Predicting the Future With Past Giving

“Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who’s the best major gift prospect of them all?”

Unfortunately, there are no magic tricks or easy shortcuts when it comes to prospect research and fundraising. Sometimes it’s hard enough to find your prospect’s middle name!

But what we do have are proven indicators of major gift potential. One of the best indicators, as we’ve mentioned many times in the iWave Blog, is past giving. If your prospect has donated in the past, she is more likely to donate again now or in the future.

It makes sense, right? Everyone wants to attract high net-worth individuals to their cause. But if the prospect in question has never donated a single philanthropic dollar, or has never donated to any cause related to yours, maybe you should be looking at other prospects first. Wealth capacity is not always the be-all-end-all of a great prospect (although it certainly helps).

Two Birds, One Stone

If you’ve read our previous posts on propensity, affinity, and capacity, you understand that the three ratings work in tandem. When you can prove your case with all three ratings, you know have a great prospect on your hands. If you are missing (or worse, ignoring) one or two of these indicators, you’re missing the bigger picture.

Researching past giving delivers on two key prospect ratings: propensity and affinity.

For the uninitiated, propensity means your prospect’s likelihood to give.

Affinity, meanwhile, defines your prospect’s likelihood to give to your cause.

See the difference? Not everyone does, and not everyone thinks these ratings are even necessary. Hence, the popularity of wealth screenings. But in recent times, researchers and fundraisers have complained that wealth screenings are expensive and return inflated results. False-positives don’t lead to major gifts!

If you find giving records when researching a prospect, there is already clear evidence of propensity. Next, identify where the gifts are going to (A hospital? A museum?) and you will gain clues about the prospect’s preferred causes.

Consider An Example

Here’s a real individual in iWave, but we’ll give him the name of David G. Let’s search for Mr. G. in New York. For now, let’s exclude all records found on Mr. G. from a 360 Search and in individual datasets. Instead, let’s focus just on iWave’s VeriGift charitable giving database. Here is just some of the insight to be found:

  • Gift year
  • Recipient Name
  • Gift amount
  • Gift type (annual, cumulative, capital campaign, etc.)
  • Recipient Name
  • Link to the original source (annual report, Form 990, etc.)

Mr. G. has 104 major gift records in VeriGift alone. We can see he has an extensive philanthropic history (with some gifts over $1 million) and contributes to a variety of organizations. It also looks like he as a strong affinity to arts and culture as well as healthcare. Is he a viable candidate to give to your university or community college? Perhaps, but your fundraiser may have to adjust her pitch to appeal to Mr. G.’s interests.

What’s iWave Got to Do, Got to Do With It?

There is a lot of industry buzz around predictive modeling. This process involves mining your internal giving data to identify trends, uncover prospects, or adjust your current “asks.” Meanwhile, wealth screening focuses on identifying prospects using external data. From consultants to researchers and everyone in between, the debate is often framed as “predictive modeling vs. wealth screening.”

What if you didn’t have to choose?

iWave Screening is not “predictive modeling” nor is it “wealth screening.” It’s what we like to call prospect screening – a 360-degree look at the best internal and external major gift prospects that have the capacity and inclination to donate to your nonprofit.

The best prospect development strategy is a mix of internal and external research. When you submit a list of prospects to iWave Screening, we match those prospects against over billions of wealth, biographic, and philanthropic records. We also perform an RFM (recency-frequency-monetary) scan of your existing donors. Then, we return results that help you segment and pinpoint your best donors.

Intelligent Fundraising

Researching for wealth indicators won’t give you the full picture. Neither will screening only external records, or mining your own database. Rather, a holistic process is necessary to find the right major gift prospects. If you know your prospect’s giving history, you know their propensity and affinity. Combine that with wealth and biographic records found independently or with your prospect research tool, and you could be on your way to major gift success. We call that intelligent fundraising.



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