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Quantifying the Value of a Planned Gift "Handraiser"

Planned giving outcomes are notoriously hard to measure, since it often requires decades of relationship management to actually receive a planned gift. We all know that realized gifts are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what planned gift officers are managing. So what if we could better measure and amplify the value of planned giving interest in real time?

Over the last ten years, with an increase in survey marketing and online estate planning, we have seen a corresponding increase in what we can best define as “handraisers.”

These are individuals who have openly signaled to an organization that they have interest in leaving a planned gift to that organization. They haven’t necessarily taken steps to finalize this gift, or if they have, they haven’t notified the organization of those steps.

Many planned giving directors and gift officers can often have difficulty in justifying their annual budgets as compared to other initiatives that immediately bring money in the door for the organization. If we can establish a better understanding of the financial implications of adding handraisers to the organizational pipeline, development professionals will be better equipped to articulate why this work is so important in budgeting discussions and beyond.

So to quantify the value of these handraisers, I partnered with Nathan Stelter from The Stelter Company to interview dozens of planned giving professionals. We also consulted our behavioral science team at the Duke University Center for Advanced Hindsight. This feedback and mathematical analysis led us to a model that helps generate a clear value that handraisers bring to organizations not just in the future– but right now.

The result: our “Value of Handraiser” calculator.

Essentially, the calculator is a mathematical framework that allows an organization to assign a monetary value to handraisers. Various data input assumptions go into this analysis, and we are proposing an equation that would assign a value to a handraising prospect based on various data inputs both known and unknown. We feel strongly that this calculator should be in the public domain, so we have posted the calculator on our website for anyone to use.

This calculator remains a work in progress, and it is intended to invite collaboration from colleagues across our industry. We hope to continue to receive input and for users to question our assumptions and bring their expertise to the table to help us make it better.

Please reach out to me directly at if you would like to chat about this calculator or would like to contribute to its ongoing evolution.

Our research has made it clear that many organizations are very good at tracking handraisers and understanding their general conversion rates, but that handraisers are generally not assigned a monetary value by organizations. Our hope is that by better understanding these conversion rates and applying mathematical principles to the data that we do have, we can begin to help organizations see these large lists of handraisers as a foreseeable pipeline of “Gifts Under Management,” or long-term revenue for the organization.

Please take a moment to check out the Value of Handraiser calculator, and we look forward to your thoughts, comments, and ideas to make this tool as helpful as possible to the entire planned giving community.

Warmly, Brantley


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