The Planned Giving Blogger

The art and science of planned giving.

Measuring success.

with one comment

In a previous post I wrote about the importance of testing in planned giving marketing.  And I lamented the fact that it’s a missed opportunity to identify techniques that can improve results and ultimately bring more money to the cause.  Several of you e-mailed me or posted comments rightly pointing out that one of the reasons more organizations don’t test is that because of low response rates in planned giving, it requires mailing a large number of donors to do testing and most organizations are not mailing that many names.  Some organizations do mail large enough volumes to test and I’ll be reporting on the results of some of those tests in subsequent posts but, for now, whether you are testing a technique or just trying to measure the effectiveness of your planned giving marketing more generally, it’s worth having a conversation about how, exactly, success is measured.

Well, when I talk about improving results I don’t mean more outright, small gifts.  After all, that’s not our goal in planned giving marketing.  In fact one thing I’ve seen tested is including or omitting an “Enclosed is my gift” line on the reply card.  Including the line does generate more small gifts but it also produces fewer qualified prospects (see below) and fewer leads that result in a closed gift.  My definition of closed gift for most organizations is a bequest commitment or a gift annuity contract.

When evaluating results and measuring success, it’s important to remember that improving initial response rate isn’t necessarily the goal.   We all know that we get lots of reply cards from donors who are just in the habit of checking check boxes or requesting anything that is offered free.  So, initial response doesn’t really measure our desired outcome.

We should really measure planned giving results using different metrics.  How many qualified prospects did the mailing generate from among the donors who responded?  That is, did that response end in a closed gift?  Or, in a meaningful conversation with a donor who is legitimately interested in making a legacy gift?  Of course we have to track all the metrics:  number of responses and amount of gifts that come in, the number of qualified leads and number of closed gifts.  But, it’s important to remember that it’s qualified leads and closed gifts that really count and really determine a winning test or whether your marketing is having the desired effect.

Sometimes it takes several months to know the outcome, too, since closing gifts can take a while. And closing gifts takes good follow-up (more on that in a later post).   So, before you embark on your next test or your next mailing, be sure you’re ready to measure success.  How do you measure success?


P.S.  And don’t forget that for every donor who does raise her hand, there are 6, 7 or even 8 who may act as a result of your marketing but never tell you about it.  So, when you’re figuring the return on your marketing dollar, don’t forget those unidentified bequests that are sure to follow.  Maybe you should “soft credit” them to your marketing results report.


Written by Phyllis Freedman

May 7, 2009 at 12:01 am

One Response

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  1. Hi Phyllis. This is so on the mark about judging the results of a planned giving solicitation. So often a nonprofit will be disappointed with the low response rate (rather than quality of the responses) and give up too soon. Another area that should be tested, I think, is the best processes for bringing in results, direct mail or email blast, seminar, etc.

    Lorri Greif

    May 7, 2009 at 9:53 pm

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