Why Donor Stories Are Effective for Planned Giving Fundraising

News | April 12, 2018

By: Elissa Leif, Co-Founder,  MiniMatters Video + Marketing

As an association foundation fundraiser with large numbers of long-term, loyal members, you may be engaged in, or considering, promoting the opportunity of planned giving to this excellent target audience.

At a recent conference, my colleague Barbara Haupt and I did a pre-conference session called “From Simple to Spectacular: Recipes for Planned Giving Video at Any Level.”  One of the audience questions was: “If you had budget for only one video or could make only one planned giving video, what should it be?” Our answer would be a donor story video–in other words, the story of a donor’s own life and how s/he found connection with your organization and mission.

Many fundraisers are very familiar with written donor stories. But why are donor story videos so compelling and how are they different than written donor stories?

Using FMRI brain scans of individuals engaged in philanthropic decision-making, Dr. Russell James, Professor at Texas Tech University, has shown why donor story videos are a smart choice. His research demonstrates that when making planned giving decisions, donors engage in a process of autobiographical visualization in which they reflect on their lives by conjuring up memories and images.

Thus far, in Dr. James’ opinion (as well as ours!), planned giving marketing, with its talk of complex planned giving techniques and their tax implications, and obvious stock photos of seniors smiling while looking at estate planning documents or walking along the beach, has not done as good a job in triggering this kind of process of highly personalized autobiographical visualization. And while a written document can tell the story, it falls short in bringing a real person to life on the screen in a way that stimulates multiple senses.

A donor story video gives you the chance to turn your planned giving marketing around in a much more personal way by focusing on real people and stories. To gain the most from this technique, we recommend featuring donor stories that include images of the donors in the present and past. We also suggest selecting donors whose stories would hold something in common for your other donors, thereby making them reflect on their lives and remember what is important to them.

Here’s just one example of this technique:

Donor Story Videos – Couple – GW

This couple shares how their very first date was the March on Washington in August 1963 and, for the video, they were interviewed in the very place where they met 50 years earlier. This story is likely to resonate with other university couples and those interested in the politics of the times.

A final benefit of making a donor story video is that the whole process provides a valuable stewardship opportunity with some of your best donors. We have found that donors love their stories being heard, documented, and used to reach new donors for the benefit of the organization. The video is also a gift that they can share with friends, colleagues, and family, which increases recognition and understanding of your organization. We all know that stewardship is a key role for charitable gift planners, and video production of donor stories is one of the most compelling ways to make this happen.

If you would like to learn more about videos for planned giving or oanother fundraising feel free to contact me at videos@minimatters.com or 301-339-0339.

Elissa Leif is Co-Founder of MiniMatters Video + Marketing, a video production and marketing company that provides compelling video production as well as marketing services to national associations, foundations, and nonprofits; fundraising and communications firms; universities, hospitals and major research institutions; private businesses; and prime contractors to government agencies.


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