By donorsearch

ProspectView Plus Ratings Explained

Analyzing prospect research without donor ratings is like getting stuck in traffic. Eventually, you’ll get where you need to be, but it doesn’t have to take so long. With DonorSearch’s ratings system, identify top prospects fast to move forward with your fundraising.

How Does DonorSearch Score Prospects?

DonorSearch uses three rating systems to turn volumes of prospect data into intelligible identifiers. Our two unique scores are presented first, followed by a third universal scoring system: DS Rating — This proprietary scoring system provides a ranking of a prospect’s ability and propensity to make major donations. These scores range from as low as DS3 to as high as DS1-1, and account for a wide array of information, such as wealth markers, real estate holdings, and philanthropic history, in order to deliver a quality indicator of potential giving. Quality Score — Quality score is a confidence level that wealth and philanthropy records have been correctly matched to a prospect’s name and address. This is a threshold indicator, and any score above 17 equates to a high level of confidence. Common names, such as Michael Williams, can affect quality scores, as lots of people have these names, so it can be challenging to ensure that the records are correct. To ensure a consistent level of quality, we will manually review 100 prospects out of every bulk screening – if you want to learn more please contact a DonorSearch representative. RFM Total — This universal rating system provides an internal analysis of the relationship you have with each of your prospects, which is a fancy way of saying that RFM measures existing donor loyalty. RFM includes how RECENTLY the prospect donated, how FREQUENTLY the prospect gives, and the total amount of MONEY given. Each category is scored on a 100-point scale for a total score out of 300. 300 is the highest rating and indicates the greatest likelihood of donating.

Where Can I Find the Ratings on my Screening Results?

The gold color is the distinctive mark of the DS Rating System in your screening results, the ‘Overall’ column is the prospect’s quality score, and RFM Total is labeled as such.

Why Did We Create Our Ratings?

You could lose a lot of time analyzing prospect research. DonorSearch’s proprietary ratings make it simple for researchers to identify high-quality prospects. DS Ratings differentiate between ‘wealthy’ prospects and ‘wealthy + likely to give’ prospects by incorporating philanthropic history into the equation, alongside traditional wealth markers. This means that your donors are rated according to their capacities to give, as well as their affinities for charitable giving. Prospects with money are not as beneficial as prospects with money who want to donate.

DS Ratings Explained

From highest to lowest likelihood to give:
  1. DS1-1 — Exact match as a donor giving $5,000 or more to a nonprofit or political organization found in our giving history archive. A DS1-1 rated prospect may have markers of wealth or may only be matched to a significant giving history, and have no notable wealth markers.
  2. DS1-2 — Exact match to exceptional markers of wealth: LexisNexis real estate holdings of $2 million+, D&B business executive at firms with revenues of $5 million+, GuideStar Foundation Trustees, SEC Insiders, and Market Guide Executives.
  3. DS1-3 — Exact match to lower, but notable markers of wealth, including LexisNexis real estate holdings totaling $1-2 million, D&B business executive at firms with revenues of $1-5 million, or political giving in excess of $10,000.
  4. DS1-4 — Exact matches to LexisNexis real estate holdings of $500,000-$1 million.
  5. DS1-5 — Exact/very likely matches to individuals giving elsewhere, but at levels less than $5,000.
  6. DS2 — Possible/unconfirmed matches to key databases including foundation trustees, SEC Insiders, Market Guide executives, and business executives.
  7. DS3 — No noteworthy matches to giving history or wealth indicators.

How to Use the Ratings

Sorting prospects is as easy as clicking your desired category. For example, click the DS Rating box to bring your top-rated donors to the top of your list. Don’t you love it when the things you want just come to you? Higher DS ratings hold significant fundraising importance, according to our research:
  • DS1-1 donors were over 15 times more likely to donate than the average individual.
  • DS1-2 donors were over 5 times more likely to donate than the average individual.
  • DS1-3 donors were over 2 times more likely to donate than the average individual.


