Last month we discussed how to help ensure that as many envelopes as possible are opened by recipients of mail designed to educate and motive donors. There was no mention of “engineering” response; it was assumed that a high opening rate was desirable no matter what the contents.
This month we explore the topics covered in your communications and their “feel,” both of which can be designed to boost (or restrain) the response. Which you prefer to do depends on staff capacity, the overall goals of your program and the way in which your performance is judged.
What is the primary focus of your communication?
How “charitable” are your materials? The more directed the materials are toward the charitable gift aspect of a particular gift plan, the lower the number of responses you can normally expect.
Quality of response, as defined by the number of relationships and gifts that result, however, will generally be higher.
Consider your role: Is it to dispense free information on general estate planning topics? Or is it to make people aware of the ways they can best incorporate charitable giving in their estate and financial plans?
By providing free general information, you may indeed raise your response, but not necessarily the number of committed donors you discover and/or motivate.
What is the “feel” of your communication?
Is it perceived upon first glance as useful information? Or does it look and feel like advertising material?
The answer depends not only on the ways in which your communication pieces are written and designed, but also on the paper and printing method chosen.
Misuse of four-color process, glossy paper and overly sophisticated graphics can give the wrong impression to the target audience, which is often composed of older individuals who may respond better to more traditional approaches. Looking too much like investment marketing materials, for example, can invite unwelcome comparisons to more advantageous investment alternatives. The best approach is to aim for a high-quality informational feel with a graphic appearance that matches the overall tone of your fund development collateral materials.
What recognition is offered to respondents?
If you have a recognition program such as a legacy society for planned gifts, featuring this element in your marketing package can sometimes, but not always, have a positive impact on response.
Many people like to be recognized and should know they can be, if they so choose, for a planned gift as well as a current gift. It is important, however, that the reader understand that they can give notice of their intentions while maintaining anonymity if desired.
Response quantity and quality can be controlled to a greater or lesser extent by devoting attention to the various elements that comprise the overall package.
Editor’s note: Effective gift planning communications is just one of the many topics covered in Sharpe seminars. See sharpenet.com/seminars for more information.