Is Your Planned Giving List a Moving Target? | Sharpe Group
Posted June 1st, 1998

Is Your Planned Giving List a Moving Target?

While every planned giving donor is an individual, different groups of donors may be selected for inclusion in different types of planned giving promotions.

For example, those persons who fit a certain donor profile, such as those who are older, more conservative, consistent contributors of average amounts, might be selected for gift annuity mailings or bequest mailings. Those who fit another profile, perhaps those who are more affluent, larger contributors, regardless of age, might be targeted for gifts of appreciated securities, lead trusts, or charitable remainder trusts. Yet another group might be selected based on age, occupation, or other factors for promotions of gifts from retirement plans, closely held businesses, insurance, etc. At Robert F. Sharpe and Company, we have developed an age-and wealth-based matrix to assist in list selection. After working with consulting clients in selecting groups of donors for mailings and for invitations to seminars, etc., it became apparent to us that not every donor is a prospect for every type of gift. Some plans are more attractive to certain age groups or the very wealthy, some gift vehicles appeal to a narrow audience, and others may interest a broad group. To help simplify this concept, Robert Sharpe, Jr., developed the matrix below to assist in planning gift marketing and other development efforts.

Once a group has been selected according to the matrix, it is important to recognize that not every recipient of a mailing or other contact, even with the best list selection, will be receptive at the time that a particular idea is presented. Receptiveness depends, in large part, upon the events that are occurring in each donor’s life. Therefore, repetitive and consistent communication with the right people at the right time in their lives is one of the key ingredients that distinguish the most successful planned and major gift development efforts.


In addition to a repetitive marketing program, it is also important to vary the message to make sure different motivations for giving are addressed. Remember, each donor is an individual and the “why” of giving must be addressed as well as the “how” and “what” of the gift arrangement. For this reason, rather than focusing only on how a particular gift plan works, it is crucial to show donors that there are persons who actually complete such gifts and WHY they do so. This can be accomplished through cover letters, feature stories in newsletters, articles in publications of general circulation, and other appropriate media. While the approach may vary depending on the size of a particular organization or institution, in times of limited staff and other resources, it is more important than ever that we take the time to tailor our communications in the most effective manner possible.

Barlow T. Mann is an attorney and chief operating officer of the Sharpe company. He designs planned giving programs for a number of America’s nonprofits, presents seminars, and authors many articles on gift planning.

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