What should your first planned giving video be?

Posted by Elissa Leif on Dec 6, 2017 7:30:00 AM

At this year’s NCPP 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?”

We would encourage making 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.

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 CRUTs 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 as it needs to in triggering this kind of process of highly personalized autobiographical visualization.

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 are just a couple of examples of this technique:

A chemistry professor and administrator shares a relatable story of doing somewhat dangerous chemistry experiments with his father. Other chemists can likely imagine themselves in a similar situation.


A couple shares how their very first date was the March on Washington in August 1963 and, for the video, were interviewed in the place where they met 50 years ago. 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 (or videos) your priority 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 have any questions about video, whether or not you have a project in mind, please contact me at elissa@minimatters.com 

Topics: donors, planned giving, NCPP, trends, Marketing