By DonorSearch

5 Big Benefits of Fundraising with Wealth Screening

This post was written by Jeri Alcock CFRE, West Coast Sales Manager at DonorSearch. If you could accurately predict the future you’d be a very successful person. You’d spend your days trading stocks at the exact right moment and catching kittens just as they fall from trees. You could be a crime-preventing, disaster-avoiding, money maker. Such seemingly far-fetched dreams. We might not have found a way to predict the world’s future, but we have uncovered a way for fundraisers to predict donors’ futures — prospect research. Prospect research is talked about a lot on this blog, which is quite reasonable given that it is DonorSearch’s specialty. When performing a prospect screening, you’re taking a holistic approach to donor analysis. You want the big picture of a prospect’s giving future, so you look at a combination of worthwhile factors. Take a dash of past giving, a teaspoon of nonprofit involvement, a pinch of real estate ownership, some secret ingredients, and mix it all together to whip up a batch of predictive donor profiles. In thinking about the ingredients that go into creating a prospect profile, we can typically see the various data types dividing into either wealth markers or philanthropic indicators. With wealth screening, nonprofits are looking at wealth markers in particular. Wealth screening is about giving capacity rather than willingness to give. A screening of this sort will answer one key question: How much can this prospect afford to give? Now, you’ll need to look at philanthropic indicators to see if that prospect will actually make the moves to donate, but wealth screening tells nonprofits what their prospects are capable of


By DonorSearch

[Guest Post] Major Gift Study Shows Prospect Research Matters

This blog focuses on the world of prospect research and various related fundraising topics. Today, we’re happy to welcome a contribution from Amy Eisenstein, ACFRE, regarding the recent report, Mastering Major Gifts. Please enjoy!  

Major Gift Study Shows Prospect Research Matters

Did you ever stop to ask yourself, “Does prospect research really matter? And, is it worth the cost?” A new study of more than 660 small and mid-sized nonprofit organizations says YES! Dr. Adrian Sargeant and Amy Eisenstein, ACFRE, set out to answer the question: Can small and mid-sized organizations (with budgets of $10 million or less) really raise major gifts? And if so, how? Answers are revealed in the results of a new research project – click here to download the free report. One of the key findings was the importance of your major gifts pipeline, and who is in it.  To put it another way, having too many first time, prospective donors can be harmful (in the short term) to your bottom line.

New Donors Cost Money

To be more exact, for every additional new, prospective donor in a major gift pipeline, it was costing an organization, on average, $300. In other words, new donor acquisition is an investment. And, if you’re going to be making the investment, you want to do so carefully and with the right prospects. That’s where donor research comes in.

Cultivating Existing Donors Matters

The study also showed that every additional subsequent donor in a major gifts pipeline (i.e., working with your existing major gift donors) resulted in an additional $2,200 in major gifts. The average prospect list for survey participants was around 20 people, so picking the right 20 is an important task.  Prospect research will help you determine exactly which individuals belong in your pipeline at any given time. Prospect research helps inform your decisions about who goes into your major gifts pipeline, which could mean the difference between securing major gifts or not. We’d like to thank DonorSearch for being a valuable partner to the nonprofit sector in conducting this important research. How have you used prospect research to fill your pipeline and secure major gifts? Let us know how. If you’re interested in learning more about major gifts, we suggest that you read DonorSearch’s Guide to Major Gifts. Amy Eisenstein, ACFRE, has been a development professional and fundraising consultant for more than 15 years. Recognized as a leading expert in her field, she’s helped small and large nonprofits alike raise millions of dollars through major gift and capital campaigns, board development, annual fund campaigns, direct mail, and planned gift solicitations. Amy’s primary mission is to make nonprofit development simple. She helps you clear away the complexity and raise funds much more effectively.   

By DonorSearch

[Guest Post] The Shocking Truth about Major Gifts: It’s Not About the Money

This blog focuses on the world of prospect research and various related fundraising topics. To diversify our subject matter, we like to feature the work of our friends and colleagues in the community. Join me in welcoming Claire Axelrad of Clairification and please enjoy her post on major gifts.

The Shocking Truth about Major Gifts: It’s Not about Money

Everyone wants to develop a major gifts program. Or to strengthen their existing major gifts program. Why? Because they want to raise more money. If you approach major gifts development solely from this perspective you’ll ultimately fail. You might raise more money for a little while. But over the long-term you’ll lose more support than you gain. Because it’s not just about money.

