University sees 88% Reduction in Major Gift Donor Lead Time Through Data Modeling

One of WealthEngine’s clients is a large, private, research university in the midwest with an international student body of about 12,000 students.

The university’s fundraising team had a plan in place for fundraising at all levels. However, Major Gifts were a challenge. WealthEngine’s Client Engagement Manager (CEM) suggested that they use wealth modeling as a solution.

The development team was skeptical at first. By explaining that WealthEngine could build a custom model for the university, the CEM was able to convince the Major Gift Officers to try it as a pilot program.

The custom model included categorical and numerical data chosen by the university with guidance from the CEM. Custom data from the university was able to generate a model that automatically identified the top 10% of their donors.

These were donors with gift capacities in the $100,000 range. Over 200 members were identified as top prospects for the university’s major gifts program.

The model instilled confidence in the development team. As the next step of pilot testing, their Major Gifts Officers called a random sample of 10 members from their list. To their surprise, all 10 members answered their call and had a conversation with them. Thus, their effort resulted in a staggering response rate during the pilot stage.

From the 10 phone calls, the university was able to have in-person meetings with 3 major gift prospects. Therefore, the pilot saw a 30% engagement rate. Major Gift Officers are now in serious talks with 2 of the 3 members for gifts at the $100,000 level, resulting in a 20% overall lead conversion rate.

The exercise has made the university realize that only the top 10% of their database has a gift capacity of $20 million. Their major gifts program, therefore, received a significant boost from the custom model developed by WealthEngine. What’s more? Their Major Gifts Officers were able to go from initial phone call to a conversation about actual gift amounts within 2 months. The model was able to cut down the lead time by about 88% compared to the industry average.

 

WealthEngine Customers: Get a Free Modeling Sample of Your Data.

Major Gift Fundraising: How Top Fundraisers Forecast Fundraising Income

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Forecasting fundraising income accurately is important in hitting your major gift fundraising goals. WealthEngine’s Senior Client Engagement Manager, Eric White, shares how top fundraisers use data modeling to predict major gifts with extraordinary accuracy, including predicting donor likelihood, the right “ask” amount, and donor lifetime value.

Analyzing Your Screening Data to Understand Major Gift Donors

Major Gifts Officers often feel pressure to convert prospects to donors within short lead times. Yet, most development teams know that lead time can sometimes be as long as 24-36 months.

Major gift fundraising is about the quality of prospects and not the quantity. Fundraisers need reliable prospect research to develop a reliable, high-quality prospect list. It is in fact data that makes prospect research more reliable.

WealthEngine’s WE Analyze solution enables you to understand what makes your audience unique. Moreover, analyzing your screening data through WE Analyze provides you a 360-degree view of your donor base.

WE Analyze can create a descriptive look-alike profile. Knowing what makes your audience unique through this profile helps you make your communications more engaging.

For instance, let’s say your nonprofit is hosting an event in LA with 500 confirmed attendees. Running the RSVP list through WE Analyze can reveal that 70% of them are married. Further, it can reveal that 13% love antiques and 45% support children’s causes. This empowers you to tailor your major gift fundraising strategy. You can now approach the right major gift donors with relevant contexts.

In one such example, a WealthEngine client was looking for a sponsor for their fundraising event. Through WE Analyze, they realized that a majority of their attendees owned Mercedes Benz cars. They were also in the market for a new car. This created a great opportunity for them to approach BMW for sponsorship. For BMW, it was an opportunity to reach people who were primed for purchase.

Data Modeling for Predictive Major Gift Fundraising

When it comes to major gift fundraising, you can go beyond descriptive models into actual predictive models. Predictive prospecting can be a data-driven way for you to ensure that you target the right prospects.

Modeling uses statistical analysis that relies on a custom formula. The formula is specific to your organization and helps answer a specific question. Wealth models are predictive because they are built on strong indicators of major gift giving. Examples of indicators are the number of events attended, gift capacity, the existence of a family foundation, etc.

Indicators vary by organization. For instance, let’s say your organization has found that a majority of major gift donors are all concentrated in California. You could also find that they are all pet owners and have college degrees. These would all be categorical data points that come from your database. These categorical points can be given a numerical value.

