Category

Prospect Research

Is Your Nonprofit in Shape? Don’t Miss Erik Daubert and The Fundraising Fitness Test in Kansas City

By | All Posts, Annual Giving, Campaign Planning + Management, Capacity Building, Database Management, Donor Cultivation, Education, Events, Fiscal Management, Fundraising, News You Can Use, Organizational + Personal Development, Prospect Research, Stewardship, Strategic Planning | No Comments

How can you put your data to work?

Utilize the Fundraising Effectiveness Project (FEP).

The Fundraising Effectiveness Project has developed a tool kit for nonprofits to harness their fundraising data. One of the largest philanthropic research projects in the world, the FEP was established in 2006 by the Association of Fundraising Professionals and the Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy at the Urban Institute. Its aim was to conduct research on fundraising effectiveness and help nonprofits increase their fundraising results at a faster pace. FEP provides free tools like the Fundraising Fitness Test for tracking and evaluating an organization’s annual growth in giving. Explore the FEP and Fundraising Fitness Test here.

For those of you in the Greater Kansas City area, join us on Tuesday, September 11 for the 501(c) Success National Speaker Series with Erik Daubert, MBA, ACFRE, Chair of the Growth in Giving Initiative and the Fundraising Effectiveness Project. Erik will demonstrate how nonprofits can use the Fundraising Fitness Test to understand their own financial development data – and ultimately make better fundraising decisions. To reserve your spot now, register here.

Fundraising Big Data with DonorPerfect Online

By | All Posts, Annual Giving, Capacity Building, Database Management, Fundraising, News You Can Use, Prospect Research, Technology | No Comments

Jennifer Studebaker
Coordinator of Administration + Consulting

DonorPerfect Online (DPO) Vice President Jon Biedermann and Dr. Nathan Dietz, a published scholar and experienced practitioner of quantitative and qualitative social science research, recently led a webinar analyzing the results of 2.24 million transactions and 427,000 donors over a period of years. So what did these numbers reveal about fundraising behavior?

Demographic data showed most 2017 gifts were to human services at 23%, followed by health and religious organizations. Offline donations remained the most common way to give, though online donations have increased from 4% in 2014 to almost 8% in 2017. First time givers declined from 2015-2017, but Jon noted that the recent declines in first time donors points to increased donor retention.

Not all of these findings may be surprising for the experienced nonprofit professional. However, one of the key parts of data-based decision making is allowing the data to speak. Your assumptions may be correct, but actually testing your assumptions is vital.

The most compelling insights were around the importance of thanking donors and multichannel giving. The DPO data showed only 48.5% of the donors in the data reviewed were thanked for their gifts. Over half of donors in 2017 were not thanked! The impact of thanking showed in the transaction data. While they waited longer to give again, their donations ($50 on average) were higher than non-thanked donors ($35 on average).

Here are some key steps to turn this insight into action:

  1. If you do not currently have a standard protocol for thanking donors within 72 hours of receipt, establish one now.
  2. If you have an acknowledgement process, review any messages that donors receive through your website or other channels, since this may be an opportunity to improve the impact of your messaging through customization. Ensure that the thank you message, whether mailed or email, is properly addressed and matches the campaign or fund to which they are donating.

Multichannel donors gave over twice as much as other donors over the course of their lifetime, and their annual giving average was $325, opposed to $75 offline only and $100 online only. Multichannel includes solicitation via direct mail, telephone, email, face to face, text, social media, events, flyers and newsletters. Knowing this, consider the following:

  1. Donors want to give, so make it as easy as possible for them to donate. I know from my user experience research that hard to navigate websites or poorly organized information will result in people abandoning their efforts, even when highly motivated. If you are able, invite a volunteer to do a test run of completing your donation form or donating online. Ask for their feedback, but while they complete the task, observe where they hesitate or take more time than expected. This combination of feedback and observation will help you identify the pain points your donors may be experiencing. Removing those will help guarantee that giving to your organization is a positive experience that donors will wish to repeat.

Also think about the value of wealth screening in prospecting major donors and cultivating monthly donors.

Click here to view the full webinar.

