Multi-Year Screening Strategy for Higher Education Fundraising

The following is an excerpt from WealthEngine's recently-released "Best Practices in Higher Education Report." To learn more, fill out the form to the right and download the full report.

As Northwestern prepared for their first major screening of 112,000 alumni records, they carefully defined two types of qualification ratings for prospects:

  1. An officer rating applied by a development officer takes into account the officer’s knowledge of the prospect’s inclination and readiness to give, as well as capacity
  2. A research capacity evaluation determined by the research department is based on wealth and asset screening results and other prospect data sources, and is then validated by the researcher

Following the screening, more than 10,000 prospects were identified, defined and deemed actionable. Within three months, research had identified and validated the top 1,000 to target. Today, they have 20,000 households and organizations representing more than 25,000 individual entities in their prospect pool, the result of a routine screening schedule and a well-planned system of prospect identification and portfolio management.

When Northwestern conducted the initial alumni wealth and asset screening, they set in motion a schedule to screen reunion class alumni every year (approximately 17,000-20,000 records annually) to ensure that all alumni records are refreshed on a five-year basis. Rather than conduct large screenings every five years, this strategy ensures a live feed of fresh data, as well as a proactive and manageable workflow for the research team. Jennifer Fry, Director of Development Research and Prospect Management at Northwestern, supervises a team of 17 prospect research and information management specialists who find these annual screenings “completely essential to our prospect identification strategy.”

“We started by screening all living alumni with accurate addresses,” explains Fry. “We had some issues with the results, so we decided to switch screening vendors, moving to WealthEngine the following year to re-screen the 14,360 invalidated records remaining from the larger screening. That year, we also conducted a “found” alumni screening of 31,000 alumni with newly located addresses, to strengthen our alumni data. As we progressed, we began to venture beyond our alumni screenings to special projects that support the requests and needs of university initiatives, such as a grateful patient screening with the medical school.”

Download the complete report to find these great tools as well as in depth analysis of fundraising best practices for higher education institutions.

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