Today's guest post is from the "Planned Giving evangelist," Tony Martignetti. Tony is the host of Nonprofit Radio and the creator of the Planned Giving Accelerator. Both as frontline fundraiser and as a consultant, he's helped nonprofits raise over $100 million. You can follow him on Twitter @TonyMartignetti


Tony Martigenti, Planned Giving Expert

10 Tips for Creating a Highly Effective Planned Giving Appeal

By Tony Martignetti

Most direct mail fundraising appeals follow a well-tested set of rules that are influenced by decades of data.

Planned Giving appeals, however, are a different sort of animal.

While most fundraising letters aim to persuade readers to make an immediate gift, that isn’t true of planned gift mailings.

Instead, they should have a different feel — and follow a different set of rules.

Because your goal is to start a long-term conversation, it requires a special touch to create a letter that introduces donors to Planned Giving.

Thus, you should aim to write from the heart.

Be warm, factual, sincere, and straightforward.

Your objective isn’t strictly to hit a rate of reply by a certain date. Quite often, the response comes much later.

This is long-term fundraising. You’ve hit a home run if someone saves your letter and retrieves it years later when it’s time to prepare or revisit a will. We know folks are doing just that in droves right now. Just search “pandemic wills surge.”

With that in mind, here are 10 things to consider when you craft a Planned Giving appeal letter:

  1. Keep it simple. Devote your letter exclusively to promoting a gift by will. No other subjects should distract from that purpose.
  2. Write with a tone that appeals to older readers. Write for people in their 60s and older. Most people who make Planned Giving decisions are older – so you should consider that your target audience.
  3. Keep it short. Write one page or less.
  4. Personalize it. Use a full inside address and a formal salutation (Dear Miss/Mrs./Ms./Mr.). Avoid using salutations such as “Dear friend” or “Greetings!” While first names and a lighter touch work for other appeals, you’re looking to be both formal and personal with a Planned Giving appeal.
  5. Get a testimonial. If you have a willing donor who has decided to make a planned gift, a testimonial from them can be incredibly powerful, especially if it articulates what a lasting legacy for your nonprofit means to that person.
  6. Let your ask stand alone in its own paragraph. I like to underline it.
  7. Use a closed outer envelope, not a window carrier. The subject is personal, private, and serious. Your letter shouldn’t look like an invoice.
  8. Enclose a reply card. Give readers the opportunity to tell you they’d like more information. That’s how you grow your prospect pipeline.
  9. Include a return envelope. Because this is a personal and discreet conversation, don’t design your reply card as a self-mailer. The information being shared is sensitive.
  10. Postage decisions matter. Apply a stamp. You can use the first-class, presort rate (if you want to save money over regular first class). It’s important to avoid bulk mail or metering for this personalized, earnest, and important letter. Perception matters.

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