Preparing Your Donor Prospect Screen Step-By-Step

    You have mapped out your screening goals and chosen your screening tool.  What are the next steps when preparing and submitting a donor prospect screen?  These five steps will take you there:

    Step 1. Clean Up Your Database

    No matter which screening solution you choose or how advanced technology becomes, the results will always include some errors.  These errors are often simple things: misspelled names and addresses, outdated data, and empty fields in your database. Screening bad data won’t produce actionable results.

    First, consolidate duplicate records.  Then, update old information when and where possible.  With your team, define a set of rules for regular data hygiene.  Example: data older than 2 years should be updated, or, if not useful, deleted.  Try to include contact information, internal giving records (gift date, gift amount, gift frequency), and existing relationship data.

    If you are screening in batches (made easier by the advent of automated screening), this reduces your workload by updating segments of your database over a period of time.

    Step 2. Prepare the Template

    Depending on the screening vendor you choose, you will receive an input template or have the opportunity to download it yourself.  For PROscreen, the template is an Excel spreadsheet with a number of rows and columns.  

    In their book, Prospect Research For Fundraisers, Jennifer Filla and Helen Brown suggest most screening vendors require some combination of the following information:

    • Constituent ID
    • First name
    • Last name
    • Middle name / initial
    • Home address
    • City
    • State
    • Zip (five or nine digits)
    • Postal code (Canada)
    • First name (spouse)
    • Last name (spouse)
    • Spouse’s middle name / initial
    • Constituent’s or spouse’s maiden name (if applicable)
    • Gender
    • Constituent type

    Input as much information as possible for best results.  Add rows as you require, but remember to maintain the existing template in its original format.  Deleting or rearranging columns could result in errors or incomplete results.

    Step 3. Do a Trial Run

    Consider running a small sample screen before submitting a larger list.  A test is beneficial because you can adjust your settings and template accordingly.  When performing the test, Helen Brown and Jen 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.

    Within the PROfiles section of PRO, you can perform the Create Multiple PROfile function.  This acts like a mini screen, where you can download a template and submit names to create 50 PROfiles automatically.  Or, you could submit these same names to PROscreen and create the PROfiles yourself by adding/deleting records as you see fit.

    Step 4. Submit the File

    When you have filled in all the information you need, it’s time to submit the file back to the vendor.  With some vendors, submitting is a manual process and it may take days or weeks before you get your results back.  

    One benefit of PROscreen is the ability to submit your template within iWave’s prospect research tool, PRO.  We’ve designed a sophisticated record-matching process that returns results to you in hours, sometimes minutes.

    If you don’t have the time to clean and screen your entire database, consider segmenting the database.  Try screening these groups:

    • Significant reunion classes
    • Constituents that were previously lost and recently found
    • New patients, members, and non-alumni parents and grandparents
    • Season-ticket holders, purchasers of luxury box seats, or repeat ticket buyers
    • New donors giving above a particular threshold
    • Donors in selected states or geographic regions

    Step 5. Verify and Analyze

    And now what?  Not so fast!  We’ll get into the final (and most important) step of the screening process next week.

    In the meantime, check out our previous blog posts on screening best practices and when to screen your donors.    

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    About the author: Ryan McCarvill is iWave’s Content Manager.  He 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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