Return on investment—ROI—is a topic that fascinates, baffles, haunts and exhilarates planned giving managers.
As our long-time friend and planned giving champion Katherine Swank of Blackbaud wrote last year, nonprofit leaders want numbers. Yet, a big hurdle in generating that ROI number may be the time lag between identifying a planned giving prospect and the actual transfer of assets to the nonprofit. From the classic marketing funnel perspective (illustrated below), this is the time it can take from finding and nurturing a planned giver from the Prospect stage to the Gift Received stage.
Many nonprofits must wait a long time—years, maybe decades—to receive a planned gift and thus, measure its ROI. A yearly, accurate ROI for planned giving can be difficult to measure. This is where the importance of communicating ‘leading’ (marketing touches, donor visits, gift intentions) and ‘lagging’ (matured planned gifts) indicators comes into play.
If the time lag for transacted planned gifts presents a problem in measuring a monetary planned-gift ROI, there are other ROI measures that can still give you a valuable picture of how your organization is doing.
- Reporting on your ‘contact’ plan. Of your assigned planned giving ‘suspect’ pool, what type of ‘touches’ are you getting with them weekly, monthly, quarterly and annually? Are you getting broad-based touches via multi-channel marketing efforts? How many calls and/or visits are you making?
- Counting identified planned gift prospects. This, of course, is earlier in the relationship development funnel, but identifying those who have indicated a general interest in planned giving can help determine how resources are directed toward getting prospects to the next stage.
- Communicating on prospect engagement. How are those in the planned gift funnel responding to communication efforts; print, social, electronic, in-person events, etc.? Responsiveness and engagement can be a predictor in estimating future results if you can track and uncover trends over time.
- Measuring of planned gift intentions. How many intentions are recognized each year? How many prior intentions are still in force and receiving continued stewardship? How many, if any, were rescinded? How many new members did you add to your Legacy Society?
Every nonprofit is different and no ROI method fits everyone. But some kind of measurement—of dollars, of touches, of movement within the funnel—can provide metrics that managers and board members will appreciate.