Art, Science, Success: Creating Opportunity for Prospect Development in Your Organization

By | All Posts, Database Management, Fundraising, News You Can Use, Planned Giving, Prospect Research | No Comments

JB+A is pleased to welcome guest contributor Marissa Todd, JD, MBA – a prospect development professional and current President of Apra Missouri-Kansas – as she shares her insights and experience on prospect research and development.

Marissa Todd, JD, MBA
JB+A Guest Contributor

How many of us have heard the phrase “the art and science of fundraising”? Probably many of you reading this. It’s quite the popular phrase and is often used to describe the intersection of data and research with the relationship building that takes place across the donor development cycle.

The art part of fundraising is generally the domain of gift officers and senior level administrators whose main role is to meet with donors and prospects in order to cultivate and solicit gifts. The science part, especially in smaller development operations, is often shared by many hands from the gift officers to the database manager to gift processing, and if you are fortunate, a prospect research professional. Having talented professionals to implement and execute both the art and science pieces is critical to a strategic, successful development operation.

However, many organizations do not believe they have the resources to invest in staff for prospect research. If you are one of the organizations who struggle with resources or time for the science of fundraising, fear not! This passionate prospect development professional has some tips that any organization, regardless of size, can try to take steps to integrate prospect research into your organization.

First and foremost, make sure you are collecting information from your prospect interactions. Most fundraising databases have an area for you to capture contact reports from your emails, phone calls and meetings with prospects. Make sure staff utilize this area to capture substantive interactions. These reports can be a wealth of information (pun intended!) on the potential capacity of a prospect, as well as provide historical context during staff transitions. Having a central place for relationship data is key to continuing to build relationships. If you are looking for good prospects, looking at who has historical contacts is a great way to start.

If your database doesn’t have this capability, consider creating a call report form your staff can fill out electronically and save to prospect files on your server. At my first fundraising job, our database was so ancient you couldn’t even click – everything was done using the F keys and commands, so not surprising there was no contact report area. The development used a call form and paper prospect files helped me many a time in connecting dots. When the organization converted to a new CRM, students entered the historical reports of top donors into the new system, so we had a complete picture.

Another great way to ease into some prospect research is by looking at your highest lifetime donors. Although many of these folks may have given their ultimate gift to your organization, many of your top cumulative donors get that way through loyalty and longevity, not a five or six figure gift. Look at the donation history of these donors and you will surely find some prospects who you could be creating more meaningful relationships with and moving to larger annual and major contributions.

Speaking of donations, does your organization produce a periodical donation report (daily, weekly, monthly)? If so, this is an excellent tool to proactively look for new potential prospects. At two of the organizations I have worked, I developed a donation report that also pulled in helpful information like analytical modeling scores, total giving, last two year’s giving totals and engagement information. Using this information, it is easy to scan the report and pick out donors who maybe should be looked at closer, like those who suddenly double their previous gift or make a first-time donation at a certain level ($100, $500, whatever is appropriate for your organization).

So let’s say you implement the donation report and have a good list of potential prospects. You don’t have any paid resources to screen them, so what do you do? There are a plethora of free resources out there to get started with prospect research! A simple search of a county assessor site to verify home ownership and value is a great place to start. Using a search engine to do a quick search of a prospect’s name and location may also open you up to employment information, business associations, etc. The Secretary of State’s office in each state has a business registry you can search to verify business ownership. The list goes on and on. I have numerous bookmarks for free sites, but some of my favorites are sites that themselves are curators of both free and paid resources, like Helen Brown Group or Prospect Research Institute. Most of these sites allow you to sign up for a free account, and then you also receive emails updating you on new resources and other potential services.

Investing a little time and energy in prospect research can make a huge difference in your fundraising efforts. As one of my former gift officer colleagues put it, before she worked with a researcher she felt like she was on a wild safari with no end that often came up totally empty. After research was put in place, she had a map and a plan and was better able to focus her time and effort on the right potential prospects. Don’t leave your gift officers wandering in the wild; invest in some strategic prospecting and keep everyone moving toward fundraising success for your organization.

