I’ve long been a big fan of the wit and wisdom of Jeff Schreifels and Richard Perry of the Veritus Group.  Recently, in their Passionate Giving blog they exhorted major gift officers to clean out their clogged middle donor pipelines.

Say Jeff and Richard, “So in 2014, if you want to maintain a healthy major gift program, you’re going to need to invest in some good donor plumbing… to get your mid-level donor program flowing freely.”

Truer words were never spoken.  But these two worthy fundraising gurus actually glossed over one of the most important tools (other than a Roto-Rooter) to clean out said pipeline: regular data screening of your donors.  They give a nod to it by suggesting you “…conduct a wealth overlay on all your midlevel and major donors to get a better understanding of capacity.”

But what to do with those results is where the real “Roto-Rooting” begins.

First, understand how truly precious your mid-level donors are. As Jeff and Richard aptly say, those donors in the $100-$999 annual or $1,000-$10,000 cumulative giving are really the “life blood” of most nonprofits.  But, in major gift campaigns, the middle donor is shrinking the classic donor pyramid to one now resembling a kind of bottom-heavy hourglass.

When it comes to middle donors, P2G scores are definitely important, but RFM scores (Recency Frequency Money) may be even more so.  RFM is actually a predictive score – it predicts the donor’s future behavior based on their current behavior.  The higher the RFM score, the more likely the donor can be moved up – and the more likely they are to become a planned giving donor.  Don’t ignore your faithful volunteers and if you’re in education, for goodness sake don’t ignore your faculty and staff!

How do you use RFM?  Simple.  The closer to 300 the Total RFM score is, the better.  Combine your highest RFM scores with P2G scores to best segment those donors who can be moved up into the middle range – and those who can likewise be moved into the major donor category.  For instance, look at constituents with a P2G score of 3 or 4 with a high RFM and a largest gift of between $300-$500 as those with the best potential to be upgraded to the $1,000 level.

You can also combine high RFM scores with planned giving ratings to segment the planned gift prospects in your database.  Try reaching out to them with a targeted, coded mailing, allowing you to measure response rate to your messaging.

Using the power of RFM is better than a maintenance shot of Liquid-Plumr® or Drano® in your donor pipeline.  Combined with regular screening (at a minimum of once annually), you will keep that pipeline running free and clear. 

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