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Six Super Indicators of Major Gift Prospects

If you placed your entire donor constituency in a room, it would be easy to spot the super heroes among the crowd. You just look for the muscular people wearing spandex, possibly with capes. If only it were that easy to find major gift prospects.

Identifying major gift prospects is like spotting super heroes among a room full of gymnasts. Is that muscular man in tights a hero? Is that woman the one who can turn invisible?

There's a ton of data in your CRM, and, while it's all useful, some information should be prioritized over others to more effectively discover the major gift prospects among your constituency.

Here are the top six indicators to find and organize major gift prospects in your CRM:

1) Past Charitable Giving to Your Organization

Loyal donors are the cream of the crop of your organization's donors.

The benefits of regular major donors are obvious, but lesser donors matter, too. Consistent donors who give modest amounts may have the capacities to give more, but do not, whether because they have never been asked to or for other reasons. Loyal donors already care about your organization, and if you can find the ones who have the ability to give more then you can start to turn them into major donors.

RFM Total is one of many scores that helps to rate prospects, so you can identify major gift prospects without wasting time trying to piece together what all the data means on your own.

RFM Totals are scored on a 300-point scale - 100 points for each category with a score of 300 being the best - and indicate the relationship you possess with each prospect:

  • Recency - When was the last time the donor made a charitable contribution?
  • Frequency - How often has the donor given?
  • Money - How much does the donor typically give? How much has the donor given in total from all gifts received?

If you employ a prospect screening company then RFM Total should be calculated for you.

2) Past Charitable Giving to Other Nonprofit Organizations

Robin is Batman's sidekick, but, while Robin might not be the star of the show, he has moments when he plays just as big, if not a bigger role than the caped crusader.

While donations to your nonprofit are the most important, donations to other organizations are the second best indicators that people will be inclined to give to you.

Donors who give between $5k and $10k are five times more likely than the average person to donate to another nonprofit, and donors who give $100k or more are 32 times more likely to donate elsewhere.

When analyzing donations to other nonprofits, it's best to look for donations to organizations that are similar to yours. If donors already express an interest in similar nonprofits, then you can use that affinity to your advantage.

Important similarities include:

  • Mission
  • Geographic location
  • Organization size

Donors to similar organizations are the sidekicks to your loyal donors. They don't stand out as prominently, but, when you need help, they can deliver an equally big or bigger impact for your organization.

3) Involvement in Nonprofits as a Foundation Trustee or Director

From Peter Parker the photographer to Clark Kent the journalist, the alter egos of super heroes don't proclaim anything special. However, behind those alter egos reside amazing individuals.

Behind the names on your donor list resides a wealth of information, such as what organizations your constituents are involved with. An analysis of charitable giving to over 400 nonprofits revealed that a prospect's participation as a foundation trustee or nonprofit director trumped any wealth indicator as a predictor of future philanthropy. An invested role in the nonprofit space indicates that a prospect understands the importance of philanthropy in helping nonprofits to accomplish their missions.

These prospects are also foundation higher-ups, so they bring a wealth of valuable connections. These connections range from other foundation members to nonprofit board members who can also become major giving prospects. If you can find who is a foundation trustee or director, then you can turn those people into more than names that add length to your donor list.

4) Political Giving

Donors who have given $500 or more to political campaigns are five times more likely than the average person to give a charitable donation. Donors of $2,500 or more are 14 times more likely.

Political giving is a sign that people want to give to the causes they care about. It can be an indicator of wealth, but it is not generally regarded as a wealth marker so much as a philanthropy indicator.

That said, a mere $250 donation puts a prospect in the top 6% of the U.S. population in terms of political giving. The people who give to politics are a small contingent of the population and tend to be wealthy, so you may be tempted to treat this as a wealth marker, but it should only be trusted as a philanthropic indicator.

5) Real Estate Ownership

Real estate ownership is the first true wealth indicator on this list, which means something, because a lot goes into determining if a prospect will want to give and be able to give a large gift in the first place. That said, once prospects are qualified to give it becomes all about how much they will donate.

Owners of $1-2 million in real estate are four times more likely to give than the average person, and owners of $2+ million in real estate are 17 times more likely to give. While those statistics focus on likelihood to give, people who own that much in real estate tend to have money to donate.

6) Business Involvement

People who hold high positions tend to be wealthy, so you want to target these prospects for major donations.

Another perk of learning employer information is for the purpose of matching gifts. If your donors work for matching gift companies then you can receive corporate donations that double, triple, and quadruple employee gifts.When someone gives a $5,000 gift and that can be turned into $10,000 with the simple submission of an online form, you don't want that opportunity to pass you by.

As with those involved with foundations, people high-up in businesses tend to be connected to other wealthy individuals who could be other high-quality major gift prospects. Leverage the reach of your donor pool to receive personal introductions to new faces who could give more funds.

Four out of the six indicators on this list are philanthropy markers and not wealth indicators. Money matters when it comes to capacity to give, but an affinity for philanthropy must come first. If a prospect is not drawn to philanthropy or your specific organization then any amount of money means little, as they'll look to give it elsewhere or nowhere at all.

Knowing how to look at the data in your CRM can save you time and money to dedicate to other fundraising efforts. You'll also be able to better organize the constituency in your CRM by labeling prospects with greater accuracy. The best part is that effectively finding more major gift prospects means more success in less time for your next fundraising campaign, which makes you a fundraising super hero.

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Ryan Woroniecki is the Executive Director of Partnerships at DonorSearch a prospect research, screening, and analytics company that focus on proven philanthropy. He has worked with hundreds of non-profits and is a member of APRA-MD. When he isn't working he is an avid kickball player.


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