Gift Planning and Marketing Metrics

nacgp_logo.pngThe National Association of Charitable Gift Planners (CGP) created a task force charged with defining metrics to evaluate the work of gift planning fundraisers and to develop guidelines for criteria to measure the performance of planned giving programs. The task force has not issued its final report, but we have some feedback on their likely recommendations. Best practice performance metrics will provide a basis for evaluating the success of a charity’s planned giving efforts.

Importance of Planned Giving Marketing

The task force has identified planned gift marketing as one of the foundational pillars upon which a planned giving program is built. Evidence from the task force’s research supports the conclusion that consistent marketing of planned gifts (particularly bequests and bequest equivalents like beneficiary designations) motivates some donors to communicate their intentions. These donors and their inclusion in a legacy or recognition society represent a tangible measure of the success and impact of a planned giving program.

Smaller organizations perceive themselves to be at a disadvantage because of a lack of budget and staff for planned giving marketing. Every non-profit has existing marketing channels to communicate with its supporters. The task force has observed that even with limited resources, a charity can leverage existing marketing channels to promote planned giving. Since this strategy leverages existing resources, every charity can market planned giving, even with a limited budget.


Another observation of the task force is the importance of referrals to generate qualified leads. Marketing activity creates opportunities for both internal and external allies to identify those interested in learning more about planned giving. Setting goals and measuring the quantity and quality of referrals is another metric to measure the success of planned giving marketing.

Leading and Trailing Indicators

The task force encourages the use of both leading indicators and trailing indicators to measure the performance of a planned giving program. Leading indicators measure activity likely to result in behavior that will generate qualified leads. In planned giving marketing, leading indicators would be the number of both print and digital materials distributed, and the corresponding leads and prospects generated by the marketing program.

Trailing indicators measure accomplishments resulting from planned giving marketing activity. Examples of trailing indicators include the number visits generated by marketing materials, the number of known planned gifts completed, and the number of new legacy society members identified.

Metrics as a Measure of Effectiveness

Planned giving departments have to compete for marketing resources every year based on trust and estate income realized. At some organizations, gift planners have to justify their entire planned giving program this way! The dilemma for planned giving is that annual and leadership giving, major giving, and principal giving are evaluated primarily on current dollars raised. Evaluating planned giving is akin to evaluating an investment– it is short sighted to exclusively measure performance based on short term results. Some highly relevant indicators such as number of new legacy society members can be fairly evaluated on a short term basis. Nonetheless, planned giving represents a lifelong commitment by the donor that does not easily translate into current dollars. Consider using the metrics discussed above in measuring the effectiveness of your planned giving marketing.

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