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Therefore, the model would consider this information and build a formula specifically for your organization. Further, it can specifically focus on your nonprofit’s major gifts fundraising.

In the instance above, zip codes in California, college degrees and pet ownership will all bear greater impact in the formula. The formula then generates a score by calculating the weight of all these characteristics. This means that you can now score your entire donor base against the formula. Anyone with a high score is a top prospect.

Automating Your Major Gifts Forecast

The model will actually score your entire database for you. Further, it will divide your database into 10 equal deciles. This means that you can already see who your top 10% of prospects are. Decile 1 represents your top 10% of prospects, deciles 1 and 2, your top 20% and so on.

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Now your major gifts fundraising has been prioritized for you. The probabilistic indicator within the model tells you who is most likely to donate. This is not just indicative of major gift giving. It is indicative of major gift giving to your nonprofit.

In one instance, a WealthEngine client saw that their capital campaign had stalled. The organization, a higher ed institution decided to use modeling to boost its major gift fundraising. Their custom model divided their database into 10 deciles in order of likelihood of giving. Their major gifts officer then decided to optimize their portfolio with prospects taken directly from the model.

After the campaign, the major gifts officer called us to let us know that they saw an 86% conversion rate by using the model. This means that 86% of the prospects addressed by the campaign said yes to giving.

You can automate major gift fundraising further through the use of API. Through API integration, you can score everyone that walks through the door. This can happen in real-time. Any new prospects can be scored against your major gift model and you can immediately receive an alert.

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Reducing Lead Times Through Donor Models

Data models for major gift fundraising automate prospect research. Additionally, they go a step further and prioritize your prospects in order of likelihood. You may already be using WealthEngine’s Propensity to Give (P2G) score to prioritize and segment your donor base. It is important to note that the P2G score is a strong indicator of giving. However, it is not an indicator of giving to your nonprofit specifically.

The model generates results and organizes your donor base in a way that focuses on top prospects for you specifically. For instance, Bill Gates is an obvious P2G 1 donor. This doesn’t mean that he is likely to give to every cause. The model may identify somebody with a P2G 2 or 3, but the difference is that they are likely to give a major gift to your cause. This is because the formula in the model was built specifically for you.

When you focus your major gifts fundraising on such a targeted set of prospects, lead time can be reduced significantly. In one instance, a WealthEngine client was able to start having meaningful conversations with 20% of their top prospects about gifts in the $100,000 range. The remarkable thing about this story is that it only took them two months to identify these top prospects.

Another interesting point about this story is that all prospects identified in their top segment were ones who had never given to the organization before. This means that their top segment had been overlooked by the nonprofit before modeling.

Forecasting Fundraising Income

As we’ve established, WealthEngine’s data model automatically identifies your best prospects. Further, it prioritizes them in order of major gift capacity and propensity. This means that you can assign prospects within these deciles to your major gift officers. Knowing their lifestyle, interests, and affinities also helps officers approach them with relevant messaging. Gift capacity ratings and wealth scores give you an idea of the appropriate ‘ask’ for each prospect.

You can use let’s say the top 3 deciles or the top 30% of your donor base for your major gift fundraising. This means for the next 12 months, your officers will know who to target. Since deciles are organized based on strong indicators of giving, you can also predict giving amounts based on the number of prospects targeted at each gift capacity bracket.

Eric confirms that the data in a model can stay relevant for as long as 12 months. After this, you should run a fresh model to get the most up to date information for your major gift officers. Since prospect life stages are changing- inheritance, stock value, real estate ownership can all change over the course of 12 months. Refreshing your model to see what formula is most effective for your organization will help set you up for your next 12-month period.

Learn More

See how a data model can help forecast your next 12 months of major gift fundraising. Model your data now.

More articles you might find useful

How to Calculate Donor Lifetime Value to Predict Future Donations

Hidden Donor Calculator: Finding Hidden Donors in Plain Sight

Top 3 Missed Opportunities to Utilize Wealth Screening for Advancement

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When preparing for a campaign, colleges and university advancement teams have a large number of prospects available to them including alumni, the parents of incoming students, etc. Conducting a wealth screening provides you with data and insights on these prospects that can, and should, be used in your campaign planning. All of this data, however, can become overwhelming and underutilized, resulting in missed opportunities.

