Why an emphasis only on counting planned gift disclosures is misguided.

Counting GiftsIn planned giving marketing we are told to spend a lot of time trying to get people to disclose the fact that they included the organization in their estate plan. But, frankly, I think only counting disclosures can sometimes be a misguided activity and sometimes nonprofits put way too much emphasis on doing this.
First of all, most estate plans are revocable. There’s no guarantee the organization will ever get the money.  So why bother counting something that may never come to fruition?
Also, by counting disclosures, some planned giving professionals might feel that they accomplished their goal once they reach the number they were assigned at the beginning of the year.  But the truth is that the goal was set by their leadership IN THE WRONG PLACE.  Unearthing the disclosure is not the “touchdown”, it’s the “kick-off”.  The real work should BEGIN once the disclosure is unearthed.
This is when serious engagement with the donor should begin in order to ensure that the organization stays in the estate plan.  This is when staff should thank the donor and get to know them in order to build a donor-centric, personal relationship.  If that happens, there’s a better chance that the size of the gift  will grow over time.
Can we change this misguided model?  I hope so.
If you really want to determine if your planned giving program is affecting donor decision-making, Professor Russel James recommends measuring attitudes about planned gifts over time among your donors.  That’s because counting gift disclosures is a metric that doesn’t tell you what your donors are thinking.  It only shows you how many gifts you were able to prod out of folks.  Measuring attitudes about planned giving will help you determine in a broader way if your planned giving program is truly headed in the right direction.

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