The business of fundraising has become big, but are we becoming Big Business? Arguably, the biggest change this generation has seen is the shift in our core business model. Historically, it was sufficient to know the wealthy constituents in town, go to the right country clubs, and attend the matinee at the symphony to find the next year’s philanthropic revenue. Although this approach might still keep one principal gifts officer busy, it is not scalable for the ever-increasing demands of multi-billion dollar comprehensive campaigns. We’ve had to respond with expanding the underlying infrastructure for sustainable major gift programs.
As we dissect this infrastructure into process steps, we are able to apply continuous improvement methodologies to bring efficiencies to filtering lists, feeding the verification process, deploying prospects for discovery, tuning the metrics, and providing insightful analysis. The building blocks of this analysis are data-derived scoring systems.
Where We Were
The first score to see mass adoption was the capacity score. Through rigorous individualized research approaches, prospect development professionals would provide an estimate of the ability to make a gift. This was a helpful tool for prioritizing major gift work and helping to size solicitations. Wealth screening provided initial scalability to provide capacity ratings to thousands of constituents.
As growth requirements led to increased discovery needs, major gift officers found capacity alone to be insufficient. When meeting a prospect, the qualification dialogue included not just wealth indicators, but also warmth of the relationship, interest alignment, and other indicators of likelihood to give. But, these factors were tougher to scale in pre-visit measurements. This necessity for mass-propensity scoring gave birth to the rapid adoption of predictive modeling. It was finally possible to apply propensity ratings and engagement scoring to thousands, even millