longevity, age, gender) - or a planned giving rating score, and then create a one-to-one cultivation strategy for each prospect. Continuously work the “list” and regularly replenish it with new top prospects based on repeated data mining and profiling.
Identify key influencers and internal stakeholders who can inform and encourage others to make a planned gift, such as
- Major and annual fund development staff
- Senior leadership
- Board members, trustees
- Professional advisors
- Guild/auxiliary members
- Even your legacy society members
If you make data mining and profiling and referrals a priority in your lead generation efforts you will expand your planned giving reach in ways you never thought possible. Apply similar marketing methods of awareness and education to your referrals as you do your prospects and your referrals can become your next planned gift donors.
March 2013 - Defining Your Marketing Strategy – One Piece at a Time
We conducted a bequest program survey last fall and it was no surprise to hear that a third of the respondents noted marketing as one of their top challenges. Issues cited included, “creating and maintaining awareness, lack of overall strategy, finding new prospects, and educating constituents.”
In my experience the marketing challenges in a bequest program are no different than those of a planned giving program. So, where is one to begin?
All of these topics are related, but seeing how they are tied together can also be part of the challenge, making the issue larger than it really is. Let’s start at the beginning, lack of overall strategy, as the other issues stem from this absence.
A strategy can take anywhere from two hours to two days to complete depending upon your working knowledge of your organization. The problem is that gift officers are so busy that they don’t have time for this. Here’s the fundamental question that needs to be answered, “Is planned giving an important part of my organization’s development goals?” If the answer is yes, then time is not really the issue, it’s more likely that not knowing where to start is the culprit.
A marketing strategy, or what I like to refer to as a framework, has six components which if addressed individually can make the process a manageable one.
- Strategic Priorities
- Marketing Activities and Tactics
Over the next several months we’ll focused on each one of these topics in more detail so there will be no excuse for not having a marketing strategy. Breaking up this exercise into smaller tasks is really the most manageable way to approach it.
Identify Your Planned Giving Objectives
Ideally, an organization’s marketing strategy is based on five or fewer planned giving objectives over a one-to-three year period. These objectives are dependent upon numerous factors which include but are not limited to: the existence and strength of its Legacy Society; maturity of the existing planned giving program, availability of demographic data of planned gift prospects and existing donors; and awareness of the planned giving program among key constituents. Here are some examples of typical planned giving objectives, which generally speaking include some form of revenue/dollar component.
- Increase awareness of the planned giving program among constituents
- Maximize the number of completed planned gifts
- Increase the value of planned gifts
- Maximize the number of internal planned giving referrals
- Increase collaboration with development staff
- Reinstate stewardship program and/or increase membership to the Legacy Society
- Reach planned giving revenue of $[established revenue goal]
In the issues previously mentioned, creating and maintaining awareness and educating constituents are examples of the specific objectives your program is trying to achieve. However, since you cannot create and maintain awareness simultaneously, it would be best to determine which one is truly the objective to focus on, since the rest of the marketing framework will change based on this decision.
Your marketing strategy is your investment in your planned giving program. Once your strategy has been defined, you’ll have the roadmap to follow for the next 18-24 months. During that time all you’ll need is a tune-up every six months or so. Like other things in life, putting the time into this framework upfront will save you more time over the long run.
Stay tuned for the next installation of the Marketing Corner- Defining Your Marketing Strategy: Step 2 Your Audience.
February 2013 - Font Size Matters
Image courtesy of coolhomepages.com
The subject of choosing a font for marketing material is one that my clients bring up on a routine basis. When creating a piece for older donors, in particular, this issue can be contentious.
Just recently, I read an article about a study conducted using New York Times readers that found that some fonts are more believable than others. To me, this is just noise that adds another layer of complexity to an already controversial subject.