Marissa Todd has been working in nonprofit and higher education fundraising for over a decade. She found her passion for the prospect development profession at her first Apra conference in 2014. Since then, Marissa has focused on developing and growing small shops, at Stephens College, University of Central Missouri and her next adventure, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. She is very involved with Apra, serving as the President of Apra Missouri-Kansas and on several Apra International committees. She has also presented at Apra and CASE conferences and loves to share her passion for prospect development with anyone who will listen.

Marissa earned her BA and JD from the University of Missouri and her MBA from Stephens College. In her free time, Marissa likes to experiment with cooking and wine, devour books and cheer on her favorite sports teams. She also likes to plan adventures with her husband, Michael, and snuggle up on the couch with their cats, Artie and Faurot.

 

Why Major Gifts? Why Now?

By | All Posts, Capacity Building, Commentary, Database Management, Donor Cultivation, Fundraising, Major Gift Solicitation, Prospect Research | No Comments

How many of us wish there were more hours in the day to focus on our major giving program and donors? Some of us may be one-man teams, but even those of us lucky enough to work in a fully-staffed, robust development office wish we had more time to reach out to more donors and have more meaningful conversations. Some of us don’t work on major gifts because there isn’t time and we don’t really see the need: “Why would I spend the time on major gifts if I’m getting by with annual gifts, grants, earned income, etc.?”

Good question. And below is arguably a good answer.

First, let’s reference GivingUSA: The Annual Report on Philanthropy published by The Giving USA Foundation, an arm of The Giving Institute. Of the approximately $390 Billion dollars given by Americans in 2016, 72% was given by individuals.  Add in the 8% giving through bequests (which are also given by individuals, technically) and the 7% from family foundations and the total is closer to 87% received from individuals.  That leaves only 13% given by foundations and corporations. Also, foundations are only legally required and mostly stick to a 5% mandatory distribution requirement.

Donor-Advised Funds and non-traditional giving methods allow for a myriad of possibilities and vehicles for individuals to use to invest in causes and programs about which they care deeply. It is also easier and a better use of staff resources (including time!) to cultivate and grow donors you already have, than to go out and identify new donors.  This is especially true when you look at the national statistics on donor retention. The 2017 Fundraising Effectiveness Survey Report found donor retention year-over-year averages 45%, meaning more than half of your new donors will not give a gift a second time.

A major giving program gives your donors a path to a deeper relationship with your mission and allows for greater impact through financial investment. With donor acquisition costs on the rise,  spending time examining your current donor base is a better use of time and results in a higher ROI. These individuals have already self-selected and said “yes” to you and your work at least once, but how well do you really “know” them? When was the last time your organization (or have your ever?) conducted a wealth screening? You may know who your top donors are, but do you know who are your most loyal?

To implement a major giving program, organizations should rely on the four pillars of a successful solicitation:

  1. You need a major giving case for support that clearly explains your mission and needs and expresses the impact major giving investments will have on your nonprofit.
  2. It’s imperative that we really “do our homework” and know our donors by understanding their past support, motivations to give and philanthropic goals. This is where the art and science of fundraising converge at the intersection of qualitative and quantitative knowledge.
  3. Utilizing this knowledge, we can develop personalized cultivation strategies, guided by best practices, to present the strongest solicitation possible.
  4. We need to steward our donors by identifying meaningful recognition and continuing communication.

By now, I hope you you’re thoroughly convinced individual donor prospects and major giving are elements you need in your resource development plan.  But do you still wonder if you have the time and resources to implement a major giving program your own organization?

Well, you can quit wondering.

JB+A is pleased to present a solution, in partnership with Softerware, Inc.: DonorPerfect Consulting Services Powered by Jeffrey Byrne + Associates is a 12-month, one-on-one phone and web-based consulting service that will help your organization institute major giving best practices and will offer advice crafted for each organization’s unique needs.  Expert coaching provided by us (JB+A) while utilizing DonorPerfect software and DonorSearch wealth screenings will help you identify and achieve your organization’s major giving fundraising goals.

Want to learn more?  Give me a call at 816-237-1999 or email me at KLord@FundraisingJBA.com.

