About Animal Humane Society

The Animal Humane Society (AHS) is the largest animal welfare organization in the upper Midwest, serving the Twin Cities metro area with five shelters and caring for more than 25,000 animals annually. 


The Animal Humane Society (AHS) is the largest animal welfare organization in the upper Midwest, serving the Twin Cities metro area with five shelters and caring for more than 25,000 animals annually. The impact of the organization is evident in the decline of homeless animals as new holistic programs are implemented by AHS to help keep animals in homes, to spay and neuter animals, and to provide more services for animals to increase their adoptability.

The Challenge

2007 saw the merger of three animal welfare agencies in the Twin Cities area to become the Animal Humane Society. At the time of the merger, they had five donor databases, as well as an additional 8 databases representing adoptees, volunteers, and other constituents. “From a development perspective, it was a perfect storm, and a magical moment,” explains Debra Behrens, Director of Donor Relations for AHS. “We wanted to learn more about our donors and constituents, so we invested in a database screening that would also allow us to identify duplicate records and flag relationships between data in the various databases. While we couldn’t screen all our records, this gave us an opportunity to test the waters and see if screening would be a successful strategy for us.” By all accounts, the project was a success. “Shortly after receiving data back from the screening, we received a major gift in response to a mailing – from someone who had simply never been asked to donate – that more than paid for the entire project.”

Fast forward to 2010, and it was time to implement a broader screening strategy. “We wanted to get a 360-degree view of our constituents,” says Behrens. “We have 50,000 donors each year and many of those are new donors. Add to that new adoptees, and volunteers, and it adds up to a lot of new names each year. We need to understand who those people are.” AHS was ready to fire on all cylinders, wishing to strengthen an already successful planned giving program, grow a major giving program, and enhance annual giving performance. To accomplish these goals, they opted to couple their investment in wealth and demographic data with analytics to power their fundraising strategies.

Integrating Analytics with Wealth Appends is Powerful

  • Optimizes internal and external data
  • Equips researchers and development staff to focus on best prospects
  • Delivers robust return on investment
  • Maximizes fundraising effectiveness

The Solution

Using the evidence from 2007 to demonstrate to the board and leadership that the investment would result in a positive return, they were able to partner with WealthEngine and consulting partner Bentz Whaley Flessner to purchase screening data, data enhancements such as email overlays and National Change of Address updates, as well as predictive models for:

  • Major giving
  • Planned giving
  • Annual giving
  • And a cluster model to indicate each constituents level of connection to AHS

The Result

The screening (providing details on each constituents ability to give a major gift) and major giving model (indicating each constituents likelihood to make a major gift to AHS) together identified so many solid major gift prospects that Behrens was able to make the case to their leadership that they needed to hire additional major gift officers. They had one MGO, and the initial results of the project allowed them to hire two additional, full-time MGO’s. They also went through a portfolio realignment and optimization exercise, ensuring that the best major 2010 2011 gift prospects were actively managed by either a MGO or by someone on the executive team, three of whom also actively manage prospects. The end result is that in little more than one year, AHS doubled the number of major gifts they received and the value of those gifts also grew by nearly 100%.

AHS’s Legacy Circle – an opt-in recognition society for planned giving donors, also grew during this time. As a result of better targeted mailings to those most likely to leave a bequest or make another type of planned gift, the society grew from 600 to 675 members. While this doesn’t represent the totality of planned gift commitments to AHS, as many do not opt-in, it does suggest the efficacy of the planned gift modeling and use of data in identifying the most appropriate constituents to receive legacy messaging.

Rapid Results:

  • Identified case to hire additional development staff
  • Doubled number and value of major gifts
  • Grew legacy program from 600-675 members

Next Steps

AHS is actively planning ahead, looking at the next three years. During this time, according to Behrens, they hope to hire an additional major gift officer, and begin to lay the groundwork for a feasibility study they plan to undertake in 2015. “By understanding our constituents, keeping our data up to date and routinely screening new donors, adoptees and volunteers as they come through our doors, we will be in the best position to launch a major campaign.”

The Animal Humane Society is actively growing their fundraising capacity with data and analytics. They are thinking strategically about the future and positioning themselves for success when they launch a major campaign in the future. WealthEngine is proud to be playing a part in this achievement.

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