I continue to be amazed that so many otherwise well-run planned giving programs miss the boat on one absolutely key activity — personal contact with Legacy Society donors. Oh yes, each gift officer has a portfolio of people they’re trying to call or visit but there are never enough gift officers to realistically reach everyone so a large number of Legacy Society donors end up receiving no personal touch. I’m sympathetic but unmoved from my conviction that this is probably the single most important thing we can do to improve our overall results. Here’s a reminder of the reasons it’s so important:
1. We have so few people who raise their hand in response to our marketing investment. Shouldn’t we invest even more in them now that they’ve identified themselves to us?
2. These are major-donors-in-waiting who, as Robert Sharpe has said, “have elevated you to the status of member of the family.” Don’t they deserve — for their loyalty and commitment to you — at least one thank you call a year?
3. Most planned gifts are revocable. Staying in touch with these donors helps ensure that you will receive the intended gift when the time comes.
4. Your competitors are talking to the very same donors. Your absence is saying something to that donor, and not in a good way.
5. The donors who engage with you, on the phone and especially with a visit, are likely to give you a gift that is orders of magnitude larger than your average.
So, what’s a good solution if you are struggling to find the time? How about a “Thankathon?” That’s the clever idea of Charlotte Meyer and her colleagues at Ocean Conservancy.
Staff volunteered to call five donors each over three days this past spring. The callers included the CEO! Training was simple, using call scripts and FAQs and Team Captains provided coaching. An additional incentive was provided: for each five calls completed, callers were entered into a raffle to win a Kindle. In three days, 68 callers reached nearly 500 donors with personal contact (some had so much fun doing it they called more than their required 5).
I’m oversimplifying a bit because I know it took a lot of effort on the part of the organizing team. But the same approach could be replicated twice or even three times a year once the formula is down. And the other thing I love about this idea is that it wasn’t just fundraisers who made the calls — program staff participated, too.
Charlotte is speaking on stewardship at the upcoming PPP conference in New Orleans. I encourage you to attend her session. This is just one of her many great ideas.