Successful, lifelong major donor relationships are about two things:

(1) Impact

(2) Gratitude

The heart of effective fundraising is about uncovering people who share the values your organization enacts; then making a match that enables these people to do something about which they’re passionate. Yes, they end up giving you money to accomplish this end. But it’s not about money. It’s about the impact this money will make. It’s about feeding a hungry family. Saving a grove of trees. Helping an abused woman and child find refuge. Curing a disease. Righting a wrong. Once the gift is made, your job is to show your donor the impact their gift made. To demonstrate gratitude for that impact. To show them again so they’re reminded of the benefits of their investment. To thank them again so they feel truly appreciated. Then, when you think your donor is filled to the brim with the joy of giving, and is ready to re-enact their passion, you show them a way they can do it all over again. Let’s take a closer look at what it takes to build a rich, rewarding relationship with donors you hope to move towards increasing levels of commitment with your charity.

The Right Way to Approach Major Donor Development

First, you must understand your goals:

  • Find an impact to bring donors joy.

  • Authentically demonstrate how your donor makes a difference.

  • Always think from your donor’s perspective.

  • Reach out proactively to help donors joyfully enact their passions.

Find an Impact to Bring Donors Joy Passionate philanthropy is a joyful experience. Giving, according to research, lights up pleasure centers of the brain and releases endorphins that give you joy.  When you show your donors what they can do to be the change they want to see, you’re also making a gift. To do so thoughtfully, you must first become adept at sussing out what your donors cherish.  Then figure out what your organization does that aligns with their values and passions. This can be accomplished through a planned cultivation and stewardship program often known as ‘moves management.’ Authentically Demonstrate How Your Donor Makes a Difference Donors give because they want to make a difference. And they want to be appreciated for caring enough to put their money where their mouth is. You have to mean it; no fake thank-you’s. You can’t be thinking raising money is a ‘necessary evil.’ This is why I want you to channel an attitude of gratitude at all times.  Think. Really think. What is it about your donor that you’re grateful for?  Then you can tell your donor and come across as genuine. And your donor will feel happy and fulfilled. They’ll know they made a good decision to invest with you. Always Think From Your Donor’s Perspective Before you do anything, ask yourself “What will the donor think?  What will the donor feel?” This often means tailoring your approach to align with your donor’s preference. It means giving your donor options. Not insisting they make unrestricted gifts or gifts to programs other than those where their passions lie. This means thinking about how you would feel if the cultivation or solicitation plan you’ve prepared for your prospective donor-investor were directed towards you. Reach Out Proactively If you just sit by the phone waiting for your donor to call not much will happen. Donors need to be wooed and shown that the deepening of their relationship with you will bring them joy. In every interaction, remember to treat your donor with consideration and respect. Don’t make them feel you only care about their money rather than their opinions, feelings and advice. Now that you understand your goals, you need to develop a cultivation and stewardship plan to attain them.

It Takes a Village

Your donor needs to be stewarded continually, every time they interact with your organization. It’s not just about what the development department does. It’s how they’re treated by the receptionist. The gift processor. The volunteer coordinator. The program staff. Even the recipients of philanthropy (e.g., students, alumni, families of clients, and more).  Everyone has a role in creating positive, productive relationships with your donors.

You have to be in the groove all the time.

