Despite the economic difficulties caused by the pandemic, donors have been more generous in 2020 than in previous years. During the pandemic, both the number of wills and bequests have increased dramatically on MinaWill. In March alone, the number of wills with bequests made via our platform increased by more than 445% compared to the same month last year. And according to a survey by Fidelity Charitable, 25% of donors intend to raise their contributions this year.
However, if you are a planned giving officer, you may be asking how to engage all of these new donors if traditional channels such as events are unavailable. Legacy contributors may propel your organization's fundraising growth, and management is vital for converting them into annual and major donors.
Here are eight strategies to help you establish long-lasting relationships with planned-gift donors during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.
1- Telephone contact with new planned giving donors.
Typically, donors who leave planned contributions are older, and in a time when many seniors may not see their families, a phone call could help alleviate feelings of isolation. As a result of shutdowns and quarantines, more individuals are remaining at home and yearning for human contact. This implies that they are likely to answer their phones at a considerably higher rate than before, providing you with the ideal opportunity to communicate with them in a meaningful way.
The telephone is a tried-and-true method for connecting with donors. You can thank them for their donation, discuss your organization's mission and the impact they are having, and assess their organization-related wishes and needs. When we polled organisations earlier this fall, over 22% of respondents reported that donor phone calls were their top stewardship approach.
2. Display empathetic communication.
Like many people this year, your donations may be experiencing difficulty. Whether they are homeschooling their children while working from home or simply miss their families, you can be a source of empathy and connection for them. Your new planned giving contributors took the time and care to support your purpose, and you can return the favour by leading your communications with empathy and kindness.
In addition to empathy and courtesy, it is essential that your written messages are:
Clear and concise: Since 50% of emails are now viewed on mobile devices, the optimal length is approximately two to three paragraphs or 50 to 125 words.
Persuasive: According to a research from the University of Pennsylvania, conveying the story of a person rather than a group enhances philanthropic donations. Bringing attention to a new donor can be an effective approach to encourage loyal supporters to donate this year. In addition, emails with positive or cheerful attitudes attract 15% more answers, whereas emails with mildly negative sentiments receive 13% more.
Drive home the significance of their gift: Your task in writing will be to convey to your supporters what is now achievable with their assistance. Define the current state of your organisation, the problem at hand, and the remedy in order to do this.
Through excellent storytelling, you can keep your objective at the forefront of their minds and urge them to maintain momentum.
Personal: Always use the supporter's name when addressing them in emails and subject lines. Hearing one's own name activates more regions of the brain, notably those related with social behaviour and long-term memory.
Include social proof: When people observe another person taking an action, they frequently assume that the activity is correct and are more inclined to follow suit. To employ social proof in your writing, you can reference previous donors and how they contributed.
3- Create a legacy society to strengthen relationships with donors.
Create a legacy society for your donors so that they can connect with your organisation and with one another (it's also an excellent marketing tool). Claire Meyerhoff, president of The Planned Giving Agency, highlighted the significance of legacy societies during a webinar we hosted on efficient donor stewardship. Inviting your supporters to join your legacy society will make them feel appreciated for their donations, and it may even inspire them to contribute more frequently and in larger amounts.
To recognise the members of your legacy society, you can promote them on your website or send them a pin or other little token that allows them to express their support with pride.
4- Volunteer opportunities should be used to foster relationships between loyal contributors and new donors.
People are at home during the pandemic and searching for meaningful ways to give back. In our webinar on stewardship, planned giving expert and ThinkGiving founder Cathy Sheffield recommended urging current contributors to connect with prospective donors. For instance, volunteers could send postcards or phone contributors to express their gratitude and appreciation for their support. This can help you scale your thank-yous if you have a large number of new contributions this year, while also delivering important moments of human interaction.
5- Involve your board or executive team in the process of welcoming new donations to your organisation.
Request a member of your executive team or board to welcome new donations and introduce themselves to them. A one-minute video can be a terrific tool for leadership to provide organisation updates or words of encouragement. In this video from charity: water, the organization's founder, Scott Harrison, addresses the current moment and tells supporters why their critical work must continue.
6- Survey your new donors with planned gifts.
Determine who your new planned giving donors are and how they would like to engage with your organisation by conducting a survey. You can then utilise this information to inform your stewardship initiatives and programming.
The survey should be among the initial emails sent to your new donors (after thanking them, of course). In it, you can inquire as to how they like to be contacted and what information they desire from your firm. This will provide your staff with an understanding of what contributors are most interested in and who is most likely to interact with your messaging.
Here are some suggestions for doing donor surveys:
- Be upfront and transparent about the issues your organisation will continue to confront in light of the pandemic. Make your survey email concise and direct.
- In the subject line of your survey email, express gratitude and explain how the donor will benefit.
- Include a clear CTA (e.g., "Will you share your thoughts with us so we can serve you better? Please take this 5-minute survey to assist us.")
7. Host a virtual celebration for new donors with planned gifts.
Organize virtual events, such as a quiz night or auction, to connect your donors and your staff. The purpose of your stewardship events should be to foster meaningful relationships with and among your contributors, not to raise more money. More than 82% of charitable organisations have begun organising virtual events to connect with the community.
In order to assist you in navigating this new virtual environment, we hosted two webinars earlier this year that addressed a number of these obstacles. Among the significant takeaways were:
Ensure that your events have a distinct purpose. How will you measure the success of your event? Clarify whether the objective is fundraising or stewardship alone.
Have a clear plan for follow-up. How will you thank donors or continue to cultivate their support after the event? Sending a thank-you note is an excellent opportunity to express gratitude, update supporters on the event's impact on fundraising (if appropriate), and welcome them to future events.
Include regular involvement opportunities throughout the event. Virtual exhaustion is a genuine phenomenon; as stay-at-home orders increase and more events are relocated online, it is crucial to intersperse interactions throughout your event. Consider incorporating trivia, question-and-answer sessions with panellists, or breakout sessions throughout the duration of the event to keep people engaged.
If you need assistance arranging a modest, entertaining event to cultivate new donors, we suggest starting with a trivia night. You can modify the questions and answers to match with your mission and objectives using this template.
8- Highlight new donors in your annual report on giving.
Highlight your new legacy contributors in your yearly report to honour them. This will make them feel valued and acknowledged for the immediate and long-term impact their contribution will have on your objective.
Donor management during a crisis like the Coronavirus pandemic requires establishing, enhancing, and preserving connections. If handled appropriately, your funders will emerge from the crisis alongside you and become some of your most devoted supporters.