Part 3 of 4: Donor Prospecting

Maintaining a robust pipeline is a challenge, but it’s imperative for every organization that relies on the charity of individuals. Throughout this four-part series, we’re exploring a few tools that can help you identify, qualify and add new prospects to your pipeline and into your gift officers’ portfolios—to help you break out of the rut of relying on the same people for the same major gifts year after year, campaign after campaign.

In our last installment, we explored philanthropic capacity screening (aka “wealth screening”) as an effective way to qualify individuals in your database (both current donors and prospects) based on capacity and philanthropic behavior toward other organizations. On the one hand, this is a relatively inexpensive way to prioritize your prospect pool. On the other hand, it can be time consuming to interpret the results and create a strategy for prioritizing that makes sense for your organization. Working with the screening results can be taxing for those not proficient in Excel segmentation and potentially overwhelming given the vast amount of information provided for each prospect.

Is there a more efficient way to identify those individuals who have capacity, are generally philanthropic and have affinity?

The simple answer is YES.

Prospect Identification Modeling

The philanthropic capacity screening discussed last month will tell us who has the capacity and is giving elsewhere, while modeling will help us efficiently uncover your next generation of leadership gift prospects. These individuals tend to be prospects who are overlooked based on the smaller size of their gifts.

So, how do we do it?

    1. We begin by mapping out behavioral indicators of the organization’s current leadership donors to create a custom algorithm: first gift amount and channel; how long it took to get to the leadership gift threshold; any giving changes that set them on a trajectory toward a leadership gift, etc.

    2. This new algorithm is then weighted to reflect how likely different constituent groups are to make a gift or to make a larger gift (e.g., a constituent code of “alum” would likely hold the greatest weight in a school, whereas, “Board member” might hold the greatest weight in another type of organization).

    3. Finally, we begin to model: those who are on a path similar to that of current leadership donors; current retention vs. maximum years of retention; largest gift in relation to first gift amount; increased giving (number of gifts and/or amount of gifts); event attendance, advocacy efforts, and membership (if applicable and recorded); etc.

The custom model tells us not only who has the capacity to give a leadership gift, but who is most likely to do so (aka those with strong affinity) based on indicators unique to you and grounded in best practice.

Modeling, long an analytical tool in the for-profit’s toolbox for forecasting, has gained significant ground in the nonprofit sector. A modeled list of donors would allow you to focus your efforts and your department’s resources most efficiently—on those most likely to give significant donations.

Based on the size of your current file, we would deliver a list of your top “very warm” prospects (typically around 150-300 prospects)—those who haven’t yet given at your defined leadership gift level but are poised to springboard to that next level.



The modeled list of prospects includes planned giving prospects—particularly useful going into a campaign with an endowment component—as well as an ask range and research profile.

The modeled list of prospects is exported to Excel, as seen in the sample spreadsheet below. (Note the prospect name column was omitted here for confidentiality purposes.) It includes the ask range; the primary source used to determine capacity; whether the prospect is a planned giving prospect and which type of planned giving vehicle to pursue; how many properties we could find on record and their value; and a count of their (public) donations to other organizations as well as the value of those donations.



This list of hot prospects can immediately be assigned to your gift officer(s) for further qualification and strategy development. The ROI on this inexpensive service is enormous!