What Great Gift Planning Programs Have in Common: Meet the National Standards

We all know the importance of having some standardization. It’s the old adage that you need to “inspect what you expect.” Because if you don’t, it doesn’t always happen.

Even if you know that you need to build a business case for planned giving at your organization and that data and donor tracking is critical, you may dismiss these ideas when you don’t have a guide and some accountability.

Enter the National Standards for Gift Planning Success (NSGPS).

The National Association of Charitable Gift Planners (CGP) has been working toward these standards for decades. It took a task force of gift planners with a wide variety of experience, plus the CGP Leadership Institute and volunteer leaders across disciplines to accomplish.

I’ve been personally involved as a Board member for CGP and Co-Chair of the NSGPS Task Force, and Lynn Gaumer, JD, Stelter’s senior gift planning consultant, has also been involved as the vice chair of CGP Leadership Institute. You could say that Stelter has been heads-down on this work for a while.

The goal? Develop fundamental best practices for creating sustainable, well-constructed gift planning efforts at any organization, regardless of size, scope or history.

The output? Fundraisers now have access to sixteen standards divided into three general categories (Support from the Top; The Ability & Capacity to Execute; Donor-Centric Engagement & Management). For each standard, you’ll find a checklist of best practices, plus tools and links that put the best practices into action.

Additionally, three assessment surveys allow you to compare your program to the best practices and locate resources to help.

All tools are available for CGP members and some are available to the public.

Why Should You Care?

Your job may depend on it.

A single year of planned giving outcomes likely doesn’t tell the whole story of your donor connections, marketing and stewardship. In a fundraising environment defined by data, you may be challenged by senior leadership to measure goals in a way that doesn’t align with long-term success. (“We need dollars in the door now!” Does this sound familiar?)

Plus, it’s a critical time in our industry. The largest transfer of wealth is here as the Baby Boomers, born between 1944 and 1964, pass their earnings to the younger generations. In the next 30 to 40 years, $30 trillion in assets will go from Boomers to their heirs. As Boomers create their estate plans, they’re also thinking about their legacies, and it’s the case of, “If we don’t ask for it, other nonprofits will.”

There are personal benefits, too. Part of what I love about the standards is they force us to take some time to reflect. When we’re so stuck “in” the work, we need a reason to step back and ask ourselves, really, where do we stand?

Having consistency across your organization also helps your team today stay on track but also better equips you if a team member leaves.

Traits of Great Gift Planning Programs

Successful planned giving programs are Growing, Pipeline-focused and Sustainable (thus the GPS in NSGPS). This means that:

  • Over time, the revenue generated from planned giving increases.
  • Goals are evaluated over the long term and not just year over year.
  • Decision makers invest in planned giving and the people that support it.

The bottom line is that successful organizations make planned giving a priority, not an afterthought.

The Standards in Action

I did a Q&A in July’s issue of “Planned Giving Today” with David Hall at USA for UNHCR. One of his comments stood out. I asked him what he hoped to learn by starting with the assessment surveys. David responded:

“Understanding where our program is, in a succinct way, has been a challenge for us. Finance knows what they’re doing, we’re moving our databases and we have the strategic plans down, we have a lot of these things that other smaller organizations don’t, but there are things that we need to do that we’re not doing. For example, we never really wrote out the business case for gift planning. We all know we should be doing it, but there’s no record. What will make a big difference for me is now I can get the information that I need and show management the data on this. Luckily leadership is all on board and the Board’s on board, because they all see the business case now.”

Next Steps

To apply the National Standards of Gift Planning Success to your work, visit the National Standards for Gift Planning Success web center at charitablegiftplanners.org/NSGPS. Take the assessment surveys, build on your strengths and identify areas to improve. By going through these steps, you will benefit from the most successful nonprofits and prepare for a solid future.

If your local planned giving council is looking for more information and/or someone to present on these new standards, please don’t hesitate to contact myself or Barbara Yeager, CGP’s Director of Education and Programs at byeager@charitablegiftplanners.org.

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