I was taught by a college professor to avoid cliches but sometimes they are so right on target, there’s no better way to express an idea. The following article from Fundraising Success Magazine (thanks to Greg Warner for posting it on Linkedin) is about how the American Cancer Society is beginning to undo its direct mail program:
Putting aside all of the general fundraising questions it raises, the potential negative impact on planned giving revenue could be staggering. They raise ridiculous sums of bequests from their direct mail donor universe. There is no better way for an organization like that to reach so many people who eventually leave bequests – let alone the annual gifts they make.
We all must be looking for new and better ways to reach prospects but to drop a system that works so well, you have to wonder if they are not foolishly going overboard with a new vision.
If you can’t read the entire article and just want to focus on the planned giving impact, here is the second paragraph on unknowns as a result of their bold plans:
Planned giving donors have long been linked to the direct mail audience for most charities. There are multiple views of this, but overall the industry data suggests that direct mail is a great lead generator for planned giving. It’s about the right message at the right time to the right audience. Plus, as that audience ages and begins to withdraw from other engagement opportunities such as events, direct mail is often their single connection with the brand. We have become used to looking for the “little old lady making $5 or $10 gifts” when we think of the link between direct mail and planned giving. Will leads be impacted? The Society does not know yet. But, as with the above areas, I hope to report back on how planned giving leads are (or are not) being affected with this decision over the next 18 months. The longer-term impact will probably never be known due to the 7- to 10-year timeline for a gift to be realized in this area. But, with all change comes opportunity, and perhaps new strategies will be developed to offset any impact.
If I were working in the planned giving program, I would be in mourning over the moves!