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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

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Meet the enemy: Inertia
Tom Ahern

August, 2009

"Hi. My name's Inertia. And I'll be disappointing you from this day forward. I know you have many obstacles to surmount, so I'm thrilled that you've named me Number One." 
Success in marketing sometimes -- maybe all the time -- depends on finding the right question(s) to ask.

Take the marketing of charitable bequests.

What's the right question to ask? I think it's this: Why do UK charities annually bring in three times more income via bequests than charities in the US do?

Are Brits simply more charitably inclined when death do us part? Or could it be something else? Spoiler alert: it is something else.

The Brits have correctly identified the enemy. It is human inertia. Inertia is humankind's Kryptonite. It makes us powerless to act.

Getting a person to think about doing something is easy. Getting someone to actually do the thing is hard.

So the Brits field the only weapon that can reliably defeat such a powerful enemy: repetition. They repeat their message over and over. Annually at least, in a special direct mail letter reminding current donors, especially those who've given for five or more years, that "there are many ways you can support [fill in name of favorite charity here] and a gift in your will is one." Until death do us part.

American bequest marketing is mostly meek and weak, in my unscientific opinion.

Simone and I give to dozens of charities every year. None, to my knowledge, has ever sent us the reminder letter that Brit charities send every year.

Few of them have special societies for those who've declared their bequest intentions; yet such a society is a prerequisite for success.

When they do talk about bequests, they do so in the joyless language of law and accounting. And they refer to bequests as a type of "planned gift," a worthless bit of technical jargon. Everyone knows what a bequest is. Only a specialist has any clear idea what a "planned gift" is.

By the way, experts estimate that 80 to 90 percent of all planned gifts are, in fact, bequests. To list charitable remainder trusts and other exotic planned gifts alongside bequests, as if all these things represent equal options for the prospective donor, is bad sales strategy. Sell bequests first and foremost. The other stuff is a sideshow.

Takeaway: Selling charitable bequests to your most loyal donors is the easiest money you'll ever raise.

But inertia will unquestionably stunt your sales effort if you don't frequently repeat your hyper-clear sales message. Don't confuse your audience by talking about other types of planned gifts like remainder trusts. Bequests are plain vanilla. The exotica require separate sales programs.


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