For years I believed that sans serif fonts were more legible than serif fonts. It wasn’t until I read that study that I decided it was time I looked at this topic of font selection more carefully. There is more research on this topic than I ever imagined and the bottom line is that none of it is conclusive. Here are my recommendations, based on my own experience.
- When communicating to your planned giving audience, where possible, use a font that best represents your organizations’ brand. If you don’t know what fonts are within your brand, refer to your marketing department.
- Regardless of what font you select, it needs to be larger than what is used for standard business correspondence. This will do two things. You will increase the likelihood your message will get through. You will also be forced to communicate only what’s necessary.
January 2013 - Define Your Marketing Goals
In a recent blog post Seth Godin remarked on a marketing topic near and dear to my heart --marketing goals. His comments are at the core of advice I give all my marketing clients.
“The goal of a marketing interaction isn't to close the sale, any more than the goal of a first date is to get married. No, the opportunity is to move forward, to earn attention and trust and curiosity and conversation...”
“The opportunity to move forward,” is why marketing is so important to the success of any planned giving program and yet it is a main source of client frustration. Planned giving marketing is typically the second largest budget item after staff so it warrants careful annual examination. One question that is often asked about it is, “What is the return on my investment? “
I think the answer is best illustrated by this story. One of our longstanding clients had a small planned giving program that brought in $2 million to $4 million annually, primarily in bequests. One day, the development officer, who managed this program as well as major gifts, left the organization. Senior management decided to shift the major gift responsibilities to another officer and stop the planned giving marketing efforts. At first, everything was fine. The charity continued to bring in planned giving revenue at the usual pace. The thinking was that this money would continue to come in over the transom indefinitely. After three years, however, planned gifts started to decline. By the seventh year, there was no planned giving revenue at all. Thinking of marketing strictly in terms of a 1-year or even 3-year return on investment has its drawbacks. Marketing “continues the conversation” with those you cannot reach in person. It may take years for them to respond with a gift and by then it may be difficult to measure the return on your marketing dollars. Sometimes we have to accept that just continuing the conversation is also a return on our investment.
November 2012 - The Power of Connecting
“Nostalgia is a basic human emotion. Kodak created a billion dollar industry by giving people a tool to feed their nostalgia. We don't take pictures because we want to know what we're seeing now... we already know that. We take pictures because it makes us feel good to know that years later, when nostalgia for that moment comes around, we'll be ready. Marketers spend a lot of time on other emotions... joy, love, jealousy, insecurity, greed... but nostalgia gets overlooked. I think that's an opportunity.” Seth Godin
This quote was written several years ago, but like good wine it only gets better with age. It reminded me of a recent story. There are times when you have what looks on paper to be a perfect planned giving prospect, but cultivating that prospect can be a challenge. Here’s a case of a client who had a donor who gave modestly to the institution’s annual fund, starting at $100 for some years, then $1,000, and most recently $5,000. This came as a surprise to the officer because although the donor had the capacity to make a very significant gift she knew that for years every time the school requested a visit, he would decline.
One day, “out of the blue” the donor called and asked for a visit. The gift officer didn’t know the donor and so decided she needed to do something unusual to help break the ice. The donor’s father was also an alumnus of the school so she researched everything she could on his father and created a scrap book. When she presented the donor with the gift she was not prepared for his reaction – this curmudgeonly donor was full of emotion. She hadn’t anticipated how profound an impact this thoughtful gesture would have on this donor. This connection opened up a door for a conversation about how he could memorialize his father through a planned gift. We all know that finding that emotional connection is what this business is about, but when it happens we somehow seem surprised. Cultivation gets short changed because too many officers are looking for the quick hit through mass marketing. Creating a cultivation strategy for every top prospect is the most effective way to make your marketing work. You usually already know your most valuable prospects. It’s really a question of how to connect with them.