Do Your Homework, Sit Still and LISTEN

By | All Posts, Donor Cultivation, Fundraising, Major Gift Solicitation, News You Can Use, Organizational + Personal Development, Prospect Research, Volunteers | No Comments

Jeffrey D. Byrne, President + CEO

We know to do our homework on prospective donors. You’ve heard me say time and again “Don’t commit fundraising malpractice!” (See my blog piece on the benefits of prospect research here.)That means do your research – because it reveals information about the wealth and capacity of prospects as well as information about philanthropic giving history, community involvement, natural partners and connections. And your donor database should contain important notes about your prospects and interactions with them. Prepare for your visit.

Sitting still tells your audience you really care about what they should say. Don’t shuffle your papers. Don’t check your phone. Don’t fidget. Sitting still lets you hear what your prospective donor should tell you about their life story and experiences – maybe even how a single instance changed their life. You can learn why they are passionate about your organization and its mission.

I believe in order to be a great fundraiser, you have to be a good – if not great – listener. Human nature might urge you to fill quiet moments with a remark or an anecdote. Of course you are nervous, and anxious to impress. You certainly want to make a connection you can build upon later. But it is in those quiet moments that you, as a volunteer or professional, can learn the most.  Waiting for the prospective donor to share might result in hearing firsthand how your healthcare institution saved their life. You might learn a relative was a long-time volunteer. You might learn how an agency similar to yours provided their mother with safety and refuge from domestic violence.  Resist the urge to talk about yourself.  Ask prospective donors about themselves…and then listen to what they say. Some good lead-ins might include:

  • “Tell me more about that …”
  • “What did she/he say about that…?”
  • “What happened next …?”
  • “What made you decide to …?”

You get the idea. You can think up your own list of “conversation engagers” that will help you get to know your prospective donor and involve them in the meeting. The bottom line is this: regardless of with whom you are meeting, when you get your prospective donors talking about themselves – when you ask about them – your prospective donor will come away from the visit feeling much more satisfied and positive about you and your organization than if you had used the time trying to tell them the 50 wonderful things you are doing to make a difference.

However, all of this doesn’t mean you should not educate your listeners about your organization and your mission. I’d suggest you use the 80/20 rule. Inform 20 percent of the time and LISTEN the other 80 percent.

In training staff and volunteers to make major gift solicitations, we place considerable emphasis on setting the appointment, sharing the vision and asking for the gift. Think about all the times we practice the script for the call or role-play the visit.  But how often do we practice listening? If you have volunteers who are reluctant to go on solicitation calls, think about how can coaching them on listening style can help them overcome their jitters about making the “ask.”

And finally, care about what’s being said and commit it to memory. Make notes when you leave if you need to capture details. This kind of active listening and remembering stems from truly caring about the donor. Don’t let the lure of a gift keep you from truly caring and listening to the prospective donor’s words. If you are listening and caring (and, of course, remembering to ask for the gift,) the gift will come.

Is Your Ask Using the Right Emotional Messages?

By | All Posts, Donor Cultivation, News You Can Use, Nonprofit Marketing, Prospect Research | No Comments

Editor’s Note:  We are pleased to introduce Grant Gooding of Proof Positioning as a guest contributor. Grant cut his teeth in the mergers and acquisitions world which gave him an uncommon, macro understanding of the hard and soft components of businesses and market transition. He took his knowledge of analyzing hundreds of businesses to consult with entrepreneurs, mostly inventors, to help them shape their brands relative to the market landscape. He then took this concept to the next level creating Proof Positioning in 2012 where he integrated consumer insights research into his market based brand process, allowing him to use statistics to show organizations what they can say to close more business.

When making an ask, taking into consideration the different emotional and psychographic idiosyncrasies of your audience can make all the difference.

Although we like to believe we are highly logical beings and use mostly logic when making decisions, neuroscience has debunked this once widely thought presumption and taught us that all our decision making, regardless of its subject and value, resides in our emotional brain.  The money and time that we give to charities and nonprofits is no different.  This being the case, understanding and measuring those emotions is especially important when considering asks to potential and existing donors.

