Shell game: looking for a ball under cups.
For many MGOs, finding the right donor to add to your caseload is like trying to guess which cup the ball is under. There are many, many variables, which is why you must have a system to figure it out.
Don’t forget that your ultimate goal is to have 150 qualified donors on your caseload, and that it takes at least three donors who meet a certain set of criteria (explained below) in order to end up with just one qualified donor. That means you need at least 450 donors who meet the criteria for selection if you want to end up with one qualified caseload.
The very first step in qualifying donors is to create a caseload pool – a group of donors who meet your major gift criteria as explained in this post. We call it a “caseload pool” because it is a pool of donors from which you will qualify people to add to the caseload you will manage.
In the Veritus Group qualifying system, there are quite a few data points we use to determine which donors should be selected for a caseload pool. The four major ones are these:

Recency

How long has it been since the donor’s last gift? Many organizations make the mistake of including donors for a caseload pool who gave their last gift 18-24 months ago. In our view, donors who have not given in the last 18 months are considered lapsed donors, which means the organization has lost or is at risk of losing their relationship and investment. The best major donor candidates for a caseload pool will have given in the past twelve months —preferably in the past three to six months. But this does not mean we won’t try to get a 12- to 18-month donor to give again.

Gift Amount

This is the primary indicator when creating caseload pools. When analyzing giving files, those donors who are more likely ready for caseload qualifying are those donors who are currently giving more than the other donors on the file. Giving recency and amount are very clear indicators of “inclination” – that the donor is inclined to keep giving in the future. It is not a fail-safe indicator, but it is a strong one.

Capacity

In most giving files, there are donors who possess great wealth and therefore have the potential for becoming major donors. “Capacity” is both an objective and subjective indicator, because there are many ways to gauge it. For example, when creating caseload pools, the way we select donors is by looking at their giving levels and gathering information from people who know these donors, in order to determine who might have the capacity to give more.

In addition to history and giving levels, one of the most popular and effective ways to further determine capacity is by performing a wealth overlay. This is an in-depth research process that examines all public giving information for the donors on your file, in order to reveal which donors have the highest capacity for giving significantly to your organization. Data findings are relevant and can be used for several years following the overlay. Every other year, it makes sense to run a smaller overlay on the top of your donor file in order to assess giving capacity of new donors for potential addition to caseload pools.

Organizations need to be careful, however, about their expectations when it comes to wealth overlay findings. A wealth overlay can indicate who the wealthiest donors are, but this does not mean that these people will ever give large gifts. Some donors may have capacity but will never be motivated to give significantly. Others may have longstanding gift commitments to other organizations, which will keep them at low giving levels.

So while wealth overlays are helpful in uncovering capacity, it is important to remember that capacity does not necessarily translate to large gifts. The two biggest values in performing a wealth overlay are these: it informs you of the capacity of a donor with high inclination, and it allows you to pull some folks into caseload pools that would otherwise have been omitted.

Relationship

Like the wealth overlay, this is another subjective indicator, and it is contingent on who has been managing the donor or who knows the donor prior to adding her to a caseload pool. The person that has been working with donor files up to this point may have an idea about donors who are already bonded to the organization. Some of these folks may not have demonstrated great donor loyalty by their gift recency or amounts, but if someone in the organization knows the donor, they may provide important factors to consider in adding this donor to a caseload pool.

So now you have all of this information. What’s next? You need to organize the data you will use for qualifying. Here are our data selection criteria.
Select all donors who meet your current major donor cumulative giving criteria in each of the last four calendar years and the current calendar year-to-date. Remember, donors think in calendar years, so we use calendar years in this data selection.
Include all donors, regardless of “do not mail” and any other kind of coding. The important part of this process is that all people, foundations, and organizations that qualify are included. (Exclude deceased donors.)
For this exercise we will use $1,000+ cume giving, for illustration purposes.
When doing the data selection, the only qualifying factor for selection is if the person or organization cumulatively gave $1,000+ cume in any of the last four calendar years or the current calendar YTD.
Note: donors do not have to give $1,000+ cume in all the years. If they gave in any of the last four calendar years plus the current calendar YTD, they get into the selection. Then you want to see what they gave in the other years. So you might have a donor that gave $900 in 2012, $750 in 2013, $1,200 in 2014, $450 in 2015 and nothing YTD 2016. This donor would meet the selection criteria because they gave over $1,000 cume in 2014. And you would look at all their giving for the other years, both before and after that year.
Some systems and/or software record cash and non-cash gifts as “hard” and “soft” credits. Cumulative giving for this report should include total giving of both cash and non-cash gifts, in separate columns if possible.
Also, in some organizations one-time gifts (like gifts for disaster relief) are tracked separately. So it would be good to isolate those givers and gifts as well. You will see how we do that in the list below.
This data should be exported into an Excel file. The Excel file should be laid out such that each of the following is in a column heading:

  1. Donor ID or Account Number
  2. Donor type (individual, corporation, organization, church, etc.) If your system uses codes, provide a key.
  3. Donor Name
  4. Donor Address
  5. Zip Code
  6. Total Giving four years back (CY 2012) – for these total giving columns, hard, soft credit and disaster only or special circumstance in separate columns, or combined if you can’t separate them.
  7. Total Giving three years back (CY 2013)
  8. Total Giving two years back (CY 2014)
  9. Total Giving last calendar year (CY 2015)
  10. Total Giving this calendar year-to-date (CY 2016 YTD)
  11. Lifetime Giving
  12. All Fundraiser Assignment Coding for MGO, PG, or Other Name(s), if your data system has assigned fund-raisers
  13. Fundraiser Coding Relationship (e.g., Manage, Steward, etc.)
  14. Service Center Code or Area, if you divide areas of fund-raising by geographic codes
  15. Total Number of Gifts Given
  16. Target Analytics Wealth Rating Info (or other wealth ratings)

Not every organization either keeps this level of detailed data or has a system to keep it. That’s fine. If all you can do is find those donors who gave the most, did it most recently and have the highest capacity and relationship with the organization, then that will be enough to create a caseload pool.
OK, you’re done. You have created a caseload pool – a good group of good donors you will qualify down to a caseload, which I will address in the next post.
Isn’t this fun?
Richard
Read the whole series: How to Qualify Donors

  1. An Introduction
  2. Why Qualify?
  3. What’s the Objective?
  4. The First Step – A Caseload Pool
  5. The Process of Qualifying
  6. Dealing with Objections