By donorsearch

How to Prepare for Prospect Screening

Pirates seeking buried treasure don’t want to open up the long-sought chest and discover baby booties. You’re not a pirate, but you want your search to end in gold. Gold being an extensive, accurate list of high quality prospects. Know how to unearth precise prospect data, so that, when you stick your shovel in the ground, you strike prospect gold. All journeys begin well before the big discovery, and preparation can play an equally crucial role in both obtaining and implementing the results of your search.

Clean Up Data

Try to sail a ship with a leak in the hull or dig a hole with a broken shovel. Operations work best when all the parts are in proper working condition. Proper prospect research begins with accurate donor data. It’s no good to submit a list of donors with outdated addresses, phone numbers, and giving histories. You’ll receive results, but they may not be as accurate and as detailed as possible. Submitting clean data makes the rest of the treasure hunt clear sailing. Make sure to clean up your donor database ahead of time to ensure you receive the most accurate results to pinpoint the best prospects.

Provide Data Ahead of Time

Not only does clean data help you, but it aids your prospect research company. At DonorSearch, our data is an industry-best 90% accurate, but no data set is perfect. From philanthropic histories to wealth markers to personal interests, no one knows your donors as well as you. Submitting donor data before your screening takes place will increase screening accuracy and add additional detail to your donor profiles. For example, if you supply a history of past gifts then those donations can be linked to specific instances in DonorSearch’s database. Without prior information, some gifts might get left out or go unaccounted for. When you provide donor information you receive search results with higher quality assurance. However, regardless of the information you submit, DonorSearch provides comprehensive prospect profiles. The information you supply merely helps to improve the results.

Try a Test File

Hoisting a sail requires the crew knowing how to attach the sail to the mast, adjusting the heading for the wind, and trimming both the jib sheets and the mainsail. Details matter, and you want to know how to use your prospect research in order to implement it correctly. DonorSearch screens 200 records for free, so you can get an idea of the service we provide. Submitting a test file is great way to try us out with minimal risk. It will help you to get familiarized with a our suite of tools, research categories, and work processes. Test files also include a free walk-through, where a dedicated sales representative will explain your results over the phone and give you the opportunity to ask any questions. You’ll get familiarized with DonorSearch’s formatting, the data we screen for, the additional services we provide, how our scoring system works, and much more.

Review Your Screening Results for Accuracy

Once your results are in hand, how do you verify their accuracy? DonorSearch includes a quality score for each prospect that indicates the confidence level of a name matching to donor records. It is a threshold indicator, and anything above 17 equates to a high level of confidence. DS rating and RFM total are other DonorSearch ratings systems that ensure profile accuracy. Manual review is not necessary to receive accurate results, but, for quality assurance, DonorSearch employs in-house prospect researchers to spend hours manually reviewing your top prospects, and we’ll do your first 100 for free. This assessment process both eliminates extra time your staff would spend reviewing screening results and raises the typical 70% profile accuracy to results that are an industry-best 90-95% accurate. Manual reviews provide an additional layer of accuracy and analysis to your search results, so you receive the most detailed profiles. Additional manual reviews beyond the first 100 can be discussed with a DonorSearch sales representative. There is gold in your donor lists, and it’s easier to find with accurate prospect research. If you’re new to prospect research or want to learn how to do more then schedule a demo with DonorSearch today.

By donorsearch

What Determines the Cost of Prospect Screening Services?

// We all want to understand why we’re paying for what we’re paying for. From an exquisite steak to concert tickets to mortgages, any time we make an investment, we want to know what we’re investing our hard earned money in. And we deserve to know.

Even though we can’t solve all the world’s mysteries of cost, we can help in one area: prospect research costs. 

Let’s unravel the mystery of the factors that determine the cost of prospect research.

We’ll unravel this mystery by answering five key questions:

  1. Who needs prospect research?
  2. How do nonprofits know if prospect research is worth the cost?
  3. What services go into the cost of prospect research services?
  4. What are the additional services?
  5. Why is prospect research worth the cost?