If you merely act friendly and grateful when you’re in front of donors, but then get snarky and cynical when they’re out of sight, you’ll never be able to create authentic relationships. Because you’ll be in two places – two frames of mind – at the same time. You’ve got to be focused and very clear about your feelings. Otherwise you’re just enacting transactions; not building transformational relationships. Create a culture where folks:
  • Model the joy of giving. Encourage staff and volunteers to (1) connect with the ‘why’ of their affiliation with your organization, and then (2) give accordingly.
  • Listen to each other. Spend time learning what program staff do and also teaching them about fundraising. Share success stories. You can’t learn about the work going on that may connect with prospective donors if you don’t do this. You can’t inspire each other if you don’t do this.
  • Listen to your constituents. Regularly engage with folks. Ask them for feedback and advice. You can’t learn what floats people’s boats if you don’t listen.
  • Keep everyone – staff, volunteers and donors – in the loop. Connect the dots for each other. Development staff should make it a regular practice to let other staff and volunteers know how the great job they did resulted in an act of philanthropy to continue your mission. Make it clear that philanthropy happens because of needs being successfully addressed by your organization; not because of development staff. Make all of your staff and volunteers – your entire village – the heroes.
  • Treat everyone like a major donor. Instill a ‘customer’-centered culture where everyone is treated with consideration, honor and gratitude. You don’t always know who your current and potential major donors are.
  • Make stewardship a priority. A donor-centered culture flows naturally from a customer-centered culture. When you’re used to thinking your job is to learn what your constituents desire and to make your constituents happy, it’s easy to extend this to donors.
When you think major gifts fundraising is just about asking for money, you miss the whole point. It’s not about the money. It’s about the transformative power of that money. What it can accomplish. How it can create an outsized impact to make the world a better place. So don’t concentrate all your energies on the solicitation. You may get the gift, but one-time gifts are here today, gone tomorrow. Plan ahead to continue building authentic relationships with your supporters. Impact. Gratitude. Authenticity. That’s the right approach to transform a one-time transaction into something longer lasting.  

Claire Axelrad , J.D., CFRE was named Outstanding Fundraising Professional of the Year by the Association of Fundraising Professionals and brings 30 years frontline development and marketing experience to her work as principal of Clairification. A sought-after coach and consultant, Claire is a member of the Rogare Fundraising Think Tank Relationship Fundraising Advisory Panel and writes monthly columns for Nonprofit Pro and Maximize Social Business. Clairification was named “Best Fundraising Blog of 2013” by FundRaising Success Magazine. A member of the California State Bar and a graduate of Princeton University, Claire currently resides in San Francisco California.


By DonorSearch

5 Ways to Determine if a Prospect Has Significant Real Estate Holdings

This post was written by Bill Tedesco, CEO of DonorSearch Real estate holdings are the wealth marker extraordinaire. They are the cream of the crop. Why? Significant real estate ownership can act as more than a wealth marker. It has philanthropic predictive capabilities as well. Those who own $2+ million in real estate are 17 times as likely to give as an average prospect is. With trends like that, it is easy to see why real estate ownership can be so significant in analyzing a donor’s giving capacity. In order to get to the point where you utilize real estate ownership as a tool to better understand giving capacity, you have to first better understand the research that goes into uncovering real estate ownership.

Below, you’ll find five ways your nonprofit can investigate real estate ownership and discover if any of your prospects or donors has significant holdings.

The first three methods listed refer specifically to the process of hunting down details on properties. In particular, you’ll need to know a property’s:
  • Market value
  • Taxable value
Once you have that information, consider points four and five. The final two suggestions take the word “significant” into account. They should help your team decide how to classify their findings after extensive research.

1. Let a screening tool help.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t open this discussion by advising you to consider letting a prospect screening do the heavy lifting. By analyzing data from a charitable giving database among other resources, you can learn more about your donor’s:
  • Real estate holdings
  • What those holdings mean
  • How they apply to various other predictive factors for the donor you’re investigating.
For more information, read through this discussion of our charitable giving database.

2. Use a real estate website.

If you have an internet connection and your prospect’s address, there are various free search tools you can use to discover details on your donor’s property(ies). Zillow We recommended Zillow as one of our prospect research tools here and with good reason. With Zillow, you can search a donor’s address and retrieve the website’s Zestimate. The Zestimate is not a hard and fast appraisal, but it will give you a good ballpark. You can also see the most recent sale price. The investigative value of that price will vary depending on how recently the prospect purchased the home. Similar to Zillow, will give an estimate and the sale history. Switch the search option to property records and type the address into the empty field. Once you have your desired location pulled up, move from the overview tab to the property history tab. There, you’ll find the purchase price and the date of purchase. Trulia Trulia has comparable features to and Zillow. For Trulia searches, you’ll be taking advantage of the recently sold option. At the end of the day, pick the resource you use based on the user-experience that is most appealing. 

3. Search a county tax assessor’s site.

Visit to locate the tax assessor’s website for the county of the address you’re interested in. When you arrive at the specific county’s website, your search will be dictated by the capacity of the county’s searchable database. Sometimes you’ll need the owner’s name and address, while other times the name or the address will be sufficient on its own.

