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.

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By DonorSearch

2 Types of Donor Data Your Nonprofit Needs

With the rise of the internet and social media, it’s possible to find information about almost everybody and everything. Whether you’re collecting data on a new renter, a potential employee or a prospective donor, knowing which information to use is important. Fundraisers have an array of tasks, but learning all they can about their donors in order to build and cultivate relationships is among the most vital. From their home address to their financial investments, collecting important data about donors can help nonprofits build rapport, as well as discover their next major gift donors. Different kinds of data can be discovered in a multitude of ways, but two of important sets of data are wealth information and personal information.

Wealth Information:

Knowing a donor’s financial information can be extremely beneficial, specifically when planning upcoming campaigns and fundraisers. This information is often available through wealth screening. Wealth screening helps give your organization a picture of your prospects and their financial situations so that you know how to appropriately solicit them for gifts. Wealth screening can also help you find your next major gift prospect. Important information to look for from wealth screening includes:
  • Giving history: Knowing where a prospect has donated, how much and how frequently can give you an idea of how philanthropic they are and what types of organizations they support, as well as the typical gift amount that they make.
  • Investments: Does the prospect own a yacht? A home? A business? Stocks? Knowing a donor’s investments – how much and where they’re allocated – can help you determine their financial standing, as well as their interests.
  • Business relationships: A particular donor may work for a company that is active in the nonprofit world, and that could be a great opportunity for your organization. If the prospect’s company makes frequent gifts to charitable organizations or makes matching donations, the prospect may be a great gateway into the organization’s philanthropic involvement.

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By donorsearch

9 Rules for Ethical Prospect Research

From social media to blogs to 24/7 news services, there is more information on people available than ever before. You just have to know how to look for it. Some people know how to block their online profiles from public view or limit the exposure of any online content about them. This is less a problem of making friends than it is a conundrum for prospect researchers who are trying to learn as much as they can about potential donors. Should nonprofits seek ways to obtain the purposefully hidden information? What are the limits to any workarounds? The ethics of any topic is a debate that could last forever, but your organization doesn’t have forever to figure out right and wrong ways to raise money. You have a cause to fund, and without detailed donor profiles you can’t make the types of emotional pitches that excite donors about your organization. We’ve compiled nine best practices to help your organization conduct prospect research in a way that’s both effective and respectful of sensitive information.

1) Focus on acceptable data

It’s obvious that you shouldn’t pursue records that are illegal to obtain, but just because certain records are legal doesn’t mean that you should be looking at them. For example, you may be able to obtain criminal records on a prospect, but for what purpose? Prospect research is not about obtaining any and all donor information in the hope that some data point may be the nugget of gold that you’re looking for. All data should follow two rules:
  1. Be appropriate and pertinent to the specific fundraising campaign and prospect.
  2. Protect all personal information at all times.

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By donorsearch

Four Strategies to Find New Donors in Your City or State

The Earth has 196,940,000 square miles of total surface area, and, unless you have a teleportation device, your fundraising team can’t cover it all. The most convenient place to look for new donors is on your street, around the corner, and other places within your city or state. As with those who desire fresh vegetables, it’s best to stay local to get what you want. Unlike fresh vegetables, money won’t conveniently spring up from the ground. You need to be proactive to get new donors. Proactive as in don’t just jump through hoops. Jump through rings of fire to land where new donors live. And don’t merely take the long road. Dare to trek across frozen tundras in order to find greener pastures. Don’t think that finding new donors will always be difficult, but do realize that donor acquisition takes both decisive action and a dedication to reaching for new opportunities. To get your nonprofit started, here are four strategies to find new donors in your area:

1) Leverage the Connections of Your Board Members

Board members have connections to other philanthropically inclined and wealthy individuals. Ask your donating board members for the names of people who might be interested in your organization. This is a way to gather prospects without putting in hours of work or paying for an outside entity to conduct research. One strategy is to ask board members for donor suggestions during your next board meeting. Put your board members on the spot and ask them to suggest five connections who might be interested in your mission. Many nonprofits view acquiring new donors as reaching out to strangers, but obtaining more donors could be as simple as having a conversation with someone you already know.

2) Ask Loyal Donors to Point You Towards New Donors

Consistent donors may know other people who might be interested in your nonprofit, and all you have to do is ask for names. In addition to requesting names, you can ask loyal donors for referrals, which can work in two ways:
  1. New prospects contact you — Loyal donors tell their friends about your nonprofit through word of mouth and encourage new prospects to get in touch with you. After the prospects call, you can conduct the relevant prospect research to see if they’re high-quality major gift prospects.
  2. Loyal donors provide introductions to new prospects — You can’t always trust new prospects to contact you, so you’ll usually need to be the proactive one. However, you can receive an assist from your loyal donors. Ask for introductions to the new people who might be interested in your nonprofit. Personal introductions can help to ensure that new prospects will be receptive to opening dialogues, and your initial connections will be more intimate thanks to your mutual friends.
As you can see, it’s essential to take advantage of who you already know in order to meet new major gift prospects.

