Major and planned giving for the modern advancement team

The first in a four-part series on how institutions and nonprofit organizations can re-imagine how to identify, warm, and qualify major giving and planned giving prospects, along with how to analyze the success from those efforts. Read part 2 on donor warming.

Part 1: Going beyond wealth ratings to find your best major giving and planned giving prospects

Just about every major giving and planned giving program uses wealth ratings to look for qualified donors. While these services are far from perfect, they have been helpful in focusing the efforts of giving teams and ensuring that they are not flying blind and guessing about donor capacity. From conversations with hundreds of giving professionals, we’ve learned that the reduction of time between campaigns is now causing institutions to take a hard look at how they are identifying major giving and planned giving prospects; now questioning if wealth ratings alone are truly the golden fleece institutions need.

While wealth research can uncover capacity, it often misses on determining propensity. Propensity is more than just the giving history of your donors; it’s the level of engagement with your cause and how a donor is attached to your giving organization. To increase major gift productivity, you have to apply a more sophisticated level of analytics and modeling to uncover donors who have the right combination of capacity and propensity.

The new propensity model

  • Affinity: Wealthy givers are as diverse in their giving interests as they are in how they came to wealth. Pointing to a list of wealthy people in your town or in your database does very little toward determining if they really care deeply about your cause and are interested in investing. New fundraising mediums such as giving days and crowdfunding now allow you to understand the specific philanthropic passions of your donors.
  • Real-Time Engagement: Marketing automation provides a complete view of the donor journey, allowing you to see in real-time how a donor is engaging with the institution. Being able to understand everything from event attendance and engagement in other activities like athletics, arts, and community to how donors are interacting with all your channels is key. If you’re not tracking which of your high capacity donors are clicking on emails, attending events, talking to student callers, and responding on social media, you could be missing donors ready to give “right now.”
  • Involvement:

    Volunteers are up to four times more likely to donate in most organizations.

    Volunteers are up to four times more likely to donate in most organizations. Making sure you consider involvement, like serving on boards, attending volunteer events and even providing mentorship to students and charity recipients is crucial in separating “sort of” interested givers from those who are already showing deep investment.
  • Life Stage Giving: It’s just not true that donors who stop or change their giving are dropping you. Based on the donor’s situation, life stage and wealth profile, this could actually signal that they are moving into the next stage of their philanthropic engagement. It could be time to distribute wealth, and they now look at annual giving differently. Dropping previous givers who change their behavior off your radar without investigating further is just bad fundraising.
  • Capacity Profile: Total net worth is more than a score. Assets can be hidden from view, or be part of complicated joint ownership. Looking deeper into the wealth profile itself is crucial in crafting the best approach for donors and their families. Do you know how many of your high wealth donors have a family foundation? How many regularly contribute to a donor advised fund? These philanthropic engines are now as powerful as major charities and you should be paying attention to them.

When you start looking at the behaviors, involvement and engagement your donors exhibit alongside wealth, you make a powerful shift in your donor identification. You move from descriptive to predictive. And it can create an explosion in your major giving and planned giving fundraising success.

Fundraisers tell us that their new focus is productivity and providing gift officers with the best possible tools to connect with the right donors at the right time.

Fundraisers tell us that their new focus is productivity and providing gift officers with the best possible tools to connect with the right donors at the right time. Any experienced fundraiser can tell you that a multi-millionaire does not necessarily make a major giver. While capacity and wealth are important characteristics to make sure you are focusing on the right general group of donors, you’ll find much greater success when you go deeper into your data to find the people who are sending you signals right now that they are ready to make a transformative leap to major giving.

Take your donor identification to the next level of productivity with Ruffalo Noel Levitz major and planned giving services. We’ve built a brand new program which starts by using these predictive analytics and then builds in powerful donor warming and real conversations with donors to serve up appointments with ready givers to your gift officer team. It’s a game changer, and it could double your results. Drop us a line and we’ll tell you how.

Read part 2

Donor warming: major and planned giving for the modern advancement team

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Josh Robertson

Vice President of Product Strategy at Ruffalo Noel Levitz
Josh has over 17 years of experience in the industry, oversees fundraising strategy, analytics and product development and has worked with over 100+ institutions.
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