Here’s a common scenario: A nonprofit university is planning a capital campaign to build a new Center for the Humanities. Knowing that most effective capital campaigns rely on large initial gifts, the university wants to raise approximately 50% to 70% of its campaign goal during the campaign’s “quiet phase” before moving to a broader public one.
However, the fundraisers are in a bind. Reaching out to everyone in their database would effectively push the campaign public before raising the necessary base funds. On the other hand, they don’t have the time or resources to manually go through each alumni profile in their database. Moreover, they may not even know who their wealthiest donors are.
Luckily, this is the situation for which nonprofit wealth screening was born. With more than ten years of wealth screening experience, AlumniFinder has seen the robust impact wealth screening and data-driven intelligence can have on nonprofit fundraising. This guide will explore the fundamentals of wealth screening for nonprofits. We’ll look at:
- What Is Wealth Screening?
- How Does Wealth Screening Help Nonprofits?
- What Data Should Wealth Screening Include?
- Wealth Screening Best Practices
- How to Choose a Wealth Screening Service
Before you begin your wealth screening journey, you’ll want to develop a goal that fits in with your nonprofit’s strategic documents and long-term plans. For example: Are you preparing for a capital campaign like the one described above? Are you looking to build your reserves? Fund scholarships? Start a new program? Or hire more staff? Your answer will impact when and how you’ll conduct a wealth screening for your nonprofit.
What Is Wealth Screening?
A crucial element of the prospect research and fundraising process, wealth screening helps nonprofits identify and target prospective and existing donors with the greatest capacity to give and the highest likelihood of supporting their mission.
Nonprofit wealth screening tools leverage public record data, proprietary philanthropy databases, and data-driven algorithms to determine an individual’s potential for future giving based on a combination of their past information (such as giving history) and current assets.
How Does Wealth Screening Help Nonprofits?
Don’t play darts with your donors. Trying to pick your wealthiest donors based on your best guesses—or worse, inaccurate data—wastes time and resources.
In many cases, wealth screening can improve the efficiency and effectiveness of your fundraising campaigns by allowing you to focus your efforts on the donors and prospective donors most likely to give. Let’s take a look at four specific ways wealth screening can benefit your organization:
1. Create Realistic Fundraising Goals
Because wealth screening can help your organization gain insight into each current and prospective donor’s giving capacity, it can also help you set your fundraising expectations. Once you have an estimate of the donation capacity of each person in your database, you can establish a realistic fundraising goal for your nonprofit or university and make a plan for any additional fundraising efforts necessary to fill your budget.
2. Plan Your Ask Strategy
An ask strategy includes when, how, why, and how much you request donors to give to your cause. For example: Ask for too much, and donors feel like they’re being fleeced. Ask for too little, and you’ve left money on the table. Use wealth screening to better understand giving capacity alongside communication preferences, and then tailor your ask amounts and campaigns for each accordingly.
3. Determine Matching Gift Eligibility
Wealth screening can help you make the most of every donation. Use wealth screening to identify supporters’ employers. Then reach out to supporters who work for companies that offer matching gifts. As a result, you can double—or even triple or quadruple—the impact of each eligible donation.
4. Find Prospective Major Donors
Fundraising isn’t middle-school kickball. Major donors probably aren’t waving their arms in the air, saying, “Pick me! Pick me!”
Rather, in most cases, you need to go out and find them. Wealth screenings can help you accomplish this, quickly identifying potential donors according to their current assets and past giving to similar organizations, without wasting your time and energy on those who are unlikely to give.
Wondering how to sift through your records to determine your most likely donors? In the next section, we’ll look at the important wealth and philanthropic indicators you should look for in a major donor.
What Data Should Wealth Screening Include?
To maximize the benefits of nonprofit wealth screening, you need to screen for the most impactful characteristics. After many years of conducting nonprofit wealth screenings and fundraising prospect research, we’ve identified the following philanthropic and financial indicators that best predict a donor’s giving behavior:
“Is a donor likely to give to my nonprofit?” That’s the question philanthropic indicators aim to answer. Such indicators address an individual’s propensity to charitable giving and tend to fall under three categories:
- Past giving. Past giving to your nonprofit is one of the best indicators of future giving. In these cases, you’ve already done your job successfully once. Now, it’s only a matter of doing it again! Wealth screening helps uncover these previous donors so that you can then reach back out. While past giving to your nonprofit is crucial, giving to other nonprofit organizations can also help identify generally philanthropic-minded donors who would likely connect with your mission.
- Nonprofit engagement history. With wealth screening, you can identify other types of supporter involvement, such as volunteerism and board membership, that indicate an investment in your cause and a higher chance of donating.
- Political giving. Studies show that donors who give over $2,500 in FEC campaigns are 14 times more likely to give to charity. Use wealth screening to specifically target this group and tailor your messaging to their interests.
Knowing a donor’s interest in donating to your cause is crucial in the wealth screening process. Even if they have the money to give, if they’re not interested in your cause, converting them into donors will be a challenging and unpleasant task.
As crucial as philanthropic information may be, it’s more powerful when paired with donors’ wealth data. In addition to income and net worth, you should also consider the following factors when assessing an individual’s capacity to give:
- Business affiliations. Wealth screening can reveal information about donors’ careers, employers, and salaries.
