Planned Giving Marketing During the Coronavirus: What History Tells Us
Posted April 14th, 2020

Planned Giving Marketing During the Coronavirus: What History Tells Us

Sharpe clients are asking about planned giving marketing efforts. Asking if they should hold off and delay until the COVID-19 crisis has passed. We are not in as uncharted territory as some might think.

A recent article in Financial Advisor IQ reports that attorneys are being inundated with requests to prepare wills, trusts and other estate planning documents, often on an emergency basis. Clients are often asking for this to be done remotely for those who are ill or unable to travel. A recent article in USA Today reported on the same phenomena.

This is exactly what Sharpe expected to occur.

We saw a similar situation immediately after 9/11 when it was clear that the world had suddenly changed. People did not know what was coming next; we were all glued to our TV screens, and the economy was entering a serious downturn.

Issues of mortality were front and center. There was a real concern that this might be just the first of many attacks. Many charities froze in place, and planned giving efforts often stopped entirely.

Charities that had estate planning educational materials in the mail at that time obtained a very strong response. The issues of life and death were suddenly urgent. They were squarely in front of us all. Interest in estate planning exploded.

Much of fundraising is about creating deadlines and trying to get donors to act. With planned giving, this is difficult. External forces are creating this deadline, and we may be of particular service to our donors looking to update their estate plans.

This is a time of both opportunity and risk. When donors make or change their estate plans, we want to be in front of them and get into those plans. And, we want to stay in their plans if we are already there. This is a time when charities previously named in the will may be removed.

When people update their plans, they usually make multiple changes. Keeping your organization in front of them by offering assistance and educational materials is critical to getting into those plans. It will also reinforce the need to keep you in existing plans.

There is little doubt that we are in a period of heightened interest in estate planning topics of all sorts. The people most at risk for the coronavirus are seniors over age 70. These are our natural planned giving constituents and prospects.

Let me offer a few more thoughts based on my decades of working in the direct mail world.

  • Studies show that people have historically spent about the same amount of time with their physical mail every day. During this pandemic, people have more time at home due to the lockdown. They have more time to read estate planning materials. Focus on estate planning topics that are educational in nature. Ask them to include you in their plans, but make it a soft ask, along with helpful tips.
  • If you don’t have any planned giving newsletters, brochures or other marketing materials in process, this might be a good time to consider initiating an effort or accelerating existing plans.
  • The messaging might be a little different, but the core message of “consider whether it might be a good time to finally update your plans and, by the way, please consider including us in those plans” does not change.
  • Be sensitive. The primary message needs to be educational and the mailing should include a free booklet or other informational offer. The “BTW, please consider including us” should be a soft sell and presented more as an afterthought. Don’t refer to the coronavirus.

Given that people are spending more time at home, this may mean a greater willingness to talk to you when you call to follow up. As few of us are traveling these days, it allows us to take the proverbial lemons and make lemonade.

This is NOT a time to slow down your marketing. This is the time to maintain or accelerate your marketing efforts. Consider repurposing unused travel funds to more marketing.

As always, we are happy to assist you with your efforts in this area.

Stay safe out there, and look for the positives.

By John Jensen, Sharpe Group Senior Vice President and Senior Consultant

CARES Act Communication

In response to the health and financial crisis caused by the coronavirus global pandemic, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act has been enacted. The law presents a plan for the government to aid Americans and businesses during these uncertain times. Among the charitable giving provisions, it includes a temporary, partial “above the line” charitable deduction for cash gifts (up to $300) in 2020 to encourage gifts by taxpayers who are unable to itemize under current tax law. The legislation also modifies the limitation on qualified charitable gifts of cash to 100% of AGI for itemizers in 2020.

To help you communicate these provisions with your donors, Sharpe Group has created a new brochure, The CARES Act: Good News When We Need It Most, which outlines all provisions affecting charitable giving in an easily digestible format. This brochure makes an ideal and welcome message to all current and prospective donors, especially in a targeted soft appeal to your gift planning prospects. It can also serve to educate your board, volunteers and staff.

Click here to learn more.

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