Look Beyond What You See When Auditing Your Planned Giving Program

optical_illusion-740163-editedOptical illusions are fun; they invite us to look for two things in a single image. Sometimes we see both perspectives without prompting, other times the second image becomes clear only when it is pointed out to us, and still other times... well, sometimes we just can’t get beyond our initial perspective.

The same is true when it comes to identifying the causes of a problem and deciding on a course of action. But while it doesn’t matter if we see all the possibilities in an optical illusion, it is much more important that we be able to do so when it comes to determining and resolving issues that are affecting the productivity of our planned giving programs.

Periodic in-depth reviews of a program – whether conducted internally or by an outside third party – can be extremely beneficial in answering questions and guiding decisions relating to numerous aspects of the program, including staffing, policies and procedures, and risk tolerance. However, the benefit can be significantly reduced if the review is conducted with a bias toward confirming what has already been perceived as the problem and/or the solution. Here’s one example.

Problem: A noticeable decline in new gifts.

Quickly identified suspect: The reduction in the marketing budget over the last two years.

Reaction: Frustration and sense of helplessness, since no immediate increase in the budget is likely.

Other possible causes: A review of the program identified other potential contributors to the problem, including reassignment of staff responsibilities that led to a reduction of time spent on donor calls/visits, a decision to drop other print pieces and focus solely on postcards and electronic mailings, and a significant change in the messaging of the marketing pieces.

Positive outcome: Once other potential factors were identified, additional decision points and proactive steps became available for addressing the reduction of gifts.

So, look beyond what you see. The full benefit of an audit is realized when it is entered into with an open mind, with the results allowed to speak for themselves.

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