- Stock ownership. Not only does stock ownership give you an idea of a donor’s relative wealth and ability to give, but it can also be a method of giving. As a registered 501(c)(3), you can accept donations of stocks and securities in addition to typical cash giving.
- Home value. Real estate ownership can be an excellent indicator of wealth and philanthropy. In fact, homeowners with over $2 million in real estate are 17 times more likely to give to charity than the average person.
In collecting this data, you might also consider screening for indirect wealth indicators, such as age, marital status, and education.
Ideally, you want to target the cross-section of donors with high philanthropic indicators and high wealth indicators. However, depending on your fundraising goals, you may adjust this focus. For example, for a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign, you might contact retirees with smaller incomes but larger networks and more time.
In addition to wealth and philanthropic data on your donors and potential donors, you should also have their up-to-date contact information. This includes the following:
- Preferred name and title
- Mailing address
- Landline and cell phone
- Email address
- Social media profiles
Without this contact information, you’ll have no way to reach them and request their financial support. If you’re missing this information, a data enhancement tool or data append service can help!
However, for the greatest impact, make sure to vary your outreach methods and their contents. You don’t want your donors to feel like you’re only contacting them for their money.
Use a combination of email newsletters, direct mail event invitations, and regular updates on social media platforms to engage donors and potential donors. Supplement your outreach efforts with more personalized communication for major supporters, such as phone calls and in-person meetings.
Wealth Screening Best Practices
If you’ve decided wealth screening is for you, the next step is to develop a plan according to wealth screening best practices. Before (and after!) you jump into collecting new data or assessing your donors’ giving capacity, make sure you’ve cleaned your database, created segments, and leveraged a wealth screening expert service.
Clean Your Database
Data hygiene is fundamental to a well-oiled wealth screening machine. When you have clean data, the results of your wealth screening will be more accurate and trustworthy.
Generally, the cleaning process involves evaluating the state of your current database, and then removing duplicate, inaccurate, and outdated data—also known as dirty data. When cleaning your database:
- Remove duplicate information.
- Purge lapsed (and deceased) donors.
- Update outdated/missing contact information.
- Standardize nonstandard entries.
Going forward, create detailed and specific data entry procedures and training that explain how anyone in your organization should collect, enter, and correct data. When you have proper data hygiene processes in place, you’ll ultimately save time and energy and put your nonprofit in a better long-term fundraising position.
Segmentation works by dividing the vast ocean that is your database into smaller, manageable buckets. Specific segments help identify patterns and trends and better target your wealthiest prospects. Nonprofits should segment data for wealth screening according to the philanthropic and wealth indicators discussed above.
Additionally, you might consider segmenting your screenings into even smaller, more specialized categories for more targeted results. For example, within the larger engagement history category, you might break down supporters into the following categories:
- Recurring donors
- New donors
- Major donors
- Lapsed donors
- Event attendees
Ultimately, when you segment your donors, you can capture more targeted, detailed results, adjust your fundraising strategies according to different populations, and make the most of your screening.
Leverage an Expert Screening Service
Finally, since DIY wealth screening can turn into a labor-intensive, costly practice, screening services and software can help cut down on costs, speed up the process, improve your results, and answer questions.
Instead of screening prospective donors one by one, wealth screening software lets you screen hundreds or thousands of donors at a time, scoring each donor’s capacity and affinity to give. Now, let’s take a look at what you should look for in a wealth screening service.
How to Choose a Wealth Screening Service
Choosing the right wealth screening service can make a big difference. Not only does each provider have different processes, databases, and tools, but they also come from different industry backgrounds. As a nonprofit, you want a service with experience in the nonprofit industry! You don’t want to spend long phone calls explaining the differences between your donors.
Thus, to get the most out of your wealth screening experience, we’ve listed the features nonprofits should look for from their screening service provider:
- On-demand online access that allows you to search, analyze and prioritize individuals or batches of donors whenever you need to.
- Manual verification processes of top prospects’ information for increased accuracy when identifying and cultivating major donors.
- Top-quality customer service that answers your questions, trains your team, and provides additional screening support at no extra cost.
- Integrated features that make it easy to import results into your existing donor management system.
- Prospect generators that help identify new major donors and planned giving prospects based on sophisticated modeling and analytics.
Ultimately, we believe that there’s more than one way to complete a wealth screening. The screening service you choose should offer custom tools and flexibility to meet your unique data-based fundraising needs.
For example, AlumniFinder is a veteran in the fundraising space, offering comprehensive wealth screening services in addition to data hygiene and enhancement, easy-to-use online prospect research tools, and fundraising analytics.
With the right fundraising tools at your side, you’ll engage supporters, increase revenue, and create high-value long-term relationships.
Interested in how wealth screening can fit into your nonprofit’s development plan? We’ve compiled additional resources on nonprofit data-driven fundraising.
- Doing Major Gifts the Right Way. In this guide, find the tools and steps to researching, finding, and acquiring major gift donors.
- Data Quality Report. How clean is your database? Check the accuracy of your data and identify gaps in your records with AlumniFinder’s free Data Quality Report.
- The Essential Guide to Alumni Giving and Fundraising. Fundraising for a school, college, or university? Follow this guide for more ways to boost your alumni giving program.