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What a Planned Giving Professional Can Learn from a Realtor

By Two Cent Steve,
Planned Giving Director at one of PlannedGiving.com’s university clients

Two hundred and fifty three brave souls signed on for a recent webinar with Viken Mikaelian and Tom Ahern. That’s two out-of-the-box thinkers with a habit of saying it like it is … bound to get interesting.

And interesting it was.

If you missed the live show, check back soon for the recording on PlannedGiving.guru.

I came to planned giving from the realm of real estate, and I brought several marketing adages with me that have served me well. One of my favorites:

Never write to a donor what you can tell them on the phone or in person; and never tell them something that you are able to show to them.

Another:

Benefits, not features. 

When you show a house, of course the buyer needs to know the features. How many bedrooms, how many bathrooms, one or two car garage, etc. But that’s not what’s going to sell the house. Benefits are going to sell the house. Your kids can walk to school from here. You can fit your entire extended family on this screened-in porch.

Benefits, not features. 

Viken and Tom touched on this in the webinar. Show the customer (the donor) at least three benefits. Always think “benefit, benefit, benefit”—and just to be clear, we’re talking about benefits to the donor, not your institution.

At the university where I work, here are three benefits we show donors to “sell” them on the idea of notifying us that they’ve made a bequest to the school:

1. Let us know and get your name included on the plaque of honor in the football building or etched in stone on the Benefactor’s Circle at the Alumni House or the donor statue on campus.

2. Let us know so you can get your free campus parking sticker, use of the gym and library, free theater tickets, and bookstore discounts.

3. Let us know and accept our warm invitation to an annual dinner where you can meet and chat with the university president, former professors, and your old athletic coach.

Combining the benefits-not-features idea with the show-don’t-tell principle, I will, whenever possible, show donors the benefits. I bring sample campus parking stickers along with me to show them. I walk with them to the donor statue and point out names etched there. I hand them their annual dinner invitation in person and tell them how Coach So-and-so is looking forward to seeing them again.

Show them what they may be missing. Invite them to join other like-minded classmates. Incentive them to be part of something positive while they can. Because it’s not about their death.

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