Our Skewed Perception of Reality When It Comes to Wealth Screenings

November 25, 2015

So, wealth screening was supposed to solve all our fundraising problems, right? Not so fast. Were we really that naive to think that sending a list of names and addresses to a wealth screening company would return a ranked list of leads, each one a potential five- or six-figure gift? Yup. Everyone around the table believed that. Everyone, that is, except the grumpy old volunteer in the corner with arms crossed who said, “Those things [meaning wealth screenings] never work”.

As professionals in the industry, we know wealth screening can help, but sometimes struggle with exactly how to leverage the wealth screening to achieve our fundraising goals. Too often the process ends with the wealth screening sitting on a shelf somewhere collecting dust.

The true value of wealth screenings became evident to me as I realized we (visionary leaders, hardworking staff, and dedicated volunteers alike) were asking the right questions, but looking for answers in the wrong place.

A wealth screening is just the first step in the process of a much larger, mission-critical objective of prospect pool development. It is only ONE step. This is a key concept most fundraising organizations and non-profit leaders fail to realize. This misunderstanding can lead to unnecessary feelings of disappointment, even before the wealth screening project has begun.

As we adjust our perspective and begin to focus on prospect pool development (or filling the pipeline), we can more easily see how a wealth screening fits into the bigger picture as just one part of building a robust prospect pool and pipeline.

Instead of expecting some magical screening results to directly lead to new six-figure gifts, consider managing your team’s expectations by setting your sights on the following objectives for the screening:

  1. Confirm what you know about your top prospects’ capacities;
  2. Identify a number of top prospects that have more capacity than you originally believed they had; and
  3. Discover new donors in your prospect pool with strong philanthropic activity to other organizations.

With these objectives in mind, wealth screenings feel pretty exciting again, right? Of course, there is much more to a wealth screening prospect pool development than managing expectations. But shifting our focus to the bigger picture and setting reasonable objectives is a great start to leveraging a wealth screening for increased success in major gift fundraising.

-Jim Rude, Senior Consultant

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