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Your Donor Population Is Aging: 13 Tips To Engage Older Donors & Encourage Planned Giving

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We’re all aging, right? Here are practical tips on how to engage your aging donors and encourage planned giving. These tips include how to make a planned gift request without making it awkward. It is essential to adapt your fundraising strategies to engage and involve those age 50 and above effectively.

What age group should you target?

Older adults tend to be more actively engaged in charitable giving and are more likely to make substantial donations.

According to data from various studies and research, the average age of nonprofit donors typically falls within the range of 50 to 75 years old. This age group often has more disposable income and is more inclined to include charitable giving in their financial plans. Additionally, they may have reached a point in their lives where they are reflecting on their legacy and the impact they want to leave behind.

As we age, we usually have more saved resources, and therefore have a greater ability to share those resources. The fact remains that most charitable giving still goes to the donor’s family, the school they attended, and their church, synagogue, or place of worship. If your nonprofit is not among those three places, then you have a marketing task to attend to.

Practical tips to encourage planned giving

Here are 13 practical tips on how to relate to and engage older donors and encourage planned giving.

  1. Use larger print (14-point font at a minimum): Larger print helps aging eyes.
  2. Build personal relationships: Cultivate personal connections with your aging donors. Reach out to them individually, listen to their stories, and express genuine appreciation for their support over the years. Regular communication can help maintain their engagement and trust in your organization.
  3. Engage their family and loved ones: Recognize the importance of family in the lives of older donors. Engage their family members and loved ones in your organization’s activities, events, and communication. This inclusivity can foster a sense of shared philanthropy and strengthen the overall relationship with your nonprofit.
  4. Educate and raise awareness: Many donors may not be familiar with planned giving options or how to include your nonprofit in their Will and estate plans. Providing educational materials, workshops, or seminars on estate planning and the benefits of making a planned gift, in person and via online video, is crucial. Help them understand the impact their legacy can have on your organization’s mission. (For more about planned giving see this piece on how to properly ensure planned giving stewardship.)
  5. Share donor stories: Highlight pithy stories of individuals who have made planned gifts and the lasting impact it has had on your organization. These stories, preferably with a photo of the donors, can inspire and encourage other aging donors to consider making a planned gift. Consider creating testimonials or case studies that showcase the meaningful outcomes of planned giving by using short videos. If you don’t have any planned giving donors to highlight at this time, we suggest you examine your board of directors and hopefully there are a handful of them that will include your nonprofit in their Will.
  6. Offer guidance and resources: Provide comprehensive information about various planned giving options, including wills / bequests. Including your nonprofit in the donor’s Will is the number one way most nonprofits receive a planned gift. There are other methods like charitable remainder trusts, charitable gift annuities, and more, but none as effective as being included in the donor’s Will. Make sure your donors have access to professional advisors who can help them navigate the complexities of estate planning. Offering a list (not a recommendation) of trusted attorneys or financial planners can be beneficial.
  7. Tailor messaging and materials: Create marketing materials specifically focused on older donors. Craft messaging that resonates with their values, legacy, and desire to make a lasting impact. Use clear and simple language and include testimonials or examples relevant to their life stage. Older donors often appreciate storytelling and nostalgia. Share compelling stories that evoke emotions and connect them to the impact of their contributions. Use nostalgic elements that resonate with their life experiences to create feelings of familiarity and engagement.
  8. Recognize and honor planned giving donors: Implement a recognition program specifically for planned giving donors. Acknowledge their generosity publicly, such as through a donor wall, a legacy society, or special events. Recognizing their contribution can inspire others and foster a sense of belonging and appreciation within your organization.
  9. Facilitate the process: Make it easy for donors to include your nonprofit in their estate plans. Provide clear instructions. Most impactful is having sample bequest language that donors can share with their legal advisors. Donors report that they like that the most. Offer to assist in any documentation or administrative tasks related to the planned giving process.
  10. Foster ongoing stewardship: Don’t forget about your planned giving donors once they’ve made their commitment. Continue to engage them through personalized updates, exclusive events, or volunteer opportunities. Regularly demonstrate the impact of their planned gift and express your gratitude for their support.
  11. Timing is everything: Asking for a planned gift can feel sensitive or awkward, but with thoughtful preparation and communication, you can navigate the conversation smoothly. Choose the right time to bring up the subject. Timing is crucial when discussing a planned gift. Consider the donor’s life events, such as milestone birthdays, retirement, or personal reflections on their legacy. Look for natural opportunities to broach the topic, ensuring that the donor feels comfortable and receptive to the conversation. However, avoid a protracted process and make the request to be included in their estate plans sooner than later. It’s important that you actively listen. Approach the conversation as an opportunity to understand the donor’s philanthropic aspirations and desires. Give them space to express their thoughts and concerns openly. By actively listening, you can address any apprehensions or uncertainties they may have and tailor your approach accordingly. Most importantly, be sensitive and respectful. Recognize that estate planning is a deeply personal matter. Respect the donor’s autonomy and decision-making process. Ensure that your request for a planned gift is presented as an opportunity rather than an obligation. Emphasize the impact their gift will have on the causes they care about and the lasting legacy they can create.
  12. Flexibility and recognition of different giving capacities: Recognize that older donors have varying financial capacities. Provide options for donors to give at levels comfortable for them, whether through major gifts, recurring donations, or smaller contributions. Every donor’s support is valuable, and their contributions should be recognized and appreciated accordingly.
  13. Explore establishing a “Legacy Society” named after the largest planned giving donor: Such a naming opportunity should be thought through carefully. Some nonprofits offer the naming opportunity with a shelf life, say for the next decade, then it opens up again to be renamed. The list of your planned giving donors comprises the society’s members. Your dedicated legacy society for planned giving donors provides special benefits, such as exclusive events, regular updates, and opportunities to interact with your organization’s leadership. This recognition can inspire continued engagement and motivate them to promote planned giving within their networks.

Remember, cultivating planned giving relationships requires a long-term approach. It takes time to build trust, provide education, and help donors understand the benefits of leaving a legacy. By implementing these strategies, you can effectively address your aging donor population and inspire them to consider making planned gifts to support your nonprofit’s mission.

What’s your experience of what works with older donors? Please share in the comments section below. 

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  • Youth Creed

    Thank you for this article.
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