October 2012 - I Know You
Lately, I have been getting been calls from clients complaining that their marketing isn’t working. They aren’t getting as many leads as they had expected, they can’t get appointments, or it’s costing them more to get the same results they were getting just a few years ago. Then I get the question, “What new marketing techniques can I try?” Like many things in life, instead of looking for the solution “outside,” it’s been my experience that the solution is internal. I have seen marked improvement with clients who decided to make changes to their programs rather than banking on the latest marketing trends.
The change that has had the largest impact on marketing effectiveness is personalization. I know you have heard this message many times over the year, but it’s worth repeating since many organizations still don’t do it. And there’s a good reason; it’s not easy. This is why most organizations continue to mass market. However, when you can personalize your message to the donor who is poised to listen, a beautiful thing happens; visits occur, proposals get created, gifts close, and relationships deepen.
Several organizations that I have been working with have been actively promoting their gift annuity program this year, but their early results have been disappointing. Instead of continuing the mass mailings they had been using, we decided to take different approach – one that required more work on their end (it helped that “failure” wouldn’t be any worse than what they were now experiencing).
We targeted two groups, one made up of donors who have funded a gift annuity and one made up of donors who haven’t. For the donors who have a current gift annuity, the message included the following:
- Why this year’s rate is lower than their existing gift
- Why this is still a good gift both to them and the institution
- What their existing gift has done to further the organization’s cause
- A sample proposal showing what numbers for a new gift annuity would look like
The letter was signed by the fundraiser with whom the donor has the closest relationship; the annual fund, major gift and planned giving officers were all involved.
The second group was made up of the usual suspects:
- Loyal donors or donors who have a strong affiliation with the organization
- Donors age 70+ only (the rates for people younger than 70 are not as attractive)
The message was similar to the one for the first group:
- Why this is a good gift both to them and the institution
- What their gift could do to further the organization’s mission
- An illustration showing what numbers for a gift annuity would look like
It has come as no surprise that the response rate from the existing gift annuity donors has been better than the response rate from the donors who have not made a planned gift. What did surprise the organizations was that a simple letter had a better response than the elaborate mailings they had sent out previously. What surprised me was not the improved success with one charity, but with all of them. In all cases, one or more recipients made gifts.
This is just one small example of the many things gift officers can do to personalize their marketing, but to do so requires time, as well as an understanding of who is in your database. If you make the investment up front, you will reap the rewards in the long run.
September 2012 - The Planned Giving Professional as Donor Consultant
Most of us have witnessed the trend in which the role of Planned Giving Officer, once a specialized practitioner, has expanded to include other responsibilities, such as major and, perhaps, atypical giving.
This trend is likely driven by a recognition that in order to incorporate margins in almost any endeavor, an organization must attempt to achieve more with less. What strikes me about this shift is the opportunity it presents to professionals in these increasing roles – specifically, the freedom to identify and create a gift that makes the most sense for a given prospect. This shift allows gift planners to engage in more comprehensive dialogues with planned gift prospects, taking into consideration outright gifts, bequest possibilities, and life income gifts.
Isn’t that the best way to stay focused on your organization’s mission, to fully represent every opportunity a supporter might have to stretch their capability to make a gift?
August 2012 - What’s New in Planned Giving Marketing?
In this series of the Marketing Corner, we will be exploring three new or refreshed concepts in planned giving marketing (no, social media is not the only new thing…) The first concept is an existing idea that has a new twist – sophisticated data analytics to identify and rate planned giving prospects that’s now accessible to even small programs.
Sure, screening tools have been around for a while. And many organizations currently make use of them, either by purchasing a product or by being lucky enough to have supporting research staff. What’s new is that there are now affordable options available to the organizations that have small to mid-size planned giving programs and where staffing is likely at a minimum. The premise hasn’t changed significantly: screening services still look at the core attributes such as behavior and loyalty, frequency of giving, affinity to the organization, amount of giving, and capacity. Although everyone searching for more bequest and life income dollars wants to identify their best prospects, data analytics have been a luxury available only for large planned giving programs. What’s new? Efficient cultivation is a necessity for all organizations serious about planned giving, and analysis tools are increasingly cost-effective. If you’re a small organization and you haven’t explored this tactic yet, it’s a good time to do so.
