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Tips and Tricks for Making Your Plan

For many organizations, it is the start of a new fiscal year. This is a great time to review your planned gifts marketing plan and determine what has worked for you in the past and make changes to things that may not have had the desired outcome.

In this blog, we will explore different marketing tips and tricks that organizations have found to be helpful when working through their marketing efforts for planned giving.

Take a “Marketing Inventory”

A great place to start is by looking at all of the different marketing activities that your organization has planned for this year. Take a look at things from a wider lens and make a list of all of the items a donor will receive during the year from your foundation office. Do you send out an annual report? Is there an alumni magazine or printed newsletter sent quarterly? Does your organization mail receipts after receiving a gift? Are there events on the calendar – in person or virtual?

Once you have made this list, see if it is possible to incorporate a planned giving message into these pieces. Here is an example of how this worked for one organization:

Foundation Print Newsletter: Buckslip/Insert, Donor Story

Foundation Electronic Newsletter: Small ad offering Estate Planning Guide

Receipt mailings: Buckslip/Insert – Estate planning guide offer

Foundation Social Media: Estate Planning Guide offer, Donor Story

Onsite Events (TBD): Estate Planning Brochure, Legacy Society Invite

When the organization made this initial list, it had not decided on what topics to feature with their buckslip/insert option. Depending on budget, an organization may only print one insert that will last the year and include an estate planning guide offer. Other topics to highlight include charitable gift annuities and the IRA charitable rollover. One thing to keep in mind -  if you are including buckslips/inserts in your receipt mailings you will want to be cautious not to make another direct ask. One great thing about sending receipts is that it is the perfect time to thank your donor for their gift. If you include another ask in that receipt mailing, it may not be as well received. However, by offering the estate planning guide, you are providing a service to your donor.

By making this “inventory” list, you are also stretching your budget farther because there is likely no additional cost. You can use ads or stories in existing print and electronic marketing.  Including a planned giving offer is a way to get your message in front of new eyes and these efforts will generate new leads.

Simple Campaign

With budgets being tighter and people “wearing more hats” in their role, planning a campaign can sound daunting or overwhelming. However, a campaign can be as simple as sending an email. At its core, a marketing campaign is a focused and organized effort to promote something. Sending an email about one specific gift accomplishes these goals.

When you are conducting an email campaign, be sure that your email list is targeted. You want to make sure that your message is reaching the right audience at the right time. By putting in the extra work of making sure your list includes valid emails of those that need to hear your message, your campaign will be more successful. We have heard stories of frustration from gift planners who sent an email to their entire database, thinking that more emails will result in more gifts. While this may be true for some, it is not true for the majority. Check out one of our blog posts about the importance of segmentation here. You need to make sure that you are sending the email to people that the message will resonate with.

If you have the ability, you can also incorporate your email message into your social media posts. Save the artwork from your email as an image and post it to Facebook and Twitter. Include links to your planned giving website to increase traffic.

Here is an outline for quarterly email campaigns for you to consider:

Quarter 1: Charitable Gift Annuities

Quarter 2: Estate Planning/Bequests

Quarter 3: IRA Rollover

Quarter 4: End of Year Gifts/Appreciated Assets

Comprehensive Campaign

If time and budget allows, conducting a comprehensive campaign is ideal. This campaign will use all of the different multichannel marketing tools available at your organization – website, print, email and social media.  One of the most important things to remember during a comprehensive campaign is to have all of these different channels saying the same thing at the same time. Consistent design and messaging are key to campaign success.

Let’s take a look at an example comprehensive campaign. Here is an outline of how the campaign was structured at one organization:

Month before campaign start:
-Finalize design of postcard. Determine mailing list.
-Train staff on donor response
-Prepare response materials

Campaign week 1
-Postcard hits mailboxes

Campaign week 2
-Follow-up eblast
-Message in enewsletter
-Social media post

Campaign week 3
-Ad in foundation print newsletter
-Social media post #2

Campaign week 4
-Continue donor follow-up and stewardship

In the weeks prior to the campaign starting, it is important to finalize the design of your print pieces, determine your mailing lists, train staff and prepare response materials. As we mentioned earlier, you want to make sure that your mailing lists are reaching the right people. Review your print and email list before the materials are sent. It is also helpful to train staff on how to respond to donor calls and questions. You want to make sure anyone answering the telephone knows who to direct donors to at your organization should questions arise. You will also want to make sure you have response materials readily available. Do you have a brochure to send with more information? Are you offering the estate planning guide? These materials should be in the hands of those who are responding to donors, so they can be sent quickly and easily.

The print component kicked off the start of this sample comprehensive campaign. This particular organization focused their print mailing list to include their more senior donors. The follow-up eblast was going to a larger audience. Sending the printed component only to senior donors is a great tip to help with budget.  Keep in mind that even senior donors are more comfortable online now, so including them in the follow-up email is always a good idea. The design of both the postcard, the follow-up eblast and ad should be the same. By using the same colors and imagery, you are reinforcing the message you are trying to share with donors. You can upload a picture of the postcard to social media and link to your planned giving website. For more tips on social media, visit this blog post.

At the end of the campaign, it is important to evaluate what worked and what did not work as well. This is helpful for planning your next campaign. You can hone in on the things that worked well and re-evaluate items that did not provide the results you expected.


We hope this blog has provided helpful tips and tricks for your next planned gifts marketing. Crescendo is here to help! We have resources available to help you be successful. We would love to hear from you too. What has worked in your campaigns? Do you have any pearls of wisdom to share with other gift planners?





Holly Omlor

By Holly Omlor
Assistant Vice President - Education, Crescendo Interactive, Inc.

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