While it’s not a race to the finish line, fundraising, especially securing planned gifts, can sometimes feel like one.  New-year, quarterly, mid-year and year-end present milestone occasions through which we are either expected to or choose to report our progress.   I often find myself talking to clients who feel like they’ve just run a 4×400 relay by the time they’re finished.  There’s no reason in today’s work-world to expend that amount of time on reports when your real goal is to spend time out of the office with prospects.

My colleague, Mark Woroby, director of philanthropy at Make-A-Wish Northeast New York, and I recently explored using constituent relationship management systems (CRM) or stand-along planned gift tracking software for this purpose. Our alternate personas, Peter Paper and Tina Tech, sat down to lunch -so to speak – in a two-part article printed in Planned Giving Today.   Learn and Lunch about Office Files, Part I was published in the December 2012 issue, with Part II, followed a month later. If you have a subscription to the publication you can read it in its entirety by logging into www.pgtoday.com.   If not, here are the major points we discussed.

Planning to Use Software for Planned Gift Tracking

  • There’s a system out there for every budget and sophistication level
  • The ultimate, is one that exists in your donation tracking system such as Planned Gift Tracker, in The Raiser’s Edge or Blackbaud CRM
  • If your CRM does not have a planned gift module built in or as an add-on, look into a stand-alone system such as Bequest Manager offered by PG Calc
  • Make sure to track biographical and action related data that provides you the ability to benchmark and report information about your “typical” planned gift donor such as birthdate, gender, connection to the organization, age when gift was created, age when gift was revealed, age at death
  • Milestone flags as bequests go through probate and expected date fields that measure anticipated receipt of revenue are useful as well; try to track intention amount, realized amount and present value where possible
  • Establish appeal codes and actions that allow you to identify the origin and forms of bequests and other planned gift proceeds; your marketing efforts will benefit from codes as well
  • Link revenue to your visits and proposals if possible so that you can easily report gifts that you generated, as well as gifts that seem to have come in “over the transom”

This partial list may seem long, but you’re going to work up to investigating and using all of these suggestions over time. Take it slowly and by next year, you’ll have a system that’s doing the work for you.

A Short Timeline for Using Software for Planned Gift Tracking

  • This week, investigate your software options
  • Within the next 30 days, begin to use your built-in features or purchase a stand-alone system
  • Then within 7 days, enter in 4 records, just to get started; if you can, enter two legacy gifts already known but not yet received and enter two records of living planned gift donors
  • Next, give yourself 14 days to learn how the reports work; tackle actions and ticklers at this time as well
  • 30-45 days after that enter the remaining records or train an assistant, intern or volunteer to do it for you
  • Pick an upcoming milestone maker, such as the next quarter-end or mid-year and design two reports that you can share with leaders and your manager; something like revenue received year-to-date and known planned gift expectancies (living planned gift donors)

These simple steps pass the baton from clunky paper files or an Excel spreadsheet to sophisticated, managed information.  By the time 2014 is here, you’ll be an expert on reporting and your in-person meeting calendar will have doubled from what it is today.  The race to work smarter, not harder is a real one.  By using planned giving software features, you’ll be poised to win!

Let me know how you’re using planned giving software to work smarter; email me at katherine.swank@blackbaud.com or comment on this post.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Katherine Swank, JD, senior consultant at Target Analytics, a Blackbaud Company, helps nonprofits apply statistical analytics and donor research to their fundraising efforts with an emphasis on planned gifts. She has raised nearly $250 million for mission funding during her nonprofit development career. Katherine is an affiliate faculty member of Regis University’s master of Global Nonprofit Management degree program, teaching courses on wealth and philanthropy.  Along with writing for publications like Advancing Philanthropy and Philanthropy Journal, she is also a frequent presenter for industry conferences such as NCPG, AFP, APRA, and bbcon. Having grown up in a tourist destination in Colorado, Katherine has become an avid world traveler and is exploring her way through the 1,000 places to see before you die, albeit slowly.  Connect with her on Twitter @KatherineSwank.

Get nonprofit articles, best practice advice, fundraising ideas and invaluable industry reports and webinars delivered for free!