5 Steps to Follow Before and After Your Wealth Screening

Guest Post by Vidya Kagan, Menlo School

Perhaps you’ve just signed up for your first wealth screening tool – congratulations and how exciting! Even if you’ve been doing this for a long while, this post is full of real-world best practices for your first or even your 100th wealth screening!

Research is a vital part of your job and your organization, and now you have the tools in iWave at your disposal to be more effective at your job. It can be tempting to go “hog wild” with all of the various functions in iWave. I suggest, however, that you create a thoughtful plan and go about your research in a methodical way. The first step: screen your database. Screening helps you to focus your prospect research efforts.

As mentioned in iWave’s Prospect Research Cheat Sheet, screening is defined as “a point in time scan of individuals in a donor management system (DMS) to identify and prioritize top prospective donors based on their wealth, philanthropic, and biographical information.” With this in mind, here are 5 tips on how to screen your database and review and use the results.

Step 1

Use your credits.  Screening all of the constituents in your database once every 2 years is a good practice because things change!  People may change jobs, move to a new house or city, buy additional real estate, donate to more organizations or donate more to the same organizations, and take on new volunteer roles. To make your work more manageable, I suggest segmenting your constituents into several categories and running each segment through iWave’s screening tool.  

For example, in my school, we research, cultivate, and solicit current parents, alumni, past parents, and grandparents, so I run separate screenings for each constituent type. The main benefit of using the screening tool in iWave is the ability to customize your screen; for example, you can set filters for affinities and capacity rating. Since I work at a school, I set my affinities filters to “education”’ because I want to see which educational organizations my donors are giving to and identify patterns.

Step 2

Review your screening results.  After the screen is complete, click on “export project” and view your entire list, with the iWave results, in Excel. You can also view and work with your results within iWave if you prefer.  Spot-check a few records and make sure everything looks right. For example, you may have a donor with a common name like John Smith, which will result in many more records being selected by iWave, all of which may not pertain to your John Smith.

Step 3

Prioritize your results.  One way to prioritize your results is to sort by the iWave score or by “estimated giving capacity.”   Needless to say, focus on those who have high scores and high capacities, as determined by iWave. You might also want to sort by location so that you can focus on prospects in your own backyard before doing research on those farther afield.

Step 4

Dig deep.  iWave makes it easy to generate research profiles for the prospects on your list.  After you have the basic profile from iWave, validate and verify the existing records and dig deeper into the prospect by running searches on real estate, donations, family foundations, and businesses, to name a few.  If your prospect includes two adults in the household (spouses), remember to run a search on each person to maximize the number of results and quality of your research.

Step 5

Apply your screening and research results to your projects.  There’s a lot you can do with your screening results, and it can be done fairly quickly.  For example, every summer I screen our incoming families in iWave, sort the results, and determine who we can target for Annual Fund leadership asks ($5,000 or higher, at our school).  I then present those results to my Director of Annual Giving and we work together to finalize ask amounts for these incoming families. When screening alumni for reunion purposes, I screen them class by class (e.g., class of 1984, class of 1989) and then identify the top prospects for my Alumni Director to focus on.  “Real Estate” results can be another helpful data point for you and your team (see iWave’s suggestions here).

For example, during my in-depth research on particular prospects, if I find that a prospect has a vacation home in Hawaii, for example, I will offer that information to my colleague who plans our annual auction with the thought that she can approach that family and ask them to donate their home as an auction item.  Furthermore, a prospect with multiple real estate holdings will tell me that they may likely be a major gift prospect ($100,000 or higher, at our school) that my campaign and major gifts colleagues should approach.

Screening your database is the first and one of the most important steps in your research process.  A comprehensive screening in iWave can provide an immense amount of data and help you learn a lot about your constituents in a short amount of time.  With a proper screen, you can prioritize your prospects and present concise, coherent research plans to your colleagues, which will set all of you on paths to fundraising success.


About the author: Vidya Kagan is the Director of Data Management and Research at Menlo School, an independent day school in Atherton, CA.  She has been in development for more than 16 years, specifically in higher education and independent schools. During her 6 years in Harvard Law School’s development office, she was responsible for the annual fund, reunion fundraising, volunteer management, donor relations, and events.  At Noble & Greenough School, she served as the Director of Annual Giving for 3 years and as the Director of Major Gifts & Campaigns for 2 years. Her responsibilities included leadership solicitations, campaign planning, and volunteer management. She joined Menlo School’s development team in 2013. Vidya is a frequent speaker and presenter at industry conferences and webinars, and has written articles related to data, databases, and research. She has collaborated with iWave, Salesforce, CASE-NAIS, AFP and Women in Development (Boston, MA).

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