Click on any of the links above to jump to a particular section. Otherwise, scroll through to learn all about the factors that influence the cost of prospect research and to decide if it’s the right fit for you.

And if you need to learn more about prospect research on the whole, make sure you check out Prospect Research — The Ultimate Guide!


By DonorSearch

5 Fool-Proof Steps to Fundraising With Prospect Research

Identifying major gift donors is an important step towards maximizing your organization’s fundraising efforts. In this guide, well cover five ways your can implement prospect research to better allocate your fundraising efforts:
  1. Prepare a strategy for handling prospect research. 
  2. Clean up old prospect data. 
  3. Analyze prospect screening results. 
  4. Go get those checks. 
jQuery(window).on("hashchange", function () { window.scrollTo(window.scrollX, window.scrollY - 190); }); What are you waiting for? Let’s jump right into the first step!

Step #1: Prepare a Strategy for Handling Prospect Research


By DonorSearch

Expert Advice for Making the Most of Prospect Research

Whether your organization is a seasoned veteran with prospect research or a wide-eyed rookie, you should seek ways to get the most out of your investment. DonorSearch’s team has compiled advice from twenty fundraising experts on how nonprofits can make the most of prospect research this year at your organization.

Use tools and available resources to save time and increase efficiency

Make sure your development team is taking advantage of the various tools and resources available to conduct prospect research. New applications and prospect screening services can improve the effectiveness of your prospect research efforts. Also, explore the free resources available to nonprofits to see how they can supplement your fundraising activities.  Elizabeth S. Zeigler, President of Graham-Pelton Consulting, says:
In 2015 more so than ever before, major gift fundraisers must craft individualized cultivation and solicitation strategies in order to best engage prospective donors and match their interests to the needs of the nonprofit.  Graham-Pelton Consulting relies on DonorSearch research culled from dozens of sources to provide informed counsel that results in solid solicitation strategies and increased confidence in the person that will make the ask of the donor.
Marge King, President of the InfoRich Group, says: 
Using simple tools like bookmarking services and Evernote can increase a researcher’s efficiency. All prospects are unique, so finding tidbits of information about a prospect’s neighborhood or business sector may be just as unique or obscure. For example, according to IdeaPlotting, many of the most successful businesses have been started out of people’s homes or garages. While Google, Apple, and Microsoft are all now household names and you know all the wealth information about the executives, it wasn’t always this way. There’s a good chance you have donors running successful businesses that you don’t even know about. Or as another example, how many taxidermists have you researched? None? I’ve researched one in 15 years and it took some time to sift through sites related to taxidermy to find the useful sites for prospect research purposes. Using a good bookmarking service that allows user tagging or comments so that you may find that website that lists taxidermist fees or other obscure sites is key to efficiency. What is on the Internet today may be gone tomorrow. So, I also recommend using tools like Evernote to collect, organize, and store useful data like salary surveys.
Chris Dawson, Senior Prospect Researcher at University Hospitals, says:
My main advice is to be aware of all the possible tools that you can use as a researcher. By that I mean that while it’s easy to pick up a subscription for a service like DonorSearch, or LexisNexis, iWave, or any of the other companies (and I always do recommend that researchers look into these companies and get what subscriptions they can), a good researcher should always be aware of other resources that may be available that they didn’t originally consider, allowing them to expand their research capabilities, often at no cost.

The Foundation Center, with locations in New York, Cleveland, Atlanta, San Francisco, and Washington, are full of free resources to help researchers … and the Foundation Center also partners with a variety of local libraries and college libraries to have certain resources freely available there

And speaking of libraries … I can’t speak to every city library out there, but we found out almost by accident that Cleveland’s public library system had a host of research resources that were freely available to anyone with a library card. We were actually able to reduce our research budget by switching over to some of the research products that were available for free, rather than paying for them.


