Researcher Bias In Stelter Planned Giving Report

Beware courtesy of xadrian on Flickr

Bias is apparent in The Stelter Company’s newest research report, “What Makes Them Give?” The planned giving study recommends expanding communications and outreach to younger and less loyal prospect pools than traditionally thought appropriate. Much of Stelter’s business is communications, direct marketing and outreach.

It’s in their corporate interest to encourage charities to reach out to larger pools of prospects by direct mail, email, calling and website engagement because they have business lines in all those methods.

For lots of decades, Planned Giving pros have promoted estate and retirement plan gifts to prospects in their mid-50s and over. That’s the age at which it’s been believed people generally begin to think of their long-term plans as charitable vehicles. Before then, plans are for protection of family and gifts to loved ones, for the most part.

Also, being in the will or IRA of a 40-something is less valuable than a 70- or 80-year-old because of the vastly greater likelihood that the younger person’s charitable interests will change–perhaps many times–before their death in 50 or 55 years.

Stelter’s research recommends starting promotion at age 40, claiming 60% of best prospects are age 40 to 54. That conclusion may be completely correct.

But because of the company’s bias I cannot rely on their study as evidence of trends that suggest activities that will increase Stelter’s revenue.

Along with direct and email products and campaigns, the company offers a calling program. The more people charities mail to, email and call, the more potential revenue for Stelter.

That creates researcher bias, notwithstanding the research was conducted by a different company hired and paid by Stelter.

“What Makes Them Give?” also suggests expanding Planned Giving prospect pools by setting aside beliefs about donor loyalty as a predictor of giving.

To turn prospects into donors you have to communicate with them, so larger prospect pools benefit Stelter’s bottom line.

The study includes a good number of recommendations unrelated to expanded communications and outreach, including rethinking recognition societies. Those are untainted by Stelter’s bias.

I’d love to expand Planned Giving prospecting. I really would.

We don’t yet have objective research concluding that would be a wise investment of charities’ hard-earned money and limited time.

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