This was evident in a study where our firm was charged with understanding minority population giving motivations for a fund.  We discovered clear trends that allowed our client to make gentle shifts that increased the emotional resonance and engagement of donors.  While there were many takeaways from this study, one simple, yet fascinating discovery was around the different emotionally resonant value propositions of male vs. female donors.  These are some high-level findings and recommendations from that study:

Women:

The data showed very high emotional resonance of three specific value propositions (i) the organization’s reputation (25% higher than men); (ii) the outcomes the organization has achieved (25% higher); and (iii) the transparency of administrative costs (15% higher).  Based on this data we suggested the organization segment its donor database and send separate communications (email, social, event, etc.) to men and women. Some of our recommendations included:

  • Highlight the reputation of the organization by including specific details around outcomes (either stories or statistics) the programs have achieved.  This was the most important thing to women and we recommended including these “micro-stories” into all non-administrative communication to female donors.
  • Be upfront and provide detail around organizational overhead, program costs and money that goes to the people.  They understand these costs exist and will not only appreciate the honesty but sharing this information will actually increase their emotional engagement.

Men:

The data indicated there were three very DIFFERENT value propositions that resonated with men (i) the organization helped other minorities (27% higher than women); (ii) programs increase quality of life in their local community (12% higher); and (iii) programs impact someone I know personally (8% higher).  We made some recommendations based on this data:

  • Start being more outward and explicit about the organization only helping minorities.  This was the most important thing to men, by far, regardless of the program details or the specific outcomes.
  • Use more donor-centric phrases such as “This will impact your neighborhood,” or “This will help someone that you might know.”  This strategy dramatically increased the probability of creating an ambassador out of a male donor.

The fact none of the top three value propositions were coinciding for men and women was not only shocking to us but to the organization as well.  Based on the data, they were able to make simple changes to their communication strategy and their asks to help better align their messages with the things their donors found most important.

While not every organization has dramatic differences between the sexes, variance exists in every donor population because we are emotional, human beings and we all value different things.  If you consider and measure the emotions of your donors and cater your messages to say the right thing to the right people you will have more successful asks and a more engaged donor population.

Grant Gooding holds a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from William Jewell College/UMKC and an MBA with an emphasis in qualitative marketing from The Bloch School of Business at UMKC. Grant also serves as a Board member to both for-profit and nonprofit organizations, including the UMKC Marketing Advisory Board, is an adviser to several startups and is a frequent lecturer, mentor and judge for the entrepreneur community.  Grant is passionate about educating in the areas of entrepreneurship and brand philosophy. You can reach Grant and Proof Positioning by visiting http://proofpositioning.com/.

Just Ask.

By | All Posts, Annual Giving, Donor Cultivation, Fundraising, Major Gift Solicitation, News You Can Use, Prospect Research | No Comments

Saber Hossinei, Coordinator of Administration + Consulting

Have you seen those shirts with JUST DO IT across the front? It certainly makes for a catchy phrase, but the meaning behind it is so much more than that. It’s a message of action. Regardless of one’s condition, level of experience or ability, don’t forget what’s truly necessary: action. And with action, come results.

In my background with sales and sales training, the recurring obstacle for many of the trainees I worked with (rookie and veteran salespeople alike) was “making the ask.” How is it that most folks can be trained to do an excellent job with all aspects of the sales process, yet drop the ball when it comes to asking for the sale? Anecdotally, I can tell you that the best sales reps had the opposite problem. They weren’t great planners or polished presenters, but they asked for a sale with each and every visit, and as the saying goes, even a broken clock is right twice a day.

Recently, I had the privilege to serve on the silent auction subcommittee for a nonprofit’s annual gala fundraiser. It was my first time in such a role, and in fact it was my first time ever asking for donations. Armed with just a letter about the event and a donation request form, I hit the street and went door to door in a shopping center to ask for donations. Of course, I was very excited to receive a nice item from the first business I approached, and by the end of my walk, I had received not only merchandise and gift cards for the silent auction, but also referrals to other businesses to solicit for donations! The bottom line is, I might have felt poorly prepared, but by showing up and asking for donations, I received them.

I am certainly not making a case against proper and thorough preparation for solicitations. The qualification, cultivation and solicitation process with prospective donors is critically important, and today, we have many valuable resources readily available to help us develop strong strategies for relationship-building with our prospects/donors. (Check out Jeffrey’s article “Don’t Commit Fundraising Malpractice” about how nonprofits should “do their “homework” on prospective donors.)

