Here is a crazy-good story for you:
When Brown University began their “Boldly Brown” campaign in July 2003 they had 1,535 people identified as potential major donors. That may sound like a lot, but they had over $1 billion to raise to support scholarships, attract and retain faculty and to upgrade their facilities and research capability. The fundraisers, both paid and volunteer, had some serious work to do if they were going to reach that ambitious goal.
During the course of the seven years to follow, the Brown research team made sure that their alumni records were up-to-date and that the data was as free from error as possible. They used sophisticated screening tools to find people with the means and interest in supporting Brown. They segmented their data to identify new potential donors based on the characteristics of their current loyal supporters. And they researched and fine-tuned the information they had to be sure not to bother people who weren’t likely to be interested in supporting Brown at a higher level.
Because in addition to using these methods to identify future supporters, the other thing we researchers are trying to do is eliminate (to the degree possible) annoying people with unnecessary mail, phone calls and visits when they don’t want them. It’s good business to avoid irritating people, but it’s also a smart way to save money, trees, electricity, and peoples’ valuable time. To be good stewards of past donor dollars.
So what happened?
5,284 new major gift prospects were identified.
That’s more than a 500% increase in potential supporters!
Even more incredible, Brown University received $710 million in new gifts and pledges from those newly identified and upgraded prospects. If you’re thinking “Hmmm, that number looks eerily like it’s nearly three-quarters of the total campaign goal”- you’re catching on. That’s the impact of applied prospect research and analytics – it makes a huge difference.
Brown University reached their goal of $1.4 billion eighteen months early, and went on (during the worst recession of our lifetimes) to garner over $1.6 billion in total support by the time they stopped counting in December of 2010.
Can their success be yours?
Sure, Brown University is a huge organization. And yes, they have a crack research and analytics team headed by Elizabeth Crabtree, a brilliant leader in our field. But the techniques Brown used can be applied to your nonprofit and scaled to your needs. What are the building blocks?
- A cause that provides measurable results and inspires loyal support;
- A multi-faceted prospect identification program that is funded to scale;
- Policies and metrics for prospect relationship management;
- Highly skilled prospect researchers/analysts who are both strategists and tacticians;
- Effective collaboration between the research team and frontline fundraisers;
- Inspired and engaging fundraisers and leadership;
- Inspired and engaged donors and volunteers;
- Stewardship that surprises (pleasantly, of course).
All of this takes time and money as well as a serious commitment of your heart to achieve the kind of success they had. But the results are undeniable:
- Increased participation…
- Increased donations…
- And a solid foundation for future support.
Even if you’re a small organization with a staff of one, you can do this. You’ll need help, obviously, but there’s no time like the present to get started.