Attention nonprofits: if you want to make an impact on your donors and with your planned giving programs, it helps to be edgy, said Viken Mikaelian, founder of plannedgiving.com.
Some nonprofits center their missions on emotional stories and issues, and Mikaelian recommends shaking up the potential donor a bit, using anger, empathy or other emotions to stir up passion for your organization.
“You’ve got to have an edge in your marketing,” said Mikaelian, who also has published “Planned Giving Tomorrow,” a marketing resource for planned giving geared toward nonprofit and fundraising professionals. “The more you push, the more you are going to pull.”
A fundraising campaign should also focus on stories of individuals impacted by your organization. Marketing, he added, “is where money is attracted, not pursued. Sales is where it’s pursued: big difference (but) you need both.”
The fundraising advisor visited the Akron area last week, speaking to the Association of Fundraising Professionals, North Central Ohio Chapter, and also paying a visit to Akron Community Foundation. Planned giving, also known as gift planning, is a way to support charities and nonprofits using gifts larger than those based on an income, like estate and tax planning.
The No. 1 predictor of planned giving, said Mikaelian, is loyalty. For example, a man who donated $3 a month to the Maryland Zoo for 11 years is an ideal candidate for planned giving because he’s consistent and loyal.
Fundraisers should not just target the rich or upper-tier prospects, he added. “Focus on gifts anyone can afford. Eighty-five percent of all planned gifts are bequests (gifts through a will or estate), appreciated stock, life insurance and IRAs.”
Mikaelian also implores fundraising professionals to focus on the benefits of giving, not the donations themselves, along with the relationships built along the way.
Additionally, fundraisers should think of their organizations as businesses. During a recent meeting with representatives of a children’s hospital, Mikaelian asked them what business they’re in, and they replied, “‘to save children’s lives.’ And I said, ‘No, you’re in the business to raise money, because if you cannot raise money, you cannot afford that chopper on the roof.’”
He advises nonprofits to devise an “elevator pitch,” which should be a concise, carefully crafted description of your products and services. Do not confuse this with a sales pitch, according to a plannedgiving.com pocket guide, which adds that a sales pitch would sell a prospect on “how great your gift plan is. Your prospect is ‘buying’ you and your mission, not the gift plan.”
Elevator pitches include such statements as, “Did you know giving stock can be more beneficial than giving cash?” Or, “Your retirement fund can be taxed up to 60 percent if passed on to heirs, yet it’s tax-free to charity,” and, “You can make a gift and receive guaranteed fixed payments for life.”
Planned giving also may serve as an incentive to those who work in nonprofits and charitable organizations. “Do you know that if you successfully dabble in planned giving, you will double your salary in five years?” asked Mikaelian. “Planned giving folks make significantly more than the average folks.”