July 2012 - Content Still Rules
For the final installment on our series on Tried and True Marketing Methods, I want to discuss content since it is always relevant, and after your audience, it has the biggest impact on your marketing efforts. Everyone knows that tailoring content to your audience is important, but it’s not always easy to achieve.
Generally, I think content should meet the following three criteria:
- Content should have utility
- Content should be entertaining
- Content should move your audience
Every once in a while I come across the trifecta - content that delivers on all three objectives. To learn more about creating content for the different prospect stages, download our latest white paper, “Cultivation Funnel: How Content Marketing Can Help You Move Prospects from Awareness to Gift.”
June 2012 - Messaging Made Simple
In last month’s Marketing Corner, I discussed three sacred rules of marketing - personalization, consistency, and using multiple channels. Now I want to turn my attention to messaging, the content of your communications. When it comes to messaging, the most effective approach is streamlining. Of course, you need to take the prospecting cycle into consideration; are you identifying, cultivating, soliciting, or stewarding? For example, when producing a mailer, postcard, or letter that is focused on identifying planned giving prospects, keep the message simple. Stress just one main point.
These are the most common themes I see in gift planning messaging:
- Mission - Why give to your organization?
- Why a planned gift?
- Benefits to the recipient and/or your organization
- Gift options
- Donor testimonial
But when it comes to communicating a message, the offense I see time and again is messages that try to address every one of these points. Instead, focus on one message and repeat it consistently for a specific period of time; then change it. Break up the messaging into bite size portions. Not only will simple messages be easier for your organization to produce, they will be easier for your prospects to understand.
May 2012 - Tried and True Marketing Rules
Let me start by saying that if you think you'll find the magic bullet, think again. There is no such thing in the realm of successful marketing. By successful marketing, we refer to the kind of program that is sustainable, effective, and supported by the institution. Here are some tried and true principles that you should continue to embrace as you test your marketing initiatives and explore the land of social media.
- Personalization. With so much technology at our disposal, there is no excuse not to let the reader know you know who they are. If a letter doesn’t have the proper salutation, address the reader’s concerns or interests, and acknowledge where they might be in their life’s cycle, then it’s time to step back and figure out how to make this happen. You are communicating with an audience you should know a lot about, so leverage that information.
- Multiple channels. I know of several organizations that want to take their planned gift marketing program online since that is the future and the direction in which development is headed. Statistics show that the average planned giving prospect is on the web, so why shouldn’t we move aggressively in that direction? For the same reason I tell my children, colleagues, and friends - just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Although the print world may not necessarily produce the results it once did, it is far from dead and is still effective for most organizations. It’s wise to try introducing online outreach without abandoning traditional marketing methods. The key to being successful is to have both balance and moderation, and your marketing plan needs to reflect that.
- Consistency. Planned giving success relies on the old adage: “where timing is everything in life.” A planned gift is usually made at certain milestones in one’s life: births, deaths, marital status changes, or retirement. We never know when the timing is right for a potential donor so consistent communication is critical for creating momentum and filling that pipeline.
There are some things worth testing and changing, and in marketing that’s expected, but these three rules are here to stay.
April 2012 -
In February, I introduced the topic of branding to the Marketing Corner. I started the dialogue with a simple definition: "A brand is the essence or promise of what will be delivered or experienced."
To elaborate on that definition, let’s cover what a brand is not. Your brand is not your logo, your website, or your name. It’s what your supporters perceive about your organization and how their association with you makes them feel. Chances are your organization is not the only one providing the services you are, and yet there is something your organization does that results in individuals making gifts to you. What is that essence?
We delved into the topic in March, and reviewed the Four Steps to Branding: defining and documenting Function, Personality, Differentiators, and Source of Authority.
