What is a Planned Giving Audit and Why Need One?

publication date: Oct 13, 2020
author/source: Ken Ramsay

When one thinks about the field of planned giving many questions come to mind:

  • What is the full scope of planned giving?
  • Is there even a hard business case for it?
  • Do we even know how to measure ‘best practice’ in this area?
  • How are you doing compared to ‘like-type’ charities?
  • And … How do you know what area of your program needs improvement?

Answers to any of these questions will often vary widely. The truth is that there are few clear answers in our industry. There has been simply no easy way to wrap our arms around the whole enterprise we call planned giving.

Yet, most of us would agree that planned giving is a significant area of growth for charities and must become a major pillar in our fundraising efforts in the years ahead. As such, it requires organizations to invest more now and in future decades, in order to realize this important revenue stream.

So, where do we start?

As a key first step, be curious about “What Is”. Be curious about the business and all of its parts and all of the data available. Establish a baseline for your program that will answer the questions above and many others. This is known as an Audit. An audit is an integral part of the maturing of every profession.

What will a Planned Giving Audit give you? It will:

  • define the scope of the business and reveal best practice;
  • establish benchmarks for measurement and for strategic growth planning;
  • identify strengths and opportunities for improvement;
  • reveal human resource needs in numbers and skill sets;
  • accurately report key metrics of the planned giving program to senior volunteers and management.

Did you know that there are 17 broad, distinct categories that define the full scope of a successful planned giving program? And there are over 100 separate elements to consider when fully assessing these categories. Categories to be assessed range from Senior Management Support to Planned Giving Case for Support, from Estate Administration to Cultivation and Solicitation Programs and many more. Planned Giving is a unique and complex business and we must detail all of its complexity before we can accurately measure and understand it.

An audit is a prerequisite of any advanced business model. For Planned Giving, a disciplined, comprehensive audit is a significant step in building our profession – a key start in developing any strong, multi-stage, successful program that will increase revenue far into the future.

Ken Ramsay is the President of Avatar Consulting Group Inc. Avatar Consulting Group has developed the powerful but easy-to-use ACG Audit Software that leads fundraising professionals and planned giving consultants through a disciplined Planned Giving audit. To view the software in action, go to https://avatarconsultinggroup.com/audit-software

Cover photo by Christina Morillo from Pexels

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