Join WealthEngine and Heller Consulting on Tuesday, July 18th at 2:00PM ET for our webinar Top 3 Missed Opportunities to Utilize Wealth Screening for Advancement. We’ll discuss strategies you may not have thought of that can only benefit you and your campaign including:

  • Using your wealth screening to its fullest potential
  • Proper campaign planning so you get started on the right track
  • Ensuring your screening information is integrated into your CRM/DMS
  • How you can quickly take action to maximize opportunities
  • And more!

Register now for Top 3 Missed Opportunities to Utilize Wealth Screening for Advancement.

Three Keys to Combating Nonprofit Fundraising Challenges: Part One

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Part One: Professional Development and the Development Plan

Executive Directors and Development Directors are often faced with some significant challenges when it comes to fundraising. While the magnitude of these challenges can vary, they are not insurmountable. In this two-part blog series we share resources that may help overcome or alleviate some of these challenges. Identified challenges include:

  • Many development directors have had limited firsthand experience securing gifts, and the applicant pool for development professionals is woefully inadequate to meet the demand
  • Many development departments lack written development plans and even basic technological infrastructure such as a donor database or CRM
  • Executive directors and board members are often ambivalent about fundraising or have an outright dislike for asking for money
  • Development directors are often tasked with unrealistic goals and get little support from organizations, many of which lack a culture of philanthropy.

Accessing Training & Professional Development for Your Staff

Training and professional development opportunities are important components of the ongoing education of development directors and officers, and also executive directors and program staff.  More and more colleges and universities are offering curriculum, degree programs, post-graduate programs and certificates in fundraising and nonprofit management. 

If there is an institution of higher education in your vicinity, by all means check to see what they offer in the field of fund development.  If not, many programs are offered online, and there are even free educational resources available through AFP, WealthEngine and Guidestar.

To help your organization’s leaders see professional development as an investment rather than an expense, tie training and professional development to the strategic goals or objectives of the organization.  For instance, if one of the goals for the development team is to increase major giving, an investment in major gift training would be appropriate to help achieve that goal. 

A Strategy and Tactics Worksheet  provides the rationale for investing in training for major gift officers and other staff – even those tangentially involved in fundraising.  Broad training covering the value of and processes used in fundraising will benefit efforts to establish a culture of philanthropy.). 

Creating a Development Plan for Your Organization’s Fundraising Programs

A development plan is a MUST first-step to creating a successful development operation.  And prior to developing a plan, a thorough analysis of past operations and results is needed.  Only by understanding where the organization’s strengths and weakness exist, can a competent development leader craft a plan that will improve results.  WealthEngine’s Growing Individual Gifts Workbook provides step-by-step instructions and tools to guide you through the analysis, forecasting, strategy development and writing of a comprehensive development plan.

A development plan should be drafted by the development staff, with input from the executive director.  Once finalized, the plan should be presented to the development committee of the board of directors, and then to the full board.  The process of presenting the plan to the executive director, board committee and full board is an invaluable opportunity to educate these leaders about the importance of philanthropy, and their roles and responsibilities related to fundraising.  With this accomplishment, you are on your way to creating a culture of philanthropy, which I’ll discuss next time.

Four Clear Benefits of Data Integration

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There are two ways to build a stronger fundraising program: understanding your donors better and identifying new prospects. Integrating wealth data into your donor management system (DMS) or customer relationship management (CRM) system can help you achieve both, and is the key to enhancing data-driven workflows and data access. Data integration gives team members across your organization more insight on your donors and prospects.