But nonprofits suffer when leadership, staff and volunteers are reluctant to “make the ask,” or want to wait until everything is “perfect.” Don’t get “paralysis by analysis.” Your Boards, staff and volunteers should be taught that making an “ask” is not only the most important element in obtaining donations, but it is also the right thing to do. You owe your supporters action, your potential donors the opportunity to support your cause and you owe those who benefit from your nonprofit your best work! JUST ASK.

Jeffrey Byrne to Speak at DonorPerfect Community Network Conference

By | All Posts, Campaign Planning + Management, Current Events/News, Events, Fundraising, Major Gift Solicitation, News You Can Use, Prospect Research | No Comments

Jeffrey Byrne, JB+A Firm President + CEO, is honored to be presenting with our Prospect Research Partner, DonorSearch, and the Belcourt Theatre, Nashville’s nonprofit film center, at the 2016 DonorPerfect Community Network Conference in Philadelphia, PA , September 19-20.  They will be discussing how to effectively utilize prospect research in capital campaigns.

DonorPerfect’s Community Network Conference is an annual gathering of industry experts from around the nation to speak about ways to improve fundraising success. It’s also a great time to network with other fundraising professionals to share best practices, tips and success stories.DP CNC LOgo

Jeffrey will join Ryan Woroniecki, Vice President of Strategic Partnerships at DonorSearch, and Brook Bernard, Director of Development for the Belcourt Theatre, to illustrate the value of prospect research in campaign planning and implementation. Using the Belcourt Theatre’s recently completed campaign as a Case Study, Jeffrey, Ryan and Brook will share their processes and best practices for utilizing prospect research. Check out Jeffrey’s recent blog post on how to utilize research to improve capital campaigns.

Recognized for his distinctive client-focused philosophy to fundraising, Jeffrey is a frequent guest speaker at workshops and conferences across the United States.  He has also been quoted in numerous publications including the New York Times, The Chronicle of Philanthropy and Kansas City Star, and interviewed on many public radio and television stations.

As national consultant thought leaders in philanthropy, JB+A team members share our fundraising leadership, industry best practices and the latest sector research and trends.  If your organization is looking for a speaker or workshop presentation, reach out to JB+A here.

DonorPerfect provides complete fundraising and donor management nonprofit software – including managingdonorperfect logo constituent contacts and donor development, sending personalized communications, managing and scheduling fundraising events, online donation pages and DonorPerfect mobile – while integrating with other industry products and services.

SofterWare is based in Horsham, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia. It was founded in 1981 with a mission to develop and support software that is easy to learn, easy to use and adaptable to users’ unique needs. The company has grown over 30 years from a small entrepreneurial business to a $35 million+ company with over 10,000 nonprofits and childcare, camp, school and payment processing clients. To learn more about DonorPerfect, click here.

donorsearch logoDonorSearch was founded in 2007 to provide more accurate, more comprehensive, more actionable data to help nonprofits of all types achieve better fundraising and outreach results. Using information from 25 databases, DonorSearch uses proprietary algorithms to help clients find the best philanthropic prospects. Its data can be easily integrated with most common donor management and general sales software, putting critical donor information at a client’s fingertips. (Learn more about DonorSearch here.)

The Belcourt Theatre’s mission is to engage, enrich and educate through innovative film programming in its historicbelcourt theatre, its community and beyond. A unique Nashville treasure with a vibrant historic past and deep roots in the community, this cultural institution is dedicated to presenting the best of independent, documentary, world, repertory and classic cinema. Learn more about the Belcourt Theatre here.

Don’t Commit Fundraising Malpractice

By | All Posts, Campaign Planning + Management, Database Management, Donor Cultivation, Major Gift Solicitation, News You Can Use, Prospect Research, Technology | No Comments

Jeffery ByrneJeffrey D. Byrne, President + CEO

I truly believe it is “fundraising malpractice” when nonprofits do not do their “homework” about prospective donors.  Much more than learning about the estimated wealth and capacity of a prospect, research can reveal information about philanthropic giving history and involvement as well as natural partners and connections. Then add the “human touch” of the prospect review committee process, and the result is powerful quantitative and qualitative data to help inform strategy development for prospective donors.