3) Look at the Annual Reports of Similar Nonprofits

Look for other nonprofits with similar causes. People are interested in particular nonprofits for a reason, and if your cause relates to a mission that donors already support then you stand a chance of convincing donors to also give to your nonprofit. Individuals who have made a gift of $5k-$10k are 5 times more likely than the average person to donate to another nonprofit. That donors that have given to other nonprofits are better than completely new donors, and you stand the best chance with donors who support missions such as yours. When you employ prospect research tools, such as DonorSearch’s Gift Search tool, it’s easy to find donor lists. Gift Search allows you to:
  • View the causes and organizations that donors support
  • Filter donations by state, year, amount, and other criteria
  • Access annual reports where donations are named

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By donorsearch

The 1 free prospect research tool every nonprofit needs

// DonorSearch’s blog is dedicated to covering prospect research, wealth screening, and other fundraising-related topics. Yet, our readers and customers often ask if there are any free prospect research resources we recommend. So, we reached out to Chris Dawson at University Hospitals of Cleveland to share his thoughts on alternative prospect research resources. For your reading ease, we’ve divided this insightful contribution into three parts:
  1. The Library — A Top Prospect Research Tool
  2. Case in Point — The Cleveland Public Library System
  3. Don’t Forget About The Foundation Center
Click on any of the links above to skip ahead to a particular section. Enjoy!  Prospect research nowadays is getting to be more of a science than a fine art, because of all the amazing electronic resources available to researchers. Depending on the tools used, a good researcher sitting at their computer, probably in a cubical or back office somewhere, is able to pull in pretty much all the information they need to provide for their gift officers. Many of these new tools save a great amount of time, a great amount of labor, and can access a wider array of information than probably a researcher could do on their own without them. And they’re also quite expensive. Price is the name of the game in the research database world today, as research teams grapple with which product will best serve their needs. Other development shops, who may only have a single researcher or no researcher at all, may be sitting glumly on the sidelines, wondering how they’ll ever be able to get access to these tools. Certainly money can be found in the budget for periodic wealth screenings by companies like DonorSearch (and those are great tools for finding out a lot about the donors in your database), and maybe a single subscription to a research product could be justified, but is it enough in today’s highly competitive environment? However, I’m here to say do not despair. Because there are many tools that can help researchers and non-researchers alike perform some basic prospect research, and these tools are in many cases, completely free. Wait, that sounds too good to be true… after all, some products cost tens of thousands of dollars! And yes, they do. But there are also some research products, not specifically “prospect research products” that are actually free. And to access them, one only needs to return to the early, prehistoric days of prospect research.

That means returning to the library.

The Library — A Top Prospect Research Tool

Yes, there was once a day, not too terribly long ago, when it was impossible to sit at your desk in your tiny cubical (well, maybe not your tiny cubical, but mine is) and access all the research tools you need. Back in those dark ages of the 1990s and earlier, you weren’t in your office, because most of your time you were in the library, doing all the digging through microfilm and microfiche, hardbound foundation directories, and later, CD-ROMs. Fortunately, library research has gotten a lot easier (and in the case of some old hardbound newspapers and magazines, far less dusty!). And for those folks in a smaller shop, or in a development shop that just doesn’t have the budget to get the fancy and expensive research tools, a return to the library can be extremely helpful. In many cases, these resources may not be able to completely replace the amazing tools on the market, but what’s available at your local library and other local resources may be enough to give you the important information that will help you learn more about your organization’s prospects. Now some free resources are readily available on your desktop… after all, a key component of research is looking for real estate records and many county websites have that information available over the internet. And you’ll find that some of your libraries also have resources available to you online, though some will require you to come in. But even if you work in a shop that has a nice big budget (these exist, right?) and can afford all sorts of fancy tools, you should still check out your local library, and nearby college libraries. Because with your library card, you can access amazing things… and you’ll find that it’s all free.

Case in Point — The Cleveland Public Library System

Here in Cleveland, the public library system has some wonderful tools online.

