Early last week I tweeted the following:
#PlannedGiving marketing #fail from my alma mater @concordia Leaves me cold & I know what PG is!! cc: @MLInnovations
I felt compelled to copy my twitter friend, Michael J. Rosen (@mlinnovations) because as far as I’m concerned, he’s the specialist in planned giving marketing. I mean, he wrote the book … literally! Michael is President of ML Innovations, a Philandelphia-based consulting firm, and the author of Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing.
He quickly encouraged me to write a blog post on this issue and even offered to post it on his own blog. I encourage you to read some of the comments posted by his readers.
Here’s the original post:
Last week I received my alma mater’s summer magazine filled with interesting articles on recent studies conducted by students and professors, news from other alumni and what the university is planning for Homecoming. Ah, happy memories of Homecoming!
Until I get to page 17 and what do I see? A full page advertisement on planned giving. That’s expected. After all, this is the alumni magazine and the advancement department should raise awareness among alumni on ways we can contribute to the future of the university.
According to Frank Minton and Lorna Somers, Canada’s foremost experts on the matter and authors of Planned Giving for Canadians, using a current publication is an ideal way to promote planned giving. To be successful they recommend using a “donor testimonial that includes interesting details about the donor’s background, relationship to the institution and reasons for making the gift, describe the gift vehicle and the benefits to both the donor and the charity” (p.380).
While this advertisement uses a donor testimonial, it has left me cold for various reasons:
- Jargon: fundamentals of marketing & communication dictates that your copy must be extremely simple so that anyone and everyone will understand what you’re talking about. Tom Ahern goes as far as recommending that you write at grade 6 level! This means jargon-free copy is a must. Sadly, using the term planned giving is jargon used in our sector but that no one else quite understands what it means. Why do we still use it? I don’t know – perhaps that can be topic for a future post.
- Testimonial: In my years as a fundraiser, every testimonial I’ve received from donors were filled with happiness, compassion and love. They would focus on what the organization has accomplished and how they feel about contributing to the cause they hold dear to their heart. Sadly, this testimonial is anything but that. I even wondered if Andrew really said those things because it’s such a rational and cerebral testimonial that leads with the tax advantages of the gift as opposed to the personal reasons behind his gift. Could he be a Vulcan?! (ok ok, don’t take me seriously, I’m only being silly!!)
- Title: Unfortunately, I must disagree with the tag line “Planned Giving an integral part of your financial plan”. Why? Simply put, a planned gift is an emotional decision driven by the donor based on how they feel about the charity, what it plans to do in the future and what legacy the donor wishes to leave. It is not financially-driven decision. To focus so much on the financial benefits takes away from the true meaning of philanthropy and the culture of philanthropy professionals should be cultivating – in my opinion.
- Picture: Admittedly, Andrew is a handsome man but he isn’t looking into the lens – at you, the reader. It makes it hard to connect or relate with him. The university also chose to shoot him standing in front of the John Molson School of Business – the newest building resulting from years of fundraising. The picture is cold and doesn’t convey any feeling whatsoever. My memories of attending Concordia University are around the people I met, the teachers I had, or the overall experience of attending university. Not once have I reminisced about the buildings!!
- Contact: As professionals, we want to make the information gathering process as simple as possible but according to the advertisement, if a prospective donor wants to learn more, they must visit the university’s website, then try to find the name and phone number of the PG professional. Wrong! Make it easy for your donor to give to you by putting your name and contact info right there.
The intent of this post was not to roast my alma mater. I love it too much for that. Instead, let this be a learning experience for other planned giving professionals out there. I would like to offer my “must do” list for good PG marketing:
- Lose the jargon and use plain language
- Have a donor testimonial that conveys emotions and passion (remember: sell the sizzle, not the steak!)
- Have a catchy and simple tag line
- Use images or graphics that convey the same emotion the donor’s testimonial is sharing
- Include the name and contact information of the person to contact to find out more information or to make their intentions known
Are there other points to add to this list? What are your thoughts on the advertisement?