By DonorSearch

Prospect Research & Matching Gifts: A Great Match

What’s better than a $3,000 donation? A $6,000 donation. Prospect research identifies prospective donors, and matching gifts allow you to double their charitable gifts. When you use prospect research and matching gifts hand-in-hand, you bring in multitudes of new donors who give twice the money.

What Is a Matching Gift?

Many corporations run charitable giving programs that match employee donations to eligible nonprofits. The check that the corporation writes is called a matching gift. For example, Amy from American Eagle Outfitters donates $300 to her daughter’s university. American Eagle matches the gift 1:1 (other companies will match 2:1 or even 3:1), and writes the university a check for $300. This doubles Amy’s gift into a $600 donation. The $300 check from American Eagle is the matching gift.

How Do Matching Gifts Improve Prospect Research?

Over 65% of Fortune 500 companies offer employee matching gift programs, so there are a lot of gifts out there, big and small, that can go twice as far. Major donations take on increased meaning when they can be matched. For example, Amy’s husband, Xavier, works for Bank of America, which matches gifts 1:1. Xavier donates $5,000 to his son’s K-12 school, and Bank of America matches, which doubles the donation to $10,000. $5,000 is a lot of money to leave on the table. For smaller donations, such as $50 gifts, those $50 matching checks add up fast. Prospect research reveals not just where a donor works, but where spouses work. For example, the university’s prospect screening reveals that Amy’s husband gave $5,000 to a K-12 school, so they recognize Xavier as a potential major donor. They also know that he works for Bank of America, which matches gifts, and thus the harmony of prospect research and matching gifts strikes again. Prospect research unearths the donors, and matching gifts get the most out of every eligible donation.

Why Is This Marriage Vital for Fundraising Success?

Annually, some $6-$10 billion in matching gift funds go unclaimed. That’s a lot of cash! Companies experience low participation rates in their matching gift programs, which leads to all this unclaimed money. Remind your donors about matching gifts in order to claim your fair share. If you mention matching gifts in fundraising appeals before a donation is made then response rates go up by an average of 71% and the average donation amount increases by 51%. Just mentioning matching gifts makes people more likely to give and willing to give more, which is likely due to the fact that they know that their money will go further. Not only do matching gifts double donations, but they increase the number of donations and the dollar amounts of those gifts. Finding and informing matching-gift-eligible prospects is crucial to maximizing fundraising, so employ proper prospect research techniques. It’s one thing to find prospects and one thing to know about matching gifts, but it’s fundraising bliss when the two conjoin.    

By donorsearch

3 Ways to Segment Your Donors for Prospect Research

If your nonprofit organization is conducting prospect research, you typically won’t be able to screen everyone due to time and resource constraints. One of the first major decisions you will likely need to make is which donors on your list or within your database to research. This is one of the most important decisions your organization will need to make because it plays a major role in how the results can be implemented into your fundraising activities. Think strategically about why you are performing prospect research and how you will use the results. Here are a few sample questions to ask yourself or your development staff:
  • What information does your organization already have about your donors?
  • Is your organization performing prospect screening before or after a major fundraising event?
  • Will the prospect research be used to help with a specific type of fundraising (i.e., major giving, annual giving, planned giving)?
  • Is your organization trying to identify new donors or learn more about existing donors?


By donorsearch

Top 5 Indicators of a Great Fundraising Prospect

// The secret to a successful fundraising campaign is identifying the right prospective donors – those who care about your organization and are able to make a significant contribution. Finding these donors is the tricky part! Whether you have experienced this problem firsthand or are planning your next fundraising campaign – this article is here to help. We are going to explore the top five factors that most accurately predict future giving.  Based on an analysis of $5 billion in known giving to 400 nonprofit organizations, here are the top five data-driven predictors of future giving: We’re going to discuss each of these points in detail. Click on any of the links above to scroll to a particular section.

