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.
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