Challenge Ahead!“All that wealth screening software is a waste of time. It’s just not helpful.”
This is what Jeff and I hear all the time.
That’s why I found this article by Patrick Bryden helpful. Patrick is the Marketing Manager at iWave. Take a look at the article for all the details I’m summarizing in this post.
Here are the four challenges:
1. It’s Too Time-Consuming.

Yes, it is. It takes time to research a donor. Patrick advises that you get software that gives quick results. And that’s true. But separate from that point, the fact is that donor research can be tedious. But it’s worth it.

You do need to go beyond wealth screening software and use other sources like and other real estate sites for info on the donor’s home. Just the zip code will tell you if the house is in an affluent neighborhood, etc. Or if you know that the donor owns a business, look that up at or or If the donor is an attorney, go to If a doctor, go to If you find the donor is head of a family foundation – go to or Google the 990.

And then there’s the tried and true: ask the donor. If there’s a way to talk to the donor, do that. And ask how they got to know the organization. Then carefully segue off into whether they’ve always lived here and ask, “what kind of work do you do?” Don’t be in a hurry. Just be relational and ask questions. But all of this will take time. So yes, it’s time-consuming.

2. There Are Too Many False Positives.

This one is about the software and the algorithms used. Patrick says: “Confidence of match is a wealth screening feature that controls what data, intel, and records are matched to a donor. The higher the confidence match, the stricter the matching algorithm will be.” Be sure and look at this one point in your wealth screening software.

3. It Paints an Incomplete Picture.

Yes it does, if you’re only looking at assets and not giving history and inclination to YOUR cause. A good screening tool will look at all of the donor – not only with what they have (assets), but also what they’ve done (giving), and may do. This is an important distinction.

Jeff and I hear so many authority figures say something like: “Go talk to George. He has a lot of money. He could give a big gift to us.” As if George wants to or would want to give to you. Inclination (i.e., actual giving to a cause like yours or to your organization) is a key indicator of what could happen in the future.

4. It Assumes All Nonprofits Fit the Same Mold.

I don’t totally agree with Patrick’s point here that, depending on the type of nonprofit you are, you would place different emphasis or importance on propensity, affinity, or capacity of a donor.

Where I do agree is on the major gift criteria – that the criteria ARE different depending on the type and size of the nonprofit. A large university may say a $25,000 donor is a major giver, while a local rescue mission may say it’s $1,000. So you do need to pay attention to that. Although in many large universities, Jeff and I have found thousands of donors below the major gift threshold they’ve set that are better major and transformational donors than the ones above their line. But that’s a whole other discussion we need to have.

Here’s the point – you’ll have your own criteria for what constitutes a major gift. Fine – stay with it. But always be looking to answer “yes” to the following five questions:

    • Does the person have a history of giving?
    • Does the person have a connection to my cause?
    • Has the person recently given to our organization?
    • Does the person have wealth (capacity) to contribute to our cause?
    • Is there a good match of the donor’s passions and interests and a need we’re addressing in our organization?

These are critical YES questions that will get you down the right track in identifying potential.

Wealth screening tools are helpful. But you also have to add in your own information as I’ve outlined here. So many organizations rely solely on wealth screening to select donors and forecast goals for a MGO. Universities are notorious for this. It’s sloppy, and it has nothing to do with relationships. And they also miss the critical information necessary to be successful in the relationship.
Ultimately, the best wealth screening you can do is first to qualify a donor by communicating directly with them. And second, by developing an authentic relationship with that donor. There is no substitute for that. (Tweet it!) And software can’t do it – it’s a human thing. If you do that, you’ll know the capacity, propensity, and the passions and interests of each of your donors.