So, what about brands that are already strong?
The question for those managing strong brands becomes: What are your responsibilities as a steward of a strong, respected, authentic brand?
It’s not uncommon for organizations (and firms, of course) to rely on existing brand recognition and reputation to move them forward. But the truth is brands in this position should put effort into protecting the brand and capitalizing on it.
Protect an existing brand by managing affiliations:
- Be selective about partnership affiliations. Any number of partnerships will be positive and healthy and reinforce your brand. But every organization needs to be cautious about partnering with other professional entities.
- Manage organizational social media affiliations. Employees who have access to publish on behalf of your organization require very specific training around not only brand guidelines but appropriateness and sensitivity to all audiences.
- Set guidelines about personal (employee) social media account affiliations: If your employees are managing personal social media accounts, set and communicate ground rules about declaring their affiliations to your organization in their profiles.
Capitalize on an existing brand by being consistent:
- Don’t be a stranger. The more touch points and positive experiences that a supporter can have with your organization, the better.
- Be purposeful in your communications. Refrain from discussing topics that don’t relate to or enhance your brand. Tweeting? What does it mean for your company? Does the content align with your message, or is it sometimes something off-brand that might confuse your audience?
- Reward and cultivate. If you already have people that are ambassadors for your organization, sharing their stories of support with family, friends, and even other potential supporters, reward them for that commitment. Cultivating loyalty from these supporters will yield more support. Write them a personal letter and call them as often as possible to let them know you appreciate them.
March 2012 - The Four Steps to Branding
In an ideal world, brand strategy is driven from the top down, but what can you do when that hasn't happened? You might not have been part of the branding process, or your organization hasn't engaged in this level of marketing yet, or it has branded itself little by little. Despite the current situation, there are things you can do to connect your planned giving marketing to a comprehensive brand message. Here are some basic steps on how branding applies to marketing planned gifts, regardless of the size of your organization or your budget.
When it comes to brand development, there are four main components to consider:
Who is your organization? What is its purpose? What are its values? Who does it serve? What role does it play in the life of your audience/donors?
What is the character of your organization? This is a function of its visual presentation - how it looks, as well as how it sounds - its voice and its tone. The consistent use of building blocks - color, typeface, logos, and taglines - reinforces your brand. Is your institution formal and sophisticated or perhaps friendly and cutting edge? The tone and voice of your messaging contribute to your brand.
What makes your organization different than other organizations with a similar mission? This may not be what it does, but rather how it does it. It could be about delivering creativity, quality, timeliness, or compassion. Could it also be about the audience reached? There are many charities that offer similar services, but perhaps yours is the one that serves a particular community or a particular population in a particular community.
- Source of Authority
How do you know your organization provides value to its community? Is it highly recognized by peer institutions? Is it a leader in its field? Are your organizational leaders or researchers relied upon for insights in the marketplace?
Most gift officers know intuitively the answers to these questions, but do not take the time to translate them into their planned giving material.
If you take the time to answer these questions and discuss them with your marketing department, you will have started a branding process that will make all of your messages to donors and prospects more compelling.
February 2012 - Your Mission Is Your Brand
In the last issue of the PG Calc-U-Letter, I discussed why mission has to be your number one fundraising message - it's the one thing that sets your charity apart. Yet too many organizations still think of their central marketing message in terms of promoting gift vehicles.
One way to think of mission is brand. When we think of the most successful brands, corporations typically come to mind, such as Apple, Toyota, Coke, and Nike. I would argue that those are not the "brands" that most organizations can or should emulate. Brand doesn’t have to be expensive. Over the next couple of months, I will explore how brand translates to non-profits, because regardless of your organization’s size, you can affect its brand. There are many definitions of “brand,” but let's start with one provided by PersuasiveBrands.com: "A brand is the essence or promise of what will be delivered or experienced."