Philanthropy Predictor #1 – Past Charitable Giving to Your Organization

Loyal donors are a nonprofit organization’s best friend. Donors that have given charitably in the past are more likely than the average individual to give in the future. Of all factors analyzed, past giving to a nonprofit is the strongest predictor of future philanthropy. The evidence is right there in the data. We know that this may seem like a straightforward conclusion, but it’s crucial to note. Too many nonprofits don’t place enough emphasis on donor retention, and, as a result, miss out on the opportunity to upgrade high-quality, existing donors. Don’t miss out!  To quantify previous giving, use an RFM score. An RFM score serves as an internal analysis of the relationship you have with each of your prospects. An RFM score factors in three pieces of data:
  • Recency of giving: How recently has an individual made a charitable donation?
  • Frequency of giving: How often has an individual donated? (i.e., weekly, monthly, annually)
  • Monetary contribution: How much has an individual given?
On your own, you can review your list of existing donors and rank them according to each of these three dimensions (suggested scale of 1-100). For example, a prospect that has given the most money would receive a high score on the monetary contribution factor whereas a prospect that has given less money would receive a lower score. After every factor is sorted and rated, the three ratings are added up to make the RFM total. Thus, the closer to 300, the better your relationship is with that donor. If data is unavailable for one of the three fields, then the RFM total will be out of 200 (or 100). Please note – if you work with a prospect screening company then they should calculate each donor’s RFM score for you.

Philanthropy Predictor #2 – Past Charitable Giving to Other Nonprofit Organizations

Philanthropic giving to other nonprofit organizations is the second most predictive sign of future giving. It makes sense intuitively – people who are already philanthropic are more likely than the average person to give charitably. What’s particularly interesting is how powerful a predictor this is:
  • Individuals who have made a gift of over $100k to a nonprofit are 32 times more likely to make a charitable donation elsewhere.
  • Individuals who have made a gift of $50k – $100k to a nonprofit are 25 times more likely to make a charitable donation elsewhere.
  • Individuals who have made a gift of $10k – $25k to a nonprofit are 10 times more likely to make a charitable donation elsewhere.
  • Individuals who have made a gift of $5k – $10k to a nonprofit are 5 times more likely to make a charitable donation elsewhere.
To determine giving to other nonprofits, DonorSearch uses its proprietary annual report philanthropy database, which is the second largest collection of charitable giving data and includes giving information no longer publicly available.

Philanthropy Predictor #3 – Involvement in Nonprofits as a Foundation Trustee or Director

Based on the analysis of charitable giving to over 400 nonprofits, a prospect’s participation as a foundation trustee or nonprofit director is a more powerful signal of future philanthropy than any wealth indicator. Why? These prospects understand the importance of philanthropy and the work nonprofits do because they have firsthand experience. When you make your fundraising case to them, they’re more inclined to understand where you’re coming from and where’d like to go better than any other prospect. Simply put, their ingrained knowledge of the fundraising world is a huge benefit to your cultivation process. Once you’ve successfully acquired a donation from them, there are more benefits to come.  These prospects are valuable because of the connections they bring. Any given foundation trustee or board member is bound to have ties to the other members of their foundation or nonprofit board. And those other members can become high-quality future prospects, too! Any experienced major gift officer will tell you how difficult it can be to get your foot in the door with a high-quality prospect. Once you’ve developed relationships with a group of foundation trustees or board members, you can ask them to make introductions to other top-notch prospects. From there, the introduction cycle continues!

Philanthropy Predictor #4 – Political Giving

Political giving is another excellent predictor of future giving. A single lifetime FEC gift of $250 puts your constituent into the top 6% of the US population. What’s more, a single lifetime FEC gift of $1,000 puts your constituent into the top one tenth of one percent. The predictive power of political giving is huge:
  • An individual who has given at least $2,500 in his/her lifetime to federal political campaigns is 14 times more likely to give a philanthropic donation than someone who has not.
  • An individual who has given at least $500 in his/her lifetime to federal political campaigns is 5 times more likely to give a philanthropic donation than someone who has not.
Why is political giving so predictively powerful? The answer is two-fold:
  1. The size of a prospect’s past political gifts can clue you in to the giving capacity of a particular candidate.
  2. Anyone who gives a political donation is clearly open to making a donation to a cause they feel passionate about. If you can strike a similar chord in your communications with those prospects, you’ll have a greater chance of securing a gift.
When you’re ready to dive into the data on political giving, check out the database for a free treasure trove of records of political gifts. Learn more about the resource here!

