Posted November 1st, 2011

How Charitably Oriented Is Your Marketing?

Last in a five-part series about factors that can affect response to mailings on gift planning topics.

Over the past few months we’ve been exploring the significance of responses received from planned gift marketing initiatives. Last month, we focused on what you send in relation to the response you receive.

In Part 5, we are examining the response device itself to reveal clues about the donative intent of respondents. Several factors can influence the response, depending on the type of inquiries you are looking for.

What does the response device offer?

For example, let’s consider offers of two follow-up booklets, “How to Avoid Estate Taxes” and “Giving Through Your Will.” Which would you prefer—50 respondents to the offer of the first title or 10 respondents to the latter?

Although it may sound better to have more responses, the lower number is likely to be much higher in quality. By showing interest in a booklet entitled “Giving Through Your Will,” these respondents are indicating exactly what you want to see—donative intent.

Does your response device ask whether the donor has already made or would consider making provisions for your organization in his or her estate plan? This question can depress response from those who would otherwise have been motivated solely by self-interest, ultimately saving you time and money.

The level of confidentiality

One method for heightening response is to clearly assure recipients that all inquiries will be held in strictest confidence. The inclusion of a business reply envelope as well as a simple line of type added to the response device signifies that use of the envelope will ensure confidentiality.

Budget constraints may cause you to consider omitting the return envelope. Tests have shown, however, that the inclusion of an envelope can increase the quantity without significantly reducing the quality of response.

Offering “free services”

Planning donors’ estates is not a component of the mission of most nonprofits. Some organizations do, however, offer to guide donors to appropriate resources for assistance in planning. A noticeable increase in responses can be attributed to such an offer, but you must first know whether your staff can or should attempt to fulfill such an offer and how appropriate it might be.

Expect a lower, though often more productive, response to offers to help people better plan their charitable gifts. This is the development officer’s special area of expertise and can be pursued more confidently by your staff.

You can influence the level and quality of response you will receive through the offer or offers made on the response device. You must decide whether it is worth reducing the quantity of response in order to find the very persons you are looking for.

The publisher of Give & Take is not engaged in rendering legal or tax advisory service. For advice and assistance in specific cases, the services of your own counsel should be obtained. Articles in Give & Take may generally be reprinted for distribution to board members and staff of nonprofit institutions and other non-donor groups. Proper credit must be given. Call for details.

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