In fundraising when we are trying to measure how close a prospective donor feels to our organization or cause we call it their inclination to give (or to be involved as a volunteer). Sometimes it’s also described as a prospective donor’s affinity or interest.
Over the weekend I realized that I had just launched right into this series on ratings assuming that they are a given in every fundraising office. That everyone is already clear on the types of ratings that are out there and how they are used in a relationship management system for fundraising.
In my early days as a prospect researcher, I used to be a “Just the facts, ma’am” kind of researcher and report writer. A “here’s what I can see. I have no idea what the rest looks like so I can’t even guess for you” kind of gal. I was so afraid to be wrong.
Except I already was wrong.
We’ve been dead wrong in our calculations of gift potential for major donors.
We don’t have the right information. And we’re using what we do have the wrong way.
Let me set the stage: normally when we’re calculating a major donor’s capacity to give we look at their total visible assets and calculate that they will give 5% of that over five years to charity. Where does that ratio come from? The IRS, the Chronicle of Philanthropy and Giving USA are the three big resources for philanthropic giving information in the US.
The 5% figure we’ve been using isn’t real
Over the weekend, a friend and fundraising consultant emailed me to ask: “Do you typically see prospects rated for a campaign at 5% of visible assets per year or 5% over 5 years?” I shot back, “Over 5.” He sent back a speedy “thanks!”
I had a quick image of him looking at the still snow-topped mountains over the screen of his laptop, working on a campaign plan for a client. I pulled on my oven mitts and eased a steaming pork pie out of the oven and started setting the table.
Look at what arrived by special delivery today!
It’s an advance copy, meaning that for all of you who pre-ordered (and thank you for that, by the way!), yours will be arriving very soon.
If you haven’t already ordered it, now’s the time to get your very own copy hot off the presses! Just click that little book cover over there on the right to buy it at a discount (!). It will be on your doorstep in no time. This book has got everything anyone working in fundraising needs to know about prospect research. You’re going to love it.
Thank you to everyone who was involved: those who agreed to be interviewed, who were the subjects of case studies, who provided quotes and who read (and re-read!) drafts and offered sage advice and suggestions. And the biggest thank you to my co-author, the awesome Jen Filla.
I was recently asked by a client if there were a few simple things I could recommend that would help them re-energize their prospect management system – even if it meant they had to do something scary and daring. Sometimes just making a change of any kind can be daring, but we usually only regret the things we don’t do in life, not the things we try to do to improve things. I hope these 3 ideas give you something to dare to do in the new year!
The Conundrum: strategy paralysis
My client had a lot of prospects that were in the discovery stage – those still to be met for the first time. It was a great problem to have, but it was creating systemic paralysis – who should they see first?
The Solution: un-frieze the system
Each of these new prospects was not equal in his or her capacity to give or in their feelings of affinity to the organization. Leadership was shy of doing an electronic screening because the last one had just sat on the shelf and so they felt it was a waste of money. We helped our client re-screen the group and verified the results for them. Together we set up a rating system and ranked each of the new prospects. The fundraisers could then start from the top and work their way down the list.
The Conundrum: cultivating overly fertile fields
In addition to all of those great newly-ranked prospects, there were prospects who had been in our client’s relationship management system for at least 2 years with no forward progress. These constituents were being invited to dinners, lunches, and other events but they had not converted as major donors. Leadership was starting to ask the chief fundraiser questions about justifying the expense of all of these activities.
The Solution: some fields just need to lay fallow for awhile
Although changing out portfolios is hard, we can’t keep cultivating people forever, especially if there are higher-rated prospects waiting in the discovery stage. We recommended that our client switch any prospects who had been in the system for over 2 years without progress to a new prospect manager for 6 months to see if someone else would have better luck. If there was still no forward progress, these non-donors needed to be moved out of the major donor portfolios to make way for better prospects.
A larger organization might be able to move these prospects into actively-cultivated annual fund officer portfolios.
The Conundrum: moving targets
As we looked deeper in our client’s relationship management system, they asked for an idea of how many cultivation moves each fundraiser should realistically be expected to do per month.
The Solution: targeting moves
Since this was a relatively young program, we suggested a goal of 2 completed moves per day. Each month, fundraisers would have a result of 40 moves, and should be able to have at least one meaningful contact with everyone in their portfolio every quarter. The result would be 480 great moves per fundraiser for the year.
To recap, three quick and daring solutions to improve your prospect management system:
- Prioritize and make a plan to involve the best brand-new prospects
- Keep the pipeline filled with people who want to be there
- Set a daily goal for prospect moves and watch annual totals beat expectations