Stuffin’ It

by Gene Christian
Download the Planned Giving Mentor article
April 2004
Volume II, Number 4

Let’s face it: Planned giving marketing can be an expensive proposition. Creating brochures, sending targeted mailings, conducting seminars and so on cannot only be expensive, but it can also be logistically impossible for many nonprofits.

However, there is a not-often-used, but powerful and extraordinarily inexpensive marketing option to consider: Receipt stuffers!

Most every organization I can think of is pretty good at sending accurate and timely receipts for income-tax purposes. As a development officer, consider this a “turnkey” monthly communication opportunity with one of your best possible constituent groups: current donors.

Receipt stuffers can be as simple as black type on colored paper, or four-color glossies. The quality of the piece should be consistent with the “look and feel” of other material your organization sends out. Most gift receipts are sent on white paper so it shouldn’t be hard for your “stuffer” to stand out–and that’s the goal.

The title of the stuffer must be pithy and provocative. If you use graphics, they must quickly catch the eye. It seems to help if the title of the stuffer hints at the mission of the organization. For example, if your charity feeds the hungry, consider stuffer titles like: 

  • Minimize Hunger…While Feasting Yourself! (gift annuities) 
  • Food for Thought… (bequest) 
  • Do You Hunger to Help? (bequest) 
  • How Many Hot Meals Could Your Rental Property Produce? (CRTs)

The goal is to cause the donor to pause just long enough to read your stuffer. It shouldn’t take longer than 10 seconds. Stuffers are meant to plant message in a consistent way and create curiosity, not to diagram the anatomy of a CRT!

One of the largest CRTs I have ever completed came as a result of a receipt stuffer. The donor simply wrote on the back of the stuffer, “Call me,” and sent it back in with his next donation. I did, and his philanthropy helped me keep my job for another year.

Even if your organization isn’t ready to start issuing gift annuities or to market charitable remainder trusts, you can gently and consistently begin to remind your donors about the opportunity to be included in their estate plans. Stuffer titles such as: • What Will you do?
• Are you Willing to consider XYZ charity?
will–over time–produce the desired results. And remember: Except for the time you spend creating the stuffer text and the generally inexpensive cost to print them (in-house printers are often just fine), the cost-to-benefit ratio will be very high.

For many charitable organizations, all it takes is for two or three people a year to say “yes” to a planned giving arrangement to make it a spectacular year.

If you can get even one of those “yeses” to come via a receipt stuffer, your time and effort on this often over-looked marketing approach will have been well worth it!


Planned giving is a professional discipline few people imaged as a career option 15-20 years ago. According to their website, there are more than 11,000 people supporting the mission of the National Committee on Planned Giving—an organization that didn't exist 22 years ago. Read More

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