5 Reasons to Screen Small, Screen Often

When planning your next wealth screen, you may wonder how many donors and prospects you should include.  Is it better to screen a thousand names?  Ten thousand?  Your entire donor database?

Generally speaking, no wealth screen size is “better” than another.  The size of your screen depends on a variety of factors including project goals, time, and your team’s ability to take quick action once you have your results.

If wealth screening is a new concept or the idea of launching a huge screening project is too daunting, consider the benefits of running several small screens over a period of time.

You can screen with different objectives in mind.

With iWave’s screening platform, there are many ways to filter and segment these results.  These features are especially helpful to make sense of large and complex screening projects.  So why bother with so many little projects when you can get it all done at once?

That’s a good point, and something you should consider when you plan your next screen.  But even with all the filters available, a single screening project will still have a particular focus.  If you run smaller projects more often, you can explore a wide range of giving opportunities.  These may include:

  • Determine if current donors can contribute larger gifts (and if they are already doing so with other organizations);
  • Model (1) major gift, (2) annual gift, and (3) planned gift donor profiles based on the wealth capacities and philanthropic histories of past and current donors;
  • Develop ideal donor profiles based on qualitative and quantitative assessments of screening results over time;
  • Identify new gift prospects who fit those ideal donor profiles; and
  • Reconsider, and if necessary revamp, old fundraising approaches with new strategies based on cutting-edge internal and external giving data.

You can easily identify and correct mistakes.

Imagine submitting a screening project of 10,000 names, only to realize you selected the wrong affinity category.  Yikes!  Even though the good folks at iWave are happy to help get you back on track, it pays to make those silly mistakes during a trial run.

Consider running a small sample screen before submitting a larger list.  A test list is beneficial because you can adjust your settings and template accordingly.  

When performing the test, consultants Helen Brown and Jennifer Filla recommend submitting three groups within your overall test screen:

  • 20 individuals you know well;
  • 20 you know something about; and
  • 20 that represent a cross section of each of your constituent types.

You can work through the results with greater efficiency.

There have been major advancements in the ease-of-use of screening in recent years. Wealth screens no longer requires weeks and months to prepare, and receiving results could take as little as hours or minutes.  But if you receive a list of hundreds of thousands of names, you will still need to devote a lot of time to verifying and capitalizing on those results.

If you work with screening projects of a few hundred names each, you will be able to quickly verify accuracy, share findings, and create profiles.  Not only will you work faster, but you will also stay fresh and invested in each project.  Screening ten thousand names is a slog; screening two hundred names is an insightful exercise that will help you get to know your organization’s donors and prospects on a more personal level.      

Your results will be more timely.

A development thought-leader at Apra’s ARC conference suggested that 25% of an organization’s data is lost every year.  That means each year, up to 25% of your donors churn out for a variety of reasons.  

To curb these losses, you can screen batches of donors throughout the year to keep the database current and relevant.  Over the last few years in fact, iWave has seen that clients are screening smaller batches frequently rather than screening an entire database just once every few years.  Part of this trend is because iWave’s screening platform is a user-friendly self-serve platform where you can submit a project within mere minutes and get results within 48 hours or less.

Donors and prospects are human beings who live dynamic lives.  Their personal, financial, and philanthropic lives are in constant flux.  If you screen early and often, you will be better prepared to make the right major gift ask at the right time.

You can gather knowledge and momentum to launch “the big one.”

Practice makes perfect.  After running a series of small wealth screens, you may decide it’s time to try something a little more challenging.  Maybe a big capital campaign is looming on the horizon, or it’s time to clean out your aged donor database.

Take the lessons you’ve learned from your previous projects and apply those same principles to the large wealth screen.

About the author: Ryan McCarvill joined the iWave team in 2016. Ryan enjoys meeting and learning from nonprofit professionals, researching trends in the nonprofit community, and offering strategies for development teams to use iWave’s solutions to meet and exceed their fundraising goals.  

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