January 2012 - The Power of Many
Why is it that something that seems so simple doesn't happen as often as it should? I recently learned how a small organization hosted an estate planning event for its constituents, a feat that is traditionally cost and time prohibitive. The organization reached out to other local non-profits with which it has an ongoing relationship via the local planned giving council and decided to partner with other organizations. Such a simple idea, but not one I’ve often seen.
By collaborating with ten other non-profits, the organization was able to share the burden of costs. In this case, the group was able to arrange for a local attorney, a member of their local planned giving council, to speak for free. The event was hosted by one of the other non-profits, which had nice meeting space. In the end, the only costs incurred were for the refreshments, the mailing, and minimum staff time. Many small organizations don’t have these kinds of events because the turnout doesn’t justify the investment. Once again, the strength of a community coming together made an otherwise overwhelming activity possible.
I was reading the latest copy of Garden Design, when I came across an article that hit home on many levels. The real takeaway was its advice pertinent to any successful marketing program – be it planned giving or development. The Garden Design staff was donating time to the James Beard Foundation to update a garden that it uses primarily used for fundraising events. As part of that project the staff was able to share the evolution of the property through a series of Web posts.
The article below does a wonderful job illustrating three important marketing fundamentals that apply to your audience regardless of age:
- It’s no longer a print vs. electronic world - the complementary alternatives provide new and interesting ways to connect with your audience
- Social media = community - take advantage of the opportunities for dialogue these various technologies enable
- Foster engagement - share your organization’s passion using multiple media channels
Excerpted from an article by Claire Lui:
“The web post updates gave snapshots of the process, from planning to the opening celebration. The wonderful thing about this technological moment in time is that we have so many platforms through which to share our passions - in our case, gardens and design. Here, in the pages of our magazine, we have the ability to use print to its best advantage, putting together layers of photographs and text in complex and multifaceted ways. And on our website, we showcase photographs in big, beautiful galleries and post fun, eclectic bits of news daily.
For me, reading magazines has always been a more quiet and thoughtful experience than reading on the Web. By physically flipping through the pages, I find myself encouraged to explore topics I might not have sought out otherwise. The Web, by its very nature, is a fragmented creature that shows readers only what they want (or, in the parlance of the Web, is "recommended for you"). But for the sheer scope of what you can want and what you can find, the Web is a marvelous place. We want our Garden Design readers to experience and enjoy both elements of the brand: the contemplative leisure of reading the magazine you're holding and the immediate fun of a daily visit (or two) to our website. On gardendesign.com, we offer inspiration, engagement with our community, and useful information, all to empower you to develop your own distinct style. It follows the same mission as the magazine but in shorter bites with fresh updates, multimedia features, and unexpected takes on design and gardens. We also love being able to converse with all of our readers through comments, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest; these online communities - far from taking us away from "real life" - open us all up to a dialogue between far-flung readers that wouldn't have been possible before.
We hope you'll take advantage of the ever-expanding world of Garden Design -our magazine, our website, and our newly launched digital publications - and continue to read, engage, and be inspired by the natural world, however you choose to visit it.
"One of the reasons why so few of us ever act, instead of react, is because we are continually stifling our deepest impulses."
While researching a project recently, I was surprised to observe the number of organizations that have begun to be proactive in their approach to marketing. One of the driving forces behind this change right now is the difficult economic times. Organizations are finding that what worked in the past isn’t working as well now. Changes in strategy will help, but not as much as strong leadership. The leadership I’m talking about goes beyond “getting” planned giving and providing the resources you need. Leaders who truly embrace planned giving see to it that it is woven into the fabric of their organization’s everyday development activities. It’s this constant attention that will inspire real action.
"Much of the success our charitable gift annuity program can be traced back to PG Calc's expertise and support. Our donors don't know PG Calc, all they know is we address their concerns quickly and accurately. We know PG Calc is behind the scenes helping make it possible."
Director of Planned Giving
Our Lady of Victory Homes for Charity