Best Practices In Prospecting

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by Nancy E. Peterman,


Some of us remember when our only option for prioritizing and understanding our prospects was a peer review session-a long, tedious meeting with a small, select group of our most loyal and successful donors staring at lists of names. Such feedback was invaluable then and now, as it helped us focus on those who were most inclined to make a sizeable gift. Accuracy was important; precision was not. We were seeking a general indication of affluence so that those folks could be targeted for a major gift and relegate the remainder to the annual giving programs.

Electronic wealth screenings were wonderful additions to the development officer’s methodology as they provided a means of culling massive lists into a manageable number. It was fast and painless, (unless you were the person responsible for creating the data file) but relatively expensive. Since the early days of using census data as a primary source, wealth screenings have improved dramatically. There are many companies offering services that will compare your records to a multitude of sources. As helpful as they are, the wealth screenings lack the subjective assessment that would help us focus on those who had an inclination to give or to increase their giving.

In the last decade, a host of other tools have been introduced, including data mining and predictive modeling. Data mining (finding patterns in data) has been around for centuries in mathematic circles. Applying this to fundraising has made it possible to correlate those tracked behaviors or activities that are associated with giving. Data mining can be useful for colleges and universities with their immense databanks of tracked activities and characteristics to find statistically significant patterns on which to develop models for predicting potential donors.

Alexander Haas has worked with a number of companies offering such services and has partnered with Target Analytics. WealthPoint, Blackbaud’s full-service screening services can:

  • Identify your best major and planned gift prospects.
  • Attract and retain wealthy donors with improved donor service.
  • Maximize gifts by asking for the right amount at the right time.
  • Determine the wealth potential of your entire database.
  • Set reasonable campaign goals.
  • Free up staff resources for person-to-person fundraising.

Whereas, ProspectPoint, Target Analytics’ custom modeling service speaks to the likelihood of a prospect to:

  • Make a major, annual or planned gift.
  • Make an annuity gift.
  • Create a charitable remainder trust.
  • Make a bequest.

These can be powerful tools to help you work smart. The challenge sometimes is where to begin with this wealth of data. Target Analytics provides a sound strategy for how best to begin to use your data effectively.