4. Consider geography in your analysis.


By donorsearch

DonorSearch’s Charitable Giving Database

The strongest indicator of future giving is past giving. Curious how we know? We know past giving’s role in predicting future giving because we have back tested our predictive models against $5 billion in known giving. That $5 billion came from 2 million donors to 400 fundraising organizations. Look at these statistics:
  • A donor who has made a gift of $100k+ to a nonprofit organization is 32 times as likely to donate charitably as an average person is.
  • A donor who has made a gift between $50k – $100k to a nonprofit organization is 25 times as likely to donate charitably as an average person is.
  • A donor who has made a gift between $10k – $25k to a nonprofit organization is 10 times as likely to donate charitably as an average person is.
  • A donor who has made a gift between $5k – $10k to a nonprofit organization is 5 times as likely to donate charitably as an average person is.


By DonorSearch

[Guest Post] Isn’t it all a bit distasteful?

This blog focuses on the world of prospect research and various related fundraising topics. To diversify our subject matter, we like to feature the work of our friends and colleagues in the community. Join me in welcoming Susie Hills of Graham-Pelton and please enjoy her post on wealth screening. I recently asked someone who was leading a charity whether they had wealth screened their database. They responded with discomfort and said, “Isn’t it rather distasteful to find out how rich someone is?” Their view was that we should treat everyone in the same way, and those who are richer will automatically give more. I couldn’t have disagreed more strongly. We spend years recruiting supporters, volunteers, and donors. We keep their records on our databases, and we use that data in more or less sophisticated ways depending on the resources and skills we have in our organisations. Whatever form our data is in, it represents a bank of time, energy, investment, and commitment from our side and from those whose names we keep. It may be a ‘mass’ of data but each record represents a personal relationship with our cause. It still surprises me that a charity I worked for and gave to for years and persuaded my friends and family to support never realised the depth of my loyalty to them and the complexity of my relationship with them. When I finally stopped giving to them (due to the two-dimensional transactional nature of their communications) they never really contacted me in a personal way to explore why – I was not an individual supporter rather a name on a list, part of normal donor attrition. I would have been a lifelong donor and a legacy pledger had they simply kept great records on my relationship with them and tailored their approaches to me. We owe it to ourselves, our donors, our volunteers and our beneficiaries to use our data in really smart ways? To be highly efficient, effective, personal and responsive in our fundraising? This is what is expected of us. The people whose names inhabit our databases – people like us – are used to being communicated with in very sophisticated, tailored ways. When we go online, the ad that appears is for a retailer we bought from last week. When we visit a website, the content is tailored to the clicks we made yesterday. Our supermarket sends us vouchers for things we regularly buy or might want to buy based on what they know about us.  We can even tailor our news feed to give us the news we want and are interested in. Our world is becoming increasingly a highly bespoke world and this makes us increasingly intolerant of ‘cold calls’ and ‘blanket mailings’. In fact when it comes to charities approaching us in these ways, some of us are becoming infuriated and some parts of the media are stoking this fury. I am sure all fundraisers would agree that we should use our data to tailor our approaches so that they most closely match the interests and wishes of our supporters. Surely, we should similarly design asks that also match their ability to give. When we wealth screen our databases, we are simply accessing publicly held information on an individual’s wealth, roles, and interests. Isn’t it only responsible and thoughtful to know if one of our supporters has given a big donation to a similar cause?  Or to be aware they are a trustee of a grant making trust you are applying to? Wouldn’t a very wealthy supporter prefer that you approached them personally for a meaningful and impactful major gift, rather than send them a letter asking for £50 or £100 a few times a year? If we want to build long-term, meaningful relationships with our supporters then knowledge of their philanthropic interests and ability to give is vital.


5 Big Benefits of Fundraising with Wealth Screening
[Guest Post] Major Gift Study Shows Prospect Research Matters
[Guest Post] The Shocking Truth about Major Gifts: It’s Not About the Money
12 Mind-Blowing Major Donor Fundraising Strategies
5 Ways to Determine if a Prospect Has Significant Real Estate Holdings
DonorSearch’s Charitable Giving Database
[Guest Post] Isn’t it all a bit distasteful?