Have you planned for planned giving?I’ll go out on a not-so-long limb and say that most nonprofit managers (even fundraisers) wake up in a sweat when they hear the words “planned giving.” Too bad. Planned giving can be your best friend, especially if you have any kind of track record in direct mail solicitations. Planned giving isn’t about understanding complicated tax law, it’s about understanding how to relate to people at a deep enough level so that they trust you with their eternal legacy. And you know who usually makes planned gifts? Long term annual fund donors. Time to check your pledge cards and web site. Do your donors know that your organization can go in their will?
Maybe like you, I feel like I’m programmed to pick out things in odd places that relate to fundraising. So when I was reading a book called Traffic (Tom Vanderbilt) not long ago, something grabbed me. Vanderbilt touched on a point that I discuss in my fundraising classes: appeals that focus on the needs of one person – one student, one starving child, one cancer patient – are almost always the most effective. He went on to cite studies that tell us that the effectiveness of a solicitation letter goes down when even two people are discussed instead of one. He made clear what we know in direct mail fundraising: talking about groups of people or things simply dilutes the letter’s effectiveness.
Some of you have heard me talk and write about what I call the “Ed McMahon Factor.” (see http://www.pgtomorrow.com/archive/summer2009.pdf) In short, it says that forming a direct relationship between ONE signatory of a letter – not two or three, but one – consistently and over time, builds confidence in the organization. The letter writer – whether it’s the president of the organization or the board chair or a client that was served – is writing directly to the donor. It’s a personal correspondence, not from “us” but from “me.” But it needs to be the same person for a while. That builds a brand and loyalty – and response.
Rounding out this picture is the most important element – the person to whom you’re writing. You typically don’t write to a group, but to a person. So when you write to a person, you address that person by name, not “Dear Friend” or “Dear Hugg Family,” but “Dear Matt.” People pay much more attention to something written to them, even though they know that it’s not likely to be a personal letter.
So, what’s the formula? 12141. The best fundraising letter is from one person (1) to (2) one person (1)for (4) addressing the problems of one person (1)!
Of course, I’m biased. I can write 12141 appeals for you at any time. But whether you have me help you, or do it in-house, I hope this little memory trick reminds you of what’s important to say in every appeal out the door.