For example, a searchable database of articles from the local newspaper here, all the way back to 1845. I rarely have to search back that far (though I have gone digging back to the 1800s for some family-owned companies and old-money families here in town), but I use this resource every single day, and I’ve been using it for obituaries, wedding announcements, and for finding other biographical information. To say it’s invaluable is an understatement, especially when I’m dealing with older prospects who held their CEO jobs in the pre-internet days. Even with younger prospects, I still find information about:
  • What they may be doing for an occupation
  • Education background
  • Family history
  • Charitable giving
But there are also databases to access other newspapers across the country. And it’s free. I just need a library card. How hard is that? I’ve also found a number of business databases online that help me perform a good bit of corporate research, including some business research products that I know DO cost tens of thousands of dollars for a subscription, but are completely free online. Do I use them? Yes, all the time. I can jump into resources like: This means my research will be that much better… and the resources are free. In fact, having them available via the library has allowed me to reduce our research budget by cancelling a few subscriptions here and there for similar products. This has allowed me to use the budget we have to make sure we can subscribe to the products we can’t get elsewhere, like DonorSearch! And it’s not just Cleveland. I randomly checked out a number of libraries across the country, and was pleasantly surprised to see that most of them offered a variety of research products to allow patrons to do:
  • News searches
  • Business searches
  • Other research
And don’t forget, it’s not just public libraries; many colleges also will let local residents use their services. This tends to be more common in state institutions that are dependent on taxes and state support (they don’t like to annoy the taxpayers who support them), but even a number of private colleges will let community members register for library cards or use their research workstations. Granted, they may have more esoteric databases to explore, but you’d be surprised; many of them have:
  • Lexis/Nexis
  • Some big business research products
  • Genealogical research databases
  • News databases
  • Others that would be beneficial to a prospect researcher.

Don’t Forget About The Foundation Center

Nonprofit folks living in the New York, Atlanta, San Francisco, Washington DC and Cleveland regions can visit their local Foundation Center to take advantage of all the free resources they have to offer. But there are also Foundation Center resources all over the country, through the Funding Information Network. These 470 partners are public and school libraries, community foundations, and other centers.

So while you may not be able to become wholly dependent on your library for your research databases, you should never overlook what they have to offer in terms of prospect and donor research that’s free.

In fact, even if you work in a shop that has been fortunate to be able to afford a number of the big research products on the market, check out your local library; there may be something they have that can help you provide additional information for your research. I know here in Cleveland I once did a presentation on research and showed the attendees all the databases that they could access for free via the library. You would have thought I gave them winning lottery tickets! Though in a way, perhaps I did! Libraries aren’t just for borrowing DVDs… they could become your new satellite office… though you may also be surprised at how many of their resources you can access from your own desk. All you need is a library card. Now quit reading this, and go check out your local library’s resources! And if you’re looking for more free prospect screening, schedule a demo by clicking below!  About the Author: Chris Dawson is the Senior Prospect Researcher at University Hospitals of Cleveland.

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By donorsearch

4 Ways to Keep the Data in your Donor Database Clean

DonorSearch’s blog is dedicated to covering prospect screening and other fundraising-related topics, yet our readers and customers often ask how they can keep their donor databases clean. So we reached out to Steven Shattuck at Bloomerang to share a few strategies for how nonprofits can keep their donor databases clean.  A nonprofit can never reach their full fundraising potential unless their donor database has clean, actionable data. Making sure that data is accurate when it’s first inputted is one challenge. Keeping it that way is quite another. If you ever want accurate prospect screening results or useful reports, you must keep your donor database clean and tidy. Here are four tips:

Tip #1: Document your data entry procedures and review them often

Many donor databases fail to reach their true potential simply because there is no defined process for data entry. Documenting and sticking to one universal process will ensure that all data is formatted consistently, and will protect your fundraising efforts in the event of staff turnover. Because organizations evolve as they grow, it’s important to re-examine your processes every once in a while (at least annually). You may have an obsolete procedure, or find that there’s a slightly better way to do something. Don’t be afraid to change if it increases your productivity!

Tip #2: Run an NCOA at least once a year

Running an NCOA (National Change of Address) process will ensure that your constituent’s contact information in your donor database is up-to-date and accurate. The NCOA database contains data for all change of address requests filed by US postal customers in the past 48 months. Running an NCOA process will compare the contact info found in your database with the info found in the NCOA database. It’s always a good idea to run an NCOA a few months before a big direct mail appeal. 17% of Americans move each year, and running an NCOA is a requirement to qualify for USPS bulk mailing rates.

Tip #3: Have multiple people in the organization use the database

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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

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. In short, real estate ownership is a wealth marker you can’t afford to look past. 

How can nonprofits uncover this information about their prospects?

If you don’t have information about any of the predictors listed within this article, then your organization should consider investing in prospect screening. Performing prospect research prior to a fundraising campaign will provide you with all the information listed within this article and help your organization prioritize its donors accordingly. That way, your development staff can spend less time doing research and more time fundraising. If you’re interested in learning more, schedule a demo of DonorSearch’s prospect screening services >

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