Anyone who has initiated a screening project will tell you that it can be a mixed blessing.  Whether it becomes a thorn in your side or the answer to your prayers is up to you.  A common first reaction to getting screening results delivered to your desktop is "Oh myyyy, that's a lot of data!"

Fortunately, for those who are in that position, it's not too late to gain control.  And control leads to momentum, momentum leads to wins.  And wins lead to cheers.  Suddenly, you're a hero.  And admit it, being a hero once in a while feels pretty good.

Because I've worked with hundreds of clients who have said, "Oh myyyy, that's a lot of data!," I am in a position to share with you some of the keys to a successful wealth screening implementation featuring quick wins - where you can push some winners out to your leadership or gift officers, and they will come back cheering.

So, let's get started.  I've got a three-step plan.

Step One: Articulate Goals

You must know why you are doing a screening and what you hope to accomplish.  If you don't, you won't know what success looks like and neither will your colleagues.  Wherever you are in the process of your screening implementation, stop immediately and write out your short-term goals:

  • "We need to identify 200 new prospects for discovery visits"
  • "We want to know if it will be worthwhile to begin a mid-level donor program"
  • "We want to segment our annual giving program more profitably"

Your goals may vary - perhaps you are interested in providing a list of names to your planned giving officer; or identifying likely donors for a mini-campaign for new playground equipment; or you're building a campaign gift table to help in planning for a proposed campaign.  

Whatever your goals:

  • make sure that you know what they are
  • make sure they are in alignment with your organization's strategic plan
  • make sure that all stakeholders in your organization are aware of the goals and have had an opportunity to weigh in and discuss them
  • make them quantifiable when possible
  • do not make them so rigid that you can't change them as the data reveals new insights

Step Two:  Plan and Prepare

You can't have a completely successful project unless you have very good communication with your teammates in the fundraising office.  Report on the project regularly at staff meetings or in memos distributed on a regular basis:

  • Your comparison of vendors and how and why the winning partner was selected
  • Your time line for submitting data, the extent of services to be performed, and the estimated return date
  • A time line for how you will analyze and push out the data once you receive it back from the vendor
  • Internal resources you anticipate needing such as IT support
  • What output you will provide and to whom

For example, you will likely require some IT or IS resources in order to get the data pulled from your database and transmitted to the vendor.  If you are planning to integrate your wealth scores back into your database, you will likely require support for this, too. Needs such as these should be highlighted as early as possible in the process.  

Likewise, manage expectations early by indicating the type of output you'll provide to the team.  If you are looking for quick wins, you will not be doing full profiles on every prospect.  Perhaps you will do a brief validation that is enough to answer the question "Is this a viable major gift prospect at our minimum level?"  Explain why it is important to be able to assign prospects for discovery before doing a full validation of the data, and that if there is a positive outcome from discovery, there will be more research completed as needed.

You may also need to let your team know that while you are analyzing and working with results you must pare back on some of your normal duties.  For instance, perhaps reactive research will be put on hold for a specific time period.  Or the response time may go from 48 hours to 1 week.  Consider the resources you need to work with the new data coming in and make sure that you reserve enough time and talent to meet your goals. 

Step Three: Analyze 

This is where the rubber meets the road. You've set goals, carved out time and managed expectations.  Now you must deliver.  Most organizations undertaking a screening are doing it, at least in part, to identify new major gift prospects.  Assuming that is one of your high priority short-term goals, let's do it!

Remember what makes a good prospect: capacity, propensity and affinity.  You can easily identify variables in your screening to help filter for those attributes.  For instance, with WealthEngine's screening, I use Estimated Giving Capacity for capacity, Propensity to Give (P2G) for Propensity, and Recency-Frequency-Money for affinity. RFM is a ranking of prospects within your screening based on the recency of their last gift, the size of their largest gift and the number of gifts they have made to your organization.  If you have a model that indicates affinity, or an affinity score, that is another great way to account for affinity.

Now filter your data.  Look first at those with both high capacity and high propensity.   Be sure to filter out known and previously identified prospects.  Once you've isolated this group of potential major gift prospects, order them by RFM scores. Those with highest affinity (as indicated by the RFM proxy), along with high propensity and capacity, are likely to be your quickest wins.

Now you may want to review each record before assigning the leads to your gift officers. You want to review enough information to be able to answer the question: "Is this a good major gift prospect?"  Referring the wrong John Smith to a gift officer will earn you jeers rather than cheers.  Fortunately, a review of several data sources, notably securities and exchange commission stock filings, and real estate records, will often be all you need to do a quick but accurate verification.  And as screening processes, match logic and analytic techniques are becoming more powerful and accurate all the time, less verification is needed today than even two or three years ago.

Make the time and take the effort to push out some of these solid leads as quickly as possible after receiving the screening.  This will be beneficial in a number of ways:

  1. It will broadcast to stakeholders that the screening project has been worth the expense, the effort and the wait
  2. It will buy you time to take a deeper dive into the results and work toward some of your other short-term goals
  3. It will make you look like the hero you are

I can hear the cheers now!  

For more information on implementing a screening, please contact us or join the WealthEngine Institute!

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