Philanthropy Predictor #5 – Real Estate Ownership

The last factor we will focus on is real estate ownership. Given the limits of wealth screening, this is the only true wealth indicator to have made it on our list. Here is what we found:
  • An individual that owns $2+ million worth of real estate is 17 times more likely to give philanthropically than the average person.
  • An individual that owns $1-2 million worth of real estate is 4 times more likely to give philanthropically than the average person.
  • An individual that owns $750K – 1 million worth of real estate is 2 times more likely to give philanthropically than the average person.
What does this tell us?  This correlation between giving likelihood and property worth demonstrates one important fact. Real estate ownership is more than just a wealth marker; it’s a philanthropic indicator as well. Just like political giving, its predictive powers are two-fold. Plus, real estate ownership can be plugged into a larger formula that assists in calculating a donor’s total wealth, which, in turn, helps assess giving capacity scores


By donorsearch

Free Webinar: Utilizing Prospect Research & Wealth Screening at an Independent School

Interested in learning about how to fundraise more effectively at your independent school? Join Bill Tedesco, CEO of DonorSearch, in a free webinar about how to make the most out of prospect research and wealth screening services at an independent school. The webinar will cover a range of topics including:
  • The top indicators of a good fundraising prospect
  • Strategic ways to segment your alumni and constituents for research
  • The benefits and limits of wealth screening
  • How to use alumni events to cultivate new prospects


By donorsearch

Seven Big Benefits of Prospect Screening

If you have ever worked in fundraising at a nonprofit organization, then you understand the importance of a positive return on investment. As a member of a development team, you make choices every day about what types of fundraising activities justify your budget dollars and staff time. Whether your nonprofit organization is small or large, established or new, prospect research can enhance your fundraising capabilities and help your organization spend its dollars and staff time strategically to ensure the maximum return on its fundraising investment.

Here are the top seven reasons your organization should place an added emphasis on prospect research:

Refine major gift prospect outreach

The biggest cost to a fundraising campaign is not software, travel reservations, or event planning – it is staff time. Every minute your staff spends on a low quality prospect is a wasted fundraising opportunity. Prospect screening can help your development team identify which donors to focus on based on if they have given charitably in the past and have the capacity to make a major gift in the future. Additionally, understanding the specifics of a donor’s financial situation can enable you to refine the suggested gift amount to ensure it is both appropriate and capitalizes on a donor’s capacity to give.

Convert annual fund donors to major gift prospects

Prospect screening can reveal which of your annual fund donors have the capacity to make a major gift. For example, let’s say you have a donor that has made multiple $100-$500 gifts over the course of their lifetime – clearly this individual has an affinity for your cause and loyalty to your organization, but that is all you know! Through prospect research, you identify an additional $5000 gift that they had made to another nonprofit organization – revealing their potential as a major gift donor vs. just an annual fund donor. For more on annual giving, check out our list of annual fund strategies. By identifying which of your loyal donors have made a major gift elsewhere, you can find new major gift prospects within your existing donor population.

Identify planned or deferred giving prospects


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ProspectView Plus Ratings Explained
How to Prepare for Prospect Screening
What Determines the Cost of Prospect Screening Services?
5 Fool-Proof Steps to Fundraising With Prospect Research
Expert Advice for Making the Most of Prospect Research
Prospect Research & Matching Gifts: A Great Match
3 Ways to Segment Your Donors for Prospect Research
Top 5 Indicators of a Great Fundraising Prospect
Free Webinar: Utilizing Prospect Research & Wealth Screening at an Independent School
Seven Big Benefits of Prospect Screening