New Book Shows How to Use Direct Mail to Raise Planned Gifts
Book - Raising Planned Gifts
If you think that direct mail and planned giving are contradictory concepts, think again—and be sure to read How to Raise Planned Gifts by Mail, a new book by Larry Stelter, a planned giving professional who has counseled thousands of nonprofit clients.

Stelter’s proposition is straightforward: if potential donors don’t know about your organizational needs and don’t hear form you, they are unlikely to make a planned gift.

While newsletters, websites, postcards, and email are all useful tactics in reaching out to donors, everything starts with understanding your communication goal. And, according to Stelter, the six most common ones are to give thanks, educate, generate response, motivate donors to seek professional advice, break the ice, and drive readers to your website.

When it comes to saying thanks, Stelter says donors should be thanked seven times for each give they make, not the once or twice that most people think is enough.

Stelter’s short, 102-page book is crammed with useful advice. Consider the 60-30-10 formula, for example. He says 60% of a mailing’s success is tied to the quality of your mail list, 30% is based on the content of your appeal, and the remaining 10% is attributable to design or format. In other words, 90% of your success is tied to who you target and what you have to say.

In building your list, he writes, loyalty is key. “Typically, before donors are willing to make a planned gift, they must be connected ”“ in most cases passionately connected ”“ to the work and future of your organization and believe they can have a real impact on your mission.”

Stelter’s insightful book makes points that should make any fundraiser sit up and listen, such as:
  • Pay attention to women. Women today control more than half of the personal wealth in the United States, and also influence their husbands’ charitable giving.
  • Pay attention to professional advisors. These are the people donors turn to for advice, including attorneys, accountants, financial planners, trust officers, life insurance agents, and even real estate agents.
  • Pay attention to the tried-and-true formula of direct mail. This includes the envelope, cover letter, the educational device, offer, and reply device.
Most of all, according to Stelter, “A planned giving direct mail campaign typically serves one central purpose: to educate and inspire your donors.”

To achieve that goal, he advises, nonprofit fundraisers must constantly remind donors of the need for their organization and about needs yet to be fulfilled.

Planned giving campaigns are long-term efforts. With 80% of planned gifts coming through bequests, those responsible for planned giving should focus on getting donors to include the organization in their wills. Once they do, Stelter says, they are more receptive to other solicitations.

To improve the success of planned giving campaigns, Stelter offers a five-point program that, he says, if faithfully adhered to will generate positive results. He also includes an appendix with a number of tools to help benchmark and cultivate donors.

How to Raise Planned Gifts by Mail is published by Emerson & Church, Publishers.

Reviewed by Peter Lowy

March 2008