“What is the most effective and efficient way to evaluate our database for giving potential if we don’t have wealth screening software?”

That was the question posed to Jeff and me when we did a live Q & A of blog readers and Veritus Gift Academy alumni.

The word “potential” can mean different things to different people and organizations. In one setting, a donor who can give $5,000 has potential. In another setting, the number is $500,000.  So, keep this in mind as I deal with the concepts here and not the amounts.

If you don’t have wealth data info on your donors, here are the steps we follow for selecting donors for a caseload pool, which is the first step toward qualifying a donor for your caseload OR simply deciding which donor you should talk to:

  1. First, determine your pool selection criteria – We suggest that anyone giving $1000+ cumulatively in a calendar year is a good place to start. You might drop that to $500+ annually. You decide. Then select those donors who have given that amount in any of the last three calendar years, plus YTD this calendar year. Be sure to include all the data of the donors you select, including lifetime giving.
  2. Then, take the file coming out of point #1 and look at recency, frequency, and amount of giving – The first thing you want to do is find those donors currently in your database who have given recently, have given the most (amount), and have given frequently. They are the donors who are showing inclination – a proven affinity for your organization. Do not fall prey to the urge to chase a donor who gave $10 two years ago, but you know “has a lot of money.” That is a dead-end street. A donor who is with you right now, proven by their giving, is the donor you should consider looking at more closely. Do NOT do any of the following steps unless the donor passes this first step.
  3. Google the donor – It’s amazing what you can find by just typing in the donor’s name and city. Try it. And keep digging.
  4. Look up the home address – Go to www.zillow.com and other real estate sites for info on the donor’s home.  Just the zip code will tell you if the home is in an affluent neighborhood etc.
  5. Look up the business – If you know that the donor owns a business, look that up at www.zoominfo.com or www.secinfo.com or www.hoovers.com.
  6. If the donor is an attorney, go to www.martindale.com.
  7. If they are a doctor, go to www.ama-assn.org.
  8. If you find the donor is head of a family foundation. go to www.taxexemptworld.com or Google the 990.
  9. If you want to know about the donor’s giving to political efforts, go to http://www.fec.gov/
  10. Ask the donor – If there’s a way to talk to your donor, do that. And ask how they got to know the organization. Then carefully segue off into have they always lived here and “what kind of work do you do?” Do not be in a hurry. Just be relational and ask questions.

There is a lot of research you can do that will cost you very little. Try it. And if you have other ideas that are not covered in this blog, please let Jeff and me know. But as you’re considering all that I have written here, keep this in mind:

  1. Wealth data can sometimes be wrong – be careful how you use it.
  2. Wealth data is just data – you need to have a relationship behind it to bring it alive.
  3. Be careful and responsible with how you use the information – you do not want to come off as a stalker. Donors, in fact, all of us, are becoming more sensitive to how people use our private information.

Just use this information to drive your asks and potentially give you some information you can explore and verify. And do this after you have determined that there is a strong match of the donor’s passions and interests with a need your organization has. It’s within that context where you can effectively use wealth data.

In all of this, remember that information and knowledge help you treat the donor with respect.  It should never be used to manipulate the donor, which doesn’t do any good in the long run anyway.