One of the keys to making data useful and actionable is to be sure it’s available and accessible in a central location, and that it integrates with other data sources within your organization. This is one of the principals behind the "data warehouse." Most nonprofits don’t have enough unique data sources to need a warehouse to house their data, but the idea of ensuring that all useful data is accessible is certainly one that all nonprofits can relate to. These are four ways that data integration can benefit your organization:

Having all data in one place allows the user to get a 360-degree view of the constituent. 
Having giving history, event attendance, wealth data, and behavioral data such as arts affinity, green living, or dog lover flags, allows multiple users to get a complete picture of the prospect and determine the best strategies for appeals, cultivation and stewardship.

Having access to many data points allows for effective and efficient segmentation of the data into actionable solicitation groups. 
Major Giving potential may be informed by gift history, giving capacity, relationship and affinity indicators. Annual giving may be segmented by capacity, gift history and interest area.  A segment appropriate to receive a planned gift mailing may be determined by age, affinity factors and giving longevity. Having a full complement of data points on which to segment and personalize messaging creates relationships that result in support.

Having wealth data housed within the DMS or CRM allows staff to use data to make informed decisions.
In the realm of major giving, staff can make decisions regarding which prospects should be prioritized into major gift portfolios and who should be removed from active management. Data integration can also help staff define appropriate ask amounts. Having a pool of wealth-rated prospects in the DMS creates a pipeline of potential givers for current and future cultivation.

Having ratings, scores and attributes housed within the primary database or DMS allows the entire organization to leverage the data
While many organizations purchase data enhancement and analytics to benefit their major giving programs, those who integrate the data quickly learn that annual giving, planned giving, special events, marketing, alumni affairs and others in the organization can leverage the purchase, making it even more cost effective and producing greater returns.

The technology of your DMS can be very different from your CRM system, but with scalable, real-time integration, you can make these systems talk to each other and ultimately work more efficiently. With over 35 integrations (and counting) with leading providers like Salesforce, WE can integrate our data into all major DMS and CRM systems so you won’t have to choose one or the other. To learn more about integrated fundraising solutions, watch our webinar with our partner CharityEngine

Three Ways to Stimulate your Data Collection

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We all know the finest prospects are those who align themselves with your mission, have great wealth and donate – the perfect trifecta. However, when shopping for new prospects, how do you know who will meet this criteria? 

By using multiple data collection strategies, you create an efficient prospect pool. Using the tools available to you can maximize your gifts and streamline your campaign. In a WealthEngine survey, 92% of all organizations, responding, indicated they use some proactive research practices. This figure leapt to 100% among high-performing organizations; 65% of these high-performing organizations use all three of these techniques.

These three methods will help you gather new data and information about potential prospects: predictive modeling, peer screening, and wealth screening.  

Predictive Modeling
Predictive modeling is the creation of a model to predict the probability of an outcome.  It sounds complicated, but the truth is we use predictive modeling every day. Your email spam folder uses a model to predict if an incoming email is spam. Your FICO score (a commonly used credit score) is a predictive model. Your organization can use predictive models and analytics to:

  • Identify new prospects
  • Define optimal “ask” levels for next gifts
  • Develop inclination and/or affinity ratings
  • Segment constituents for multiple fundraising purposes and prioritize prospects within segments

Peer Screening
Peer screening is a technique that leverages your organization’s VIPs.  Your VIPs review lists of their peers to rate their ability to donate, their connection to the organization and their interest in its mission. A few of the potential benefits include:

  • Discover new prospects and feed the prospect pipeline
  • Qualify and quantify current capacity and inclination ratings
  • Educate and generate support among volunteers and stakeholders developing a “culture of philanthropy”
  • Create organization-wide buy-in for fundraising priorities among internal constituencies

Wealth Screening
Wealth screening is the practice of comparing a prospective list to one or more data sources. This information helps you:

  • Qualify ratings on prospects
  • Qualify lesser known prospects
  • Identify new prospects
  • Determine capacity and inclination ratings for all prospects

Wealth screening, peer screening and data modeling are three ways to help you build a winning fundraising strategy and find that perfect trifecta criteria in your donors and prospects. Check out our workbooks Growing Individual Gifts: An Analytical Approach to Data-Driven Success.

