Marketing Your Planned Giving Program

“If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is there to hear it…” You know the rest. The most important thing about marketing your planned giving program is to be consistent and diligent about getting the word out.

You should plan to include something about planned giving in your library’s marketing materials. It could be an article or notice in each of your library or Friends newsletters, a link for information on your library’s website, a brochure, a program series within the library, etc.  Start out simple by promoting bequests to the Library.

1. Newsletter Articles and Notices

Begin an awareness campaign about planned giving in your library’s newsletter. A small ad, a brief article or a boxed notice are ways to communicate about the options of charitable bequests with supporters in your newsletter or in other communications. These communication methods are easy ways to bring this opportunity to the attention of potential donors on a regular basis. Articles don’t have to be long or detailed; just plant the seed to open up further discussion.

Begin your article or notice with a tag line, a title that is intended to catch a reader’s eye and attention. Here are a few examples:

  • Have you considered leaving a gift to the library in your will?
  • Leave a legacy at the library.
  • Use the present to invest in the library’s future.

Here are several sample articles/notices:

  • “Tomorrow’s results are created by today’s dreamers. Many people dream of a way to help the library grow in the future.  Some find that a good way to accomplish that is to designate [name of library or other receiving organization] as the beneficiary of all or part of your retirement plan or life insurance policy.  Learning more about this support option happens when you call [fill in the contact person’s name and phone number].” 
  • “In recent years, donors have informed us of their intention to include a gift to [name of library or other receiving organization] in their wills. These gifts provide an estate tax deduction and have a tremendous impact on our ability to [state purpose]. If you would like information on how to include [name of library or other receiving organization] in your will or estate plan, please contact us. [name, address, phone]”
  • “Libraries matter! While an overwhelming number of people believe library services should be a top priority, many are unaware of the financial difficulties facing American libraries. An easy way for anyone to provide support is through a gift provision included in a will. The wording of “to the [name of library or other receiving organization]” will provide such a gift.  Directing your support to any of the library’s highest priorities --- (1) XXXXX, (2) XXXXX, or (3) XXXXXX -- would be appreciated. To learn more about the smart choices you can make, call [fill in the contact person’s name and phone number].”  
  • “There is yet another way for you to express your commitment to the goals of [name of library] through a planned gift to [name of library or other receiving organization]. Once you have provided for loved ones in your will, you may want to include a gift of money, stock or property to the library. Your gift will be a lasting tribute to your concern for the [mission], while guaranteeing the library’s long-term future. For further information on how to include [name of library or other receiving organization] in your charitable giving plans, please contact [name,address, phone].”

2. Web site

Create a simple web page (or pages) outlining the type of gifts you accept, how to give and who to contact. Link this web page to your library’s website. Include donor stories and testimonials, if possible, and talk about the impact planned gifts have made – and can continue to make – to the library. You’ll want the web page(s) to motivate your prospects to make a planned gift, or at least learn more about planned giving.

Your planned giving web page(s) should be designed for maximum ease of navigation. If it’s not clear and easy, your prospective planned giver may give up.

3. Simple Mail Campaign to Invite Planned Gifts

One way to get the ball rolling with planned giving is to initiate a direct mail campaign that invites prospects (primarily current library supporters) to consider a planned gift. Put together a simple planned giving mailing. Consider including:

  • Personalized letter

    Send a personalized one-page letter telling prospects about the library’s bequest program. Let them know the important role bequests have played in your library’s history and encourage them to visit your planned giving website (if you have one) or contact  a specific person (provide name and contact information) to learn more. (See “Tips for Creating Effective Solicitation Letters” in The Annual Fund: The Cornerstone of All Fundraising in this toolkit.)
  • Response card and return envelope

    Include a postcard-sized response card and a self-addressed envelope (no stamp) that can be mailed back to the library. Provide space for the respondent’s name, address, phone, e-mail and other contact information. Be sure to address the return envelope to the attention of a designated individual to ensure confidentiality.

    Sample response card and wording: 
    • I/we have included the [name of library or other receiving organization] in our will or trust.
    • I/we am(are) interested in including the [name of library or other receiving organization] in our will or trust. 
    • Please send me/us information on leaving a gift in my/our will or trust to [name of library or other receiving organization]. 
  • Follow-up

    Two or three weeks later, follow up with either:

    Follow-up letter, postcard or phone call from

    “If you have already included the library in your estate plan, please let us know. If you haven’t, it isn’t too late.” is clear, simple language. Sadly, too often we learn about a gift after the generous donor has passed away and it’s too late to say ‘thank you.’“

    Follow-up letter from someone who has already created a bequest

    People give to people. When asking a prospect to consider a gift, including a letter from a person who has already made a gift sets a strong example. This letter might say something like, “ I didn’t think about a bequest either, until someone asked me to consider it. Now I feel so good about helping the library this way.” If the person signing this letter is well-known to the recipients, that can strengthen persuasion.

Documentation when someone says “yes”

When a donor decides to include your library in his or her estate plan, it’s a cause for celebration! They’ve just made a decision to give a meaningful and long-lasting gift of support.

Regardless of the kind of planned gift an individual wishes to make, it is important to have the donor’s wishes documented in writing. The best way to document the gift is by sending the donor a letter. See the Planned Giving Documentation Letter Template ( PDF or word document).

In the case of a bequest, try to get a copy of the will for your files. With other planned gifts get a copy of the retirement plans, beneficiary forms, etc. The document can be placed in the file for future reference. You want to make sure that you have as many details as possible to execute the gift properly once it is received.

Then, smile. You can feel good knowing that you’ve helped provide for your library’s future in this important and meaningful way.

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