Newsletter Mailing Results in $300,000 Gift Annuity | Sharpe Group
Posted December 1st, 1998

Newsletter Mailing Results in $300,000 Gift Annuity

In 1994, Jerry Gaughan became the first development director at the Capuchin Franciscan Friars in Pittsburgh. Since then, he has been busy building their donor base and establishing a formal development program. “I knew that the Capuchins had provided a great deal of service in the area and that if we asked for help, people would respond,” Mr. Gaughan said. “And they have.”

Mr. Gaughan started a direct mail fund development effort two years ago and today the Capuchins have a donor base of over 30,000 people. He currently sends three planned giving newsletter mailings a year to selected donors and other friends of the Capuchins. One particular newsletter on the topic of gift annuities resulted in a $300,000 gift for the Capuchins. For Mr. Gaughan, the gift was one that proved his theory about using newsletters to communicate with donors about planned giving: “If you get the word out there to the right individuals and your organization has a good mission that has touched people, people will remember it and they will respond.”

How the gift developed

Last spring, Mr. Gaughan mailed a newsletter on the subject of gift annuities, prepared by Robert F. Sharpe and Company, to 12,500 persons. The package consisted of the newsletter, a cover letter, a response device, and a card listing the Capuchins’ gift annuity rates. The newsletter described how a gift annuity works and its benefits for the donor. The response device contained an area for donors to request further information either in the form of a booklet or through a personalized gift annuity proposal based on their specific age. “These particular donors didn’t use the reply card,” explained Mr. Gaughan. “They just called.”

The donors, a Chicago couple in their mid-80s, received the gift annuity newsletter and had filed it away. Mr. Gaughan believes that they were prompted to take another look at the newsletter when they saw a gift annuity ad in another one of the Capuchins’ publications. The donors then called Mr. Gaughan and requested some personalized gift annuity calculations. “The gentleman was from Pittsburgh,” Mr. Gaughan said, “and had been touched by the Capuchins when he was a young man and wanted to make a special gift.”

After the couple received the calculations, they decided to fund a two-life gift annuity with appreciated property valued at $300,000. “They used some appreciated stocks and bonds for the annuity,” Mr. Gaughan stated. “They are enjoying more tax-free income and a nice tax deduction, they are removing the assets from their estate, plus they are helping the Capuchins, which is the most important thing to them.”

Going the extra mile–literally

After the couple made the decision to fund the gift annuity, they told Mr. Gaughan that they wanted to come to Pittsburgh to complete the gift in person. “I was surprised when the gentleman and his wife wanted to come to Pittsburgh to complete the gift,” said Mr. Gaughan. “I was even more surprised when I asked him what time their flight got in and he told me they were going to drive!”

Mr. Gaughan gave the couple directions and scheduled a time to meet them. On the day of their arrival, Mr. Gaughan waited for the donors at the predetermined place and time. “When I went out to meet them, I saw an elderly couple driving by very slowly in a car that had Illinois license plates,” he said. “I thought that had to be them.”

Although he waved to get their attention, the couple stopped only briefly, then continued down the street. Mr. Gaughan, worried that the donors might get lost, ran after them. After chasing them for almost half a mile in the summer heat, he finally caught up with the couple. “The gift was certainly worth the extra effort,” he said with a laugh.

Future plans

Mr. Gaughan has seen the positive effects of his consistent newsletter marketing efforts and plans to continue them in the future. “We are planning to expand the number of people we send the newsletter to because obviously it is working,” he said. “We are going to try to have a workshop for our donors next year as well.”

Mr. Gaughan reports that he is extremely happy with the results of his efforts thus far. “I feel that the newsletter has paid for itself in perpetuity,” Mr. Gaughan stated. “We are going to continue to educate our donors about the giving vehicles we offer.”

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