Planned Giving is a steadily growing area of focus for nonprofit fundraisers. Recent studies show that 33% of Americans are willing to consider making a bequest to a nonprofit organization, but only 5.3% of those over 50 have actually committed to doing so. With such a large group of potential donors waiting to be engaged, more and more nonprofits are devoting time and resources to Planned Giving programs.
In the realm of Planned Giving, as is the case for any type of fundraising, you rarely get what you don’t ask for. Asking someone to consider Planned Giving, however, is a more sensitive and complicated task than others. The process of building a request for Planned Giving often involves cultivating a deep relationship over time, but it has to start somewhere, and often it starts online. Donors considering their legacy often turn to nonprofit websites for information, and what they find can make a big difference in their decision to pursue a planned gift to your organization.
Here are how some top nonprofits, schools, and healthcare providers have optimized their websites to attract and inform donors who are interested in Planned Giving:
1. Make a Planned Giving option visible
There are two kinds of Planned Giving donors that will visit your website: some that are looking for information about the Planned Giving process, and some that are simply looking for a way to support your cause, but may be open to Planned Giving once they learn about it. For both of these categories, featuring this information on your website in an area that is easy to find is important. To draw in donors who may be open to Planned Giving, even if they aren’t actively seeking information about it, make sure that your website’s Planned Giving page isn't something that will only be found if someone is looking for it. Featuring it prominently is a great way to catch the eye of browsers who are open to the idea of Planned Giving, even if they haven’t yet considered this type of gift.
One great example of this tactic is the National Education Association Foundation. Anyone who clicks on their website’s donate button is taken to a screen with only two navigation tabs available: one for immediate donations and one for Planned Giving. As a bonus the regular donation page also includes a section for “Giving in Your Will,” which directs viewers back to the Planned Giving page. NEA does a great job of putting the option of Planned Giving where it is not only easy to find for anyone looking, but is highlighted in a way that will attract new donors as well.
Another excellent model of using a website’s donation page to highlight the option for Planned Giving is the San Francisco SPCA, which features a blurb about it, alongside their other donation options. The eye catching photos and large blocks are ideal for drawing a browser’s eye, and they provide a short informational description which can help build interest as well.
2. Help donors find the information applicable to them
Financial planning is never a simple task, and confusion can be discouraging to potential donors. At the beginning of the conversation about Planned Giving, it is important to give donors enough information to answer the biggest questions on their minds, without overwhelming them with complicated legal matters. Planned Giving can take several forms, and is often unique to each individual donor, so Planned Giving website pages should present only the most important and applicable information to interested donors to spare them from wading through details that don’t impact them.
We love the way that Woodbury University made the process easy for their website visitors, with an interactive graphic menu that helps donors find the right information for them based on a variety of factors including age, gift amount, and the assets they wish to transfer.
The NYU Winthrop Hospital also offers a unique way for potential donors to find the information most relevant to them, with an interactive table which allows users to select multiple options to compare side-by-side.
Much of the information donors will find regarding Planned Giving is heavily technical and legal, as is necessary to explain the various financial structures available such as annuities or trusts. One way to bring a personal element into the process is to share the personal stories of other donors who have made planned gifts to your organization. Donor stories are a great way to communicate the importance and benefits of Planned Giving, because they come from your donors’ peers rather than your institution. Environmental Defense Fund has a "Meet our donors" page that showcases why other supporters have chosen Planned Giving.
3. Use stories to share a personal aspect
Planned Parenthood also offers an excellent example of this tactic, featuring multiple stories and photos of their Planned Giving donors.
3. Have printable information availableWhile websites are often an entry point for the Planned Giving conversation, older donors may prefer to have information that they can print and view later. You can make them happy by having the information on your website easily available in printable form. For inspiration on putting together a PDF document that complements the information available on your website, check out how LA BioMed does it. Their guide contains all of the important information about the Planned Giving process, and is full of reassurance that Planned Giving is accessible to everyone.
5. Cultivate a personal relationship with donors
At the end of the day, like other major gifts fundraising, Planned Giving is successful when fundraisers are able to cultivate real relationships with donors over time. The most successful planned giving asks happen after a relationship has been built, so use your website as a tool to let your donors know right away that you want to get to know them. Lighthouse Guild does this well - the first thing you'll see at the top of their Planned Giving page is a highlighted blurb directing donors to call their Director of Gift Planning, along with contact information.
Effectively building and maintaining relationships with Planned Giving donors requires fundraisers to posses unique capabilities and tools. This type of relationship may span years or decades, and may also involve communication with multiple parties in addition to the donor (such as lawyers and estate planners, or surviving family members). Keeping all of the contact history and information in one location is critical, so that it can be revisited at any point during the relationship or transferred easily during staff transitions. After getting a donor's attention with your website, good data management practices ensure that you are able to build and maintain a lasting relationship with them, that will lead them to consider a planned gift to your nonprofit.