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By julia lindenmon

All too often when nonprofits decide they want to invest in prospect research, they focus specifically on wealth screening.

While having some information is better than no information, wealth data is just one indicator of many when it comes to predicting a prospect’s likelihood of giving. Additionally, research has shown that historical charitable giving data is a much stronger predictor of future charitable giving.

For this reason, nonprofits that just focus on wealth screening are losing out on valuable information about their list of prospects and missing an opportunity to get the most out of their fundraising activities.

What is wealth screening?

Wealth screening is a subset of prospect research focused on wealth indicators such as real estate ownership, stock holdings in public companies, and business affiliations.

Why is wealth screening important?

Wealth screening is an essential part of the prospect research process. Understanding a prospect’s financial situation can provide insight into:

  • Capacity to give
  • Likelihood of giving
  • Ways to segment outreach
  • Suggested donation ranges
  • Relationships with other potential prospects unfamiliar with your organization

Why you need more than wealth data

Just because prospects are wealthy, it does not mean they will be philanthropic. The idea of wealth as the most important sign of a major gift prospect is a common myth in the world of prospect research.

There is nothing more detrimental to a fundraising campaign than focusing valuable staff resources on prospects who have no interest in making a charitable donation.

The solution to this potential pitfall is that instead of assuming prospects will be philanthropic because they are wealthy, screen for prospects who are known for their philanthropy first and wealth second.

That way, nonprofits can understand prospects’ capacities to give as well as their philanthropic motivations.

What’s more, philanthropic data can provide better insight into a prospect’s likelihood of making a charitable donation. Based on our analysis of $5 billion in known giving to over 400 nonprofit organizations, the top indicators that most reliably predicted future philanthropy were past giving to a nonprofit organization and involvement with charitable foundations – both philanthropic indicators.

DonorSearch’s Annual Report philanthropy database

Taking a holistic approach, where you incorporate philanthropy data as well as wealth data, is what separates DonorSearch from many of its competitors in the prospect screening industry. We believe so strongly in the predictive value of historical philanthropy data that we have created a propriety charitable giving database.

The DonorSearch philanthropic database is the second largest collection of charitable giving data available anywhere. Our database spans seventeen years of philanthropy, with millions of records from the 1990, 2000’s, and one of the fastest growing collections for 2010 – 2014. Additionally, the database includes annual reports no longer available online and many hard-to-find print references.

Proven Philanthropy

We integrate wealth and philanthropy data for two simple reasons –the data backs it up and nonprofits tell us it works:

  • Matching wealth and philanthropic screening together “[gives] nonprofits an idea of what might be possible with their donors.” – Joanne O’Brien Beam, Capstone Advancement Partners
  • “The philanthropy contribution and stock information [is] great. I love the fact that you can go all the way to the SEC forms for the actual stock ownership information or go to the source of the contribution.” – Terri Bobadilla, LA Opera

So now what?

When it comes to prospect research, no single data point or type of data will provide enough information to make an informed decision of whether or not to pursue a potential prospect. The best approach is to collect a diverse range of information about your prospects so your development team can have as much information as possible when creating a prospect outreach strategy.

Limits of Wealth Screening