Best Practice: The Perfect Prospect Qualification

Part I

As a seasoned development professional, you already know that your campaign’s lead donor—or even your next major gift donor—is already in your database.  But your database contains thousands of prospects.  In this vast sea of oysters, how do you find the pearls? 

Today, we begin a two-part blog that explores a successful prospect identification and qualification process.

Technology gives us a great start to the prospect identification process: wealth screening.  This process magically assigns a score to each of our donors based on the capacity and propensity to give.  It is a powerful tool that can help us find otherwise overlooked potential.

Wealth screen has two major functions: 1) it narrows down our pool to a more manageable amount, and 2) it identifies potential we may have overlooked.

But wealth screening—even with the most advanced algorithms—should never be the end of the donor identification and qualification process because it paints only part of the picture.  

This example illustrates the danger of relying too heavily on electronic analysis.

A university runs a wealth screen on their alumni.  Mr. and Mrs. Smith pop up as campaign lead gift prospects.  They have the capacity to give, they’ve been to homecoming the past five years, and they’re generous supporters of the annual fund.  An easy major gift ask, right?  What the data doesn’t say is that Mr. Smith’s company filed for bankruptcy last month.  Approaching them for a gift today would be insensitive and could potentially harm a long-term relationship.  

A wealth screen is merely the first layer of a successful donor qualification process.  The next step is to look backwards and mine your database’s history.  Look for trends.  Which donors have systematically increased their annual giving?  Which volunteers have recently begun contributing to special projects or class gifts? Which constituents have come to your gala the last three years but never made a gift?  This information becomes another rich layer.  

The Human Touch 

Armed with the results of your wealth screen and historical donor data, it’s time to arrange at least one prospect rating session.  The second installment of this post will introduce some of the best practices we’ve developed while leading hundreds of prospect qualifications. 

Follow this link to learn more about finding hidden gems in your database. 


Article written by: Jim Bush, Vice President of Client Partnerships

Follow Jim Bush @Jimmythebush and @WinklerGroup.

The Winkler Group is a full-service fundraising firm headquartered in Charleston, South Carolina, with offices in Atlanta and Orlando.  The Winkler Group specializes in capital campaigns, planning studies, and strategic development planning.

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