Posted March 1st, 2012

Do You Know Where You’re Going? Setting Goals and Objectives That Work

Almost every charitable organization or nonprofit institution could benefit from additional bequests and other planned gifts. Many programs devote significant human and capital resources to these efforts, but then fail to set clear goals or prepare a plan to achieve their goal.

While every fundraising program is different, most development professionals agree that having specific goals and objectives—and a plan for achieving them—is an essential element of any successful program.

The measure of success

Given the nature of most planned gifts, the metrics used for other types of fundraising may not be the best measure of success. Bequests and other planned gifts occur on the individual’s timeline instead of the charity’s, which can make it difficult to evaluate the program’s effectiveness. Nonetheless, many managers choose to set a monetary goal for their planned giving programs. While this approach may be somewhat beneficial in a handful of mature programs, it may not work well for many programs, especially those in their early years.

For smaller or relatively young programs, metrics that measure activity may be a better measure of success than dollars received in a fiscal year or documented bequest expectancies. List these activities in a written plan that is part of overall fundraising efforts. As many gift planning experts have counseled in Sharpe seminars over the decades, “plan the work and work the plan.”

Plan the work and work the plan

Planning the work depends upon the fundraiser’s role and responsibilities. Knowing how much time and other available resources may reasonably be allotted to planned giving will help determine specific goals and objectives.

Also, is the effort new or well established? If it is relatively new, significant amounts of time may initially be spent ensuring the proper infrastructure is in place. This would include board presentations and staff education; gift acceptance policies and procedures; gift options (gift annuity programs and certain other types of gifts may not be appropriate for every organization); an inventory of existing planned giving expectancies and gift maturities as far back as possible; and a strategic review of your constituency base.

Activities for achievement

Once a stable foundation has been established for planned gift efforts, examine specific activities that should be incorporated into your plan each year. How many personal visits, telephone calls or proposals do you expect to make? How many marketing activities of various sorts do you expect to complete? For example, mailings, ads, articles, planned giving events and the like? Once the activities are determined, they must be incorporated into a plan, calendar or timeline that will provide a basis of monitoring one’s progress against reasonable and measurable objectives.

The outcome will provide you with a management tool to help reach overall goals in a timely and cost-efficient manner. Depending on the size and scope of the program, the individual metrics may vary dramatically. Likewise, the frequency and type of marketing channels used will vary dramatically. Some organizations will use every communications channel imaginable while others may focus their efforts on a few.

Ultimately, realistic goals and objectives will help you maximize your planned giving potential. If you are unsure whether you are measuring the right things for this purpose, consider having a third party examine your efforts. Sometimes an independent look at a program by an outside consultant or peer can make a world of difference in determining realistic goals and suggesting steps to achieve them.

The publisher of Give & Take is not engaged in rendering legal or tax advisory service. For advice and assistance in specific cases, the services of your own counsel should be obtained. Articles in Give & Take may generally be reprinted for distribution to board members and staff of nonprofit institutions and other non-donor groups. Proper credit must be given. Call for details.

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