I am a big proponent of using philanthropic and wealth screenings in campaign planning. They offer a valuable data, help you determine when/if more in-depth individualized research is necessary and provide information beneficial beyond the campaign, that can help with strategies for planned giving and annual fund.

Here’s my simple and universal process for utilizing philanthropic and wealth screenings to strengthen campaigns:

  1. Determine your “end use”
    You cannot simply import the results back into your database, never look at them again and expect magic to happen. Be disciplined in defining how you are going to use the results to empower your fundraising activities. Do you need help in determining target ask amounts? Do you need to know more about giving histories, to determine if prospects might have an affinity for your mission?  Do you need to better understand the prospects’ peer networks to help you develop appropriate ways to connect with them? Before you select a screening vendor and before you select the screening product(s) to purchase, carefully think through how you need to use the data.
  1. “Screen” your vendor and product options
    Wealth and philanthropic screenings are investments – of both time and money – that merit a careful selection process. There are several vendor options, so do your homework. What is their methodology? What are their deliverables? Is education/training included? Do they verify their results? How long will the screening process take? Can the data be easily imported/integrated into your database? Do they support that process?  Ask for references. Then call them. And don’t be penny-wise and pound-foolish.  Screenings are also opportunities to clean up your database. There are valuable services available that will assess and address the accuracy and completeness of the contact information in your records (such as address verification and email, phone and address appends.)
  1. Select records to screen
    It may not be cost effective – or necessary – to screen your whole database. The flip side is that you don’t know what you don’t know – screenings often uncover wealth you never knew you had in your database. Your consultant or screening vendor can and should help you select the records you want to run. And it is imperative to provide all the fields the screening vendor requires in their upload template.  (Garbage in typically means garbage out.)
  1. Interpret the results
    A lot of information comes back in a screening, so you’ll want to make sure you are able to understand it, digest it and use it the way you need. A good screening vendor will help you do just that – and will be accessible to you beyond a 30-minute webinar or 30-page guide. You not only need to be able to interpret the data yourself, but you’ll need to interpret it for other members of your organization – both staff and volunteers. You’ll also need to determine what is appropriate to share and how.
  1. Integrate the data results
    Again, this doesn’t mean just importing the results into your database. You have to make the data work for you. Integrating the screening results means synthesizing the information and incorporating it into your donor development efforts through the steps below.
  1. Prospect review committee
    A small and select group of volunteers and staff, the prospect review committee is a most effective – and personal – way to rate prospects, as a complement to screenings and in-depth research profiles. Composed of those “in the know” in your organization’s community, this highly-confidential group works early on in the campaign planning process to rank capacity and potential interest (not just for giving but for volunteering as well.) The committee works in sessions over several days or a couple of weeks, but the process is fast-paced and highly-facilitated (typically by staff or a consultant.) The end result is a prospect list that is “categorically” ranked/prioritized and supported by anecdotal information.
  1. In-depth research profiles
    Some prospects merit additional, in-depth research. These profiles contain expanded details about a prospect’s education, employer, professional career, family, hobbies/personal interests and civic/community activities. The information gathered should only be information that affects a person’s ability or inclination to give: relevant and publicly available. 
  1. Appraisals/Solicitation Amounts
    Determining appropriate ask amounts is a combination of several factors:  the capacity recommendations/target ask amounts provided in the screening results, the anecdotal and ranking information provided by the prospect committee review, the prospect’s relationship with your organization and last but certainly not least, good judgement.
  1. Strategies
    Now you’ve got a solid foundation for developing personalized and customized plans for prospect cultivation and solicitation.  A “good ask” is more than just an amount. Knowing through whom, how and when to approach a prospect makes for more effective relationship-building.  Strategy is about encouraging and empowering the prospect to become an important part of your organization’s mission.

The resources and methods for prospect research may feel endless, overwhelming and even cost prohibitive. But it does not have to be that way.  If you use research information appropriately, there can and should be a very valuable return on your investment.