From the Desk of Russ Hodge

During this season, I have had the privilege of attending and being a part of National Philanthropy Day across the country. I am so impressed by the generosity of all of these wonderful communities and the wonderful professionals that make-up AFP. Those professionals account for $100 billion dollars of the almost $300 billion dollars raised last year. To all of you, this is truly a noble profession.

On a personal note, our family will be celebrating the return of our daughter from her 2 years of service in the Peace Corps. We are thankful.

On behalf of The Hodge Group family, we wish you much thankfulness this holiday season.
The Hodge Group

Russ Hodge, CFRE
Managing Partner



Philanthropic Counsel Bob Cahen

Believe it or not I've been thinking about the connection between this Thanksgiving holiday season and planned giving. It's a pretty sure bet that you haven't, so let me explain what I'm thinking.

I've been working for quite a while to answer the question: What kind of event - with what kind of "hook" - aimed at encouraging planned giving can I create that people will actually want to attend and stay awake through? I found an answer that seems to work pretty well for me and possibly could work for you.

With the Thanksgiving holiday season upon us, maybe you already thought of the answer. History. Here's what I've found: While some "higher end" prospects are certainly interested in sitting through programs about planned giving vehicles, tax implications of various kinds of gifts or such political issues as the "fiscal cliff", most people have no patience for those programs…except when a great dinner and great - or even not-so-great - drinks are served. Most organizations I work with simply can't afford that kind of event. But people - and especially "older" people - love their history and will come to a program that focuses on some historical - especially local historical - topic even when the program is peppered with "advertising" for planned giving.

The bottom line of these programs…the message we want attendees to take home…is: "The people we've talked about today made a difference…left a legacy…so that our lives today are enriched, are better than they would have been if these people hadn't come before us. Now it's our turn to leave a legacy that will help ensure that the lives of future generations are enriched. Please think about leaving that kind of legacy."

So let's get back to this Thanksgiving holiday season and planned giving. Thanksgiving represents a key piece of American history; it demonstrates the difference a small group of people can make; it inspires us; we remember it now 400 years after the fact. That's quite a legacy. But just think about the potential each of us has to change the world in some way by leaving our personal legacy or by encouraging others to leave theirs. The question that we should be asking is: How can we in our organization use the lesson of Thanksgiving to create an ongoing "legacy" program that makes people aware that they - even if they're not wealthy, even if they're not involved in history-changing occupations - can make planned gifts that can over time change some lives and perhaps over the years change the world?

Anyway, let me know if you'd like to hear more about enhancing planned giving… through history.



5 Tips on Bringing Your Communication Materials to Life

Is a picture really worth a thousand words? Absolutely!

We live in a fast-paced environment full of multi-communication channels delivering quick snippets of information…texting, Tweeting, Instagram photos, Facebook posts, health tips, news tip, or the cause of the day. In order to get people to read your communication materials, it's vital to make it easy for them to cut through the clutter with relevant and remarkable information.

Your materials will be much more powerful if you appeal to your audience's visual sense. Research shows that images have a more direct route to long-term memory. People learn and retain more information when they're presented with compelling, storytelling visuals.

So here are five tips for making use of visual content to make your messages more memorable:


Start with Strategy - Before you develop any communication materials, develop a solid strategy. Who is your target audience? It's important to have a mental image of the people you are trying to reach, so that you can identify messages and visuals that will resonate with that audience.

For example, if you are creating materials for donors, describe your 'Donor Persona.' Who is he or she? What do you want them to think, know, and feel about your organization? The more you know about your audience(s), the more targeted and relevant your communication materials will become.



Develop Your Story - We like to say that 'stories sell, and facts tell.' Create a story narrative about your organization that sparks emotion and connects with your audience.



Build on a Theme - Once you have a theme, weave in visual elements that align with your organization and your brand. All communication materials should have a consistent look and feel, regardless of the communication channel.

For example, if you produce a campaign brochure, use the same elements on your website, or weave these elements into a video to tie everything together, and make your message memorable.



Think 'Combo Pack' - Choose the right combination of words and visual communication elements. These elements can be a graphic icon, pull out quotes, an infographic, and/or compelling photographs. Again, everything needs to tie back to your brand and the strategy for the communication materials you are creating.



Write Conversationally - Word your message clearly and concisely, speaking to your audience as though they are right there in front of you. Try to use personal stories to communicate your message. And always avoid jargon and overused words.
Your organization has a unique story to tell. Let us know if you need help in bringing your story to life. Our team specializes in integrated philanthropic marketing and communications including brand strategy, messaging, content development, graphic design, print, direct mail, website development, and digital communications.


To speak gratitude is courteous and pleasant, to enact gratitude is generous and noble, but to live gratitude is to touch Heaven
~ Johannes A. Gaertner ~

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