Don’t Believe Any Wealth Indicator Scores

Don't believe it!Okay, so I purposely wrote the title of this post to be provocative. But I did so because Richard and I are dismayed at how many non-profit managers and leaders are misusing wealth scores on their donors. They think they can use these to bypass the hard work it takes to develop a relationship, and just get the money. Not only that, but they put an extraordinary burden on major gift fundraisers with stupid expectations based on these scores.

Yes, I used the word STUPID on purpose.

Before I continue my rant, I want first to state what Veritus believes about wealth indicator analysis software. We actually like it… as one tool of many that help you find out who your donor is.

And for major gift programs that have very few major donors, it’s another tool (among others) that helps you understand the potential for major gifts in your entire database. Potential – not actual money that should be coming in the door yesterday.

Just so we are clear, let me reiterate… Wealth Indicator analysis data is a good tool for 1) reviewing individual major donors to find out more information about them and 2) seeing potential in your entire database. But it’s just a single indicator among the many other means you have at your disposal (like actually meeting with a donor) to find out more information about them… and more importantly, where their passions and interests lie.

To be even clearer, all this wealth information is about half right.

That’s right, the information you get is not 100% gospel truth. It may be 50-60% right, but that is about it. Each year this software continues to get better because of the information that is gathered and entered into the analysis, but we have seen too many managers and leaders take the information to mean that the highest-ranked donors should start giving million-dollar gifts immediately upon discovery.

That will not happen.

Understand that people of wealth know how to hide it. They are pretty good at it. And the analysis sometimes shows donors who look like they have a ton of money, but they really don’t.

The real problem is the weight that managers and leaders put on this wealth analysis. Maybe it’s because they want to deny that it really takes a lot of work and time to uncover who donors really are, or they feel so much pressure to bring in large sums of cash quickly; but for some reason they lose perspective on what wealth indicator analysis is really about.

So what happens is that these uninformed leaders see a wealth analysis report and they are shocked at how much wealth is in their database. They get upset that “no one is out there bringing this money in!” They call in their Director of Development or VP of Major Gifts and say, “we have all these wealthy people and we’re doing nothing to get big gifts in. We should be closing million-dollar gifts!”

If you think I’m being dramatic, you’re wrong. This happens all the time, which is why we feel so strongly about this.

Good managers and MGOs know that wealth indicator analysis software has the ability to help them do their jobs better. But they also know that it’s just a small part of the research they have to do to understand who a donor is and what his passions and interests are.

Ultimately, you need to talk to a donor, to listen, to understand… to hear a donor’s story. This is where you’ll find the information you need so you can come up with a great offer that will bring a donor joy.

But somehow many leaders and managers just don’t get it, and they use it to bully and hurt good MGOs who are doing all the right things they need to do to deepen relationships with donors.

If you are a manager or leader, take wealth indicator analysis software with a grain of salt. Then, be surprised by how helpful it can be for your major gift fundraisers as a tool to gather more information about their donors. Richard and I would rather you have that attitude about it, than to use it to get all blustery about how poorly your major gift team is doing at bringing in large gifts.

There is no shortcut to major gifts. There are great tools to use to help you, but they are tools. You still have to use them correctly, understanding their limitations. Major gifts is hard work. It takes time. Even with good tools like wealth indicator analysis software, relationships are built by actually talking to a donor.

Jeff

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One Comment

  • SJC says:

    I couldn’t agree more. I’ve experienced the pressure, which you rightly call bullying, from a manager who thinks that with screening, all we have to do is turn on the big $$ spigot. With people we’ve never had a single conversation with. Sigh.

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