When it comes to donor research, wealth screening can be pretty overwhelming. Let’s look at some key elements and see exactly what this data is (and isn’t) telling us.
What is the data telling us?
First, wealth screening will give you basic information on a donor – age, marital status, residences over the past few decades, and so on. Now, almost all third-party vendors will admit to being around 60 to 80 percent accurate in the data that you’re receiving, leaving room for error. However, this data allows you to point the arrow in the right direction and start moving forward. Then, you can refine the information once you’re in a one-on-one relationship with that donor.
The second thing it tells you is the inclination of that donor to support an organization in general. That’s not saying they are going to specifically support your organization, but the data will show whether they are philanthropic by nature or not. If you’re looking up a philanthropist, often times it will even share which organizations they choose to support and how consistently they support them.
Thirdly, wealth screening will offer generalities around the donor’s financial capabilities. The data might even give you an understanding of the size of their capacity and whom they are giving to, picking up specific tendencies and consistencies along the way.
What is the data not telling us?
Wealth screening data will not tell you whether or not this donor is perfectly aligned with your mission. But guess what? That’s your job!
Secondly, there will be hidden capabilities within every donor. The wealthier and more sophisticated the donor is, the more apt they are to hide things through foundations, trusts, and corporations. Often times the data does not tell us the full picture, and through engagements with the donor we must put the pieces together.
For example, I know one donor here in Texas who has given large sums of money, but it’s given through their family foundation. Interestingly, the parents are still alive and they’re the executors of the foundation, yet their son is the one making the decisions now on which organizations to support.
As he’s beginning to take over the family foundation, he’s not being credited in the data with being the one who’s giving the gift. The parents are, but he’s the one making all the decisions. His score shows up as average, but through some digging we’ll discover that the donor is actually someone of significant value from a financial perspective.
Be sure to take these factors into account when sorting through your wealth screening data and getting to know your donors.
Find more tips and best practices on donor research in my Dunham Institute course The Value of Donor Research.
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