Why Do Donors Give? Eight Ways to Communicate the Right Messages to Your Donors

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As the end of the year approaches and the giving season ramps up, donors find themselves giving more to their favorite charities. As Giving USA reports, charitable giving continues to rise, in part because of growth in several key economic factors, including: personal consumption, personal income, disposable personal income, GDP, and corporate pre-tax profits.

This information can help your organization better target your prospects as the year comes to an end. Proactively identifying and understanding the prospects in your organization’s constituent file can help you craft the right message for all of your prospects. Look for those who have given gifts of appreciated stock in the past, those who have donated larger gifts, those with higher salaries, or those with a higher net worth. If you don’t know who in your file meets these criterion, WealthEngine offers tools and services to let you easily sift through and identify your prospects.

Once you’ve identified the donors in your database who may be ready to give, think about what motivates them. Donors are moved to give by more than just extra income and tax incentives. Donors give to:

  1. Causes that align with their philanthropic goals
    Make sure your communications make clear who you are and outlines your mission.

  2. Causes whose stories resonate with them in a personal and emotional way
    Stories of people impacted by your nonprofit or first-hand witnesses to your nonprofit’s impact are winners.

  3. Organizations they respect and trust
    There are several sites that rate charities. If you have their seal of approval, display it. Testimonials from well-known members in your community also inspire trust.

  4. People they respect and trust
    Make sure your board members, and high level staff, are listed prominently on your website and other communications.

  5. Organizations they believe are having a high impact and are effective in addressing their mission
    Make sure you quantify, to the fullest extent possible, the impact you are having in your field of endeavor.

  6. Organizations that ask for gifts to further their mission
    Make sure to ask for gifts for a mission that the donor wants to give to; mission, not overhead!

  7. Charities that make giving easy by providing multiple ways to give and who send messages via multiple channels
    Make giving as easy as possible, with fewer “clicks,” and streamlined response vehicles.

  8. Charities that make donors feel appreciated and glad they contributed
    Stewardship may be the most important factor of all.  Don’t let any of your donors lapse because you didn’t thank them.  Appreciation is essential.

If your nonprofit is looking to maximize year-end giving, it’s not too late to craft messages that resonate with your supporters and prospects. Target those whose incomes have likely risen due to economic growth, and appeal to both their emotional and rational selves.

For more on data-driven campaigns, download our workbook: Data-Driven Major Gift Campaigns Workbook.

“If We Build It, They Will Come”: The Magical Thinking Syndrome

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Let’s spend this week diving into a story.

Three years into a stalled capital campaign, an arts nonprofit finally engineered bond financing in order to build the facility that the then-executive director and the board were determined to have.  A consultant was hired, changes were made, but despite all that, the campaign wasn’t completely successful.  Now, with the building built and five years removed from the campaign, the organization is saddled with bond debt and the board has decided that another campaign is called for – to retire the bond debt from the first campaign.

When do you think the last time the development office did a full screening of the organizational database?  Eight years ago, because the board won’t authorize money in the budget to do so.

What is wrong with this picture?
The board in question is relatively high-performing. Most have given six-figure gifts toward the new effort.  But the board expects the development director to go back to prior campaign donors for more donations and somehow magically keep the annual fund on a growth path, all without additional resources.  What’s worse is they now have a thriving membership program but have no idea about the capacity and inclination of their members.
We have seen it time and time again here at WealthEngine.  It’s like the movie “Field of Dreams” – but without the happy ending.

A board, or a president, or an executive director thinks, “If we build this facility, we can serve more people.” 

Or, a board will say: “Well, if we have all given a six-figure gift to this cause, then there will be sixty other people in town who will do the same,”

Or worse:  “We just need to find 1,000 people to give us $1,000.” 

They will disregard a feasibility study that warns against an ambitious goal, launch a campaign, and double the goal for good measure, then blame the fundraising team for not achieving the impossible.

This is magical thinking.
Unfortunately, it’s so common, that we call it the Magical Thinking Syndrome.

