Posted July 1st, 2011

Marketing for the Response You Want

On a scale of one to 10, how effective is your marketing and communications with donors? You send the information to donors; what comes back? What represents success…quality or quantity of response? Your marketing results can dictate the future course of your planned giving results.

Who’s counting on you?

Supervisors of those responsible for marketing may sometimes judge the effectiveness of communications efforts using metrics that are heavily weighted toward quantity of response to mailings and other efforts.

In reality, however, production of income is the ultimate measure of success, but while waiting for gifts to come to fruition other measurements must be used to gauge effectiveness.

Quality vs. quantity

Ironically, in our experience, some of those receiving five to 10 responses to a mailing of 5,000 are ultimately the most pleased. They have found that the eventual results can be much greater from a few highly interested persons than from large numbers of casual responders.

Experience shows that planned gift development efforts can be “engineered” to almost any level. This month, we begin a series of articles that examines factors affecting the quantity and quality of mailing response. Whatever your goals, you may wish to examine the following variables when planning marketing efforts.

Gift history of recipients

When selecting topics and a group of donors for your marketing effort, ask such questions as:

  • How long have they been giving?
  • How often have they given?
  • What has been the average size of their gifts?

The first two questions are probably more important in deciding who has the level of commitment necessary to motivate a planned gift. It is well known that bequests and other planned gifts often come from longer term donors of relatively modest means. In cases where donors don’t have the resources with which to make large gifts during their lifetime, they have demonstrated commitment by giving regularly over a long period of time. This level of commitment is the better indicator of persons who are likely to elevate a charity to the status of a family member through inclusion in their wills or estate plans.

On the other hand, even the most casual donors can be coaxed into responding to materials that are slanted toward offering free information or otherwise heavily emphasize self-interest.

Average age of recipients

Again, consider your subject. To discover the most highly interested persons who are likely to make a particular type of planned gift, market to those in the age range most likely to find that opportunity to be helpful.

For example, while a communication on the benefits of year-end gift planning may be helpful to donors of various ages, a mailing on gift annuities will probably be most appealing to those age 70 and older. Rates of payment are higher, and these persons are more likely to be interested in a reliable source of additional income.

An exception would be if you include relatively younger donors and emphasize creating a gift annuity to benefit a parent or other older relative.

Age does matter

Marketing to all donors regardless of age and gift history can be unnecessarily costly, negatively affect response rates, seem ineffective to management and unnecessarily interfere with other age-appropriate fundraising initiatives being pursued in other areas of the development program.

Next month: Part II looks at cover letters and their effectiveness.

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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