Does your organization have the ability to absorb the additional operating expenses a new facility will incur – even if you successfully raise the entire amount you need?  It costs money to pay additional staff, keep the lights on, pay for upkeep and additional supplies, add insurance costs, etc.  Your board is undoubtedly made up of hard-working, generous, well-meaning individuals who are correct about one thing: Of course there are likely to be people with high capacity.   But do those people share the board member’s inclination to give a gift to a particular organization?  Are they one of the “usual suspects” in the community to whom every nonprofit, large, medium and small, goes with their hand out? And, quite frankly, where is a fundraiser to find 1,000 people willing to donate $1,000 to a particular nonprofit?

Boards and visionary executives aren’t the only ones complicit in this dilemma.  Some fundraising professionals take the “glass half empty” approach and won’t advocate for themselves or their staff to be given the resources with which to do their job.  They spend their 60 and 70 hour weeks packing more and more things into their schedule with the same results.

Without screening donor data, fundraisers have no actionable information with which to work.  It’s like throwing someone deep into Carlsbad Caverns, turning off all of the lights, and expecting her to find her way out — in less than an hour. 
The mountaineer, Eric Alexander best known for leading his blind friend, Erik Weihenmayer to Mt. Everest’s 29,035 foot summit, wouldn’t consider setting out without a map, a plan and a strategy for meeting all the possible scenarios.

Neither should fundraisers.

And boards (or senior staff) shouldn’t expect them to.

Even before embarking on a traditional feasibility study, a data or wealth screening, along with a major gift model and planned gift model, should be conducted.  Wedding the best of data analytics with personal conversations can provide lasting return and insight on where your organization stands in the community and where it ranks in your donors’ philanthropic priorities.

The return on investment for a data screening can easily outweigh the modest cost. To learn more download WealthEngine’s white paper, Measuring Fundraising Return on Investment and the Impact of Wealth Intelligence.

In fact, think about including it in your board packets for the next meeting.

A few questions to ask when considering a capital campaign:

  • Can our nonprofit absorb the additional costs of a larger facility, including furnishings, fixtures, overhead, additional salaries, insurance, utilities, upkeep and more?
  • Is there an endowment in place to provide a financial cushion for these items?  Or, is an endowment part of the proposed campaign goal?
  • Can you spend money to raise money?  (In other words, is there a commitment from the board and key leadership to create a campaign budget, including additional staff, data screening, donor recognition and other essential elements?)
  • When was the last time you did a thorough screening of your constituent database?
  • Have you had major gift and planned gift models run?

Do you have a similar story to share? Let us know in the comments below.

To learn more about data-driven capital campaigns read our new workbook and listen to our webinar.

Setting the Stage for Success in Your Data-Driven Major Gift Campaigns

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I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a nonprofit plunge head-first into a capital campaign.  

Here’s the scenario: A capital campaign gets fast tracked to start. Great, right? Well, no feasibility study has been performed. An astronomically high goal is set, because, hey, why not? This is a great organization, right? The board of directors is totally gung-ho, but they’re hand’s off. The CEO thinks it’s a great idea, but is also hand’s off. Everybody is on board except …

You guessed it. The Development Team.  

Have you ever felt as if you were thrown under the bus? Yeah, that’s the feeling a development team gets when management tells them to go out and work miracles based on what? Hubris? Desire? An “edifice complex”? 

These are absolutely the wrong reasons to start a major fundraising effort like a capital campaign.  

As a fundraising professional, wouldn’t you like to speak truth to power? Wouldn’t you like to nip this kind of magical thinking in the bud? Most of all, wouldn’t you like to know that you and your colleagues won’t bear the brunt of this kind of magical thinking?

One thing that senior management does tend to listen to is data. Sure, statistics can be manipulated by spinmeisters, but data is pretty black and white. That’s why it behooves any non-profit considering a capital or other major gift campaign to take a data-driven approach.

It takes some work, but you can do an internal audit to assess your organization’s readiness for the heavy lifting ahead.

Learn about this and much, much more, in part 1 of our Data-Driven Major Gifts Campaign workbook. Download Part 1. To accompany the workbook will be a three-part webinar series, the first scheduled for August 25, 2016 with Catherine McGrath, principal with Marts & Lundy, along with Linda Garrison, WealthEngine senior consultant. Register for the webinar. 

Want to start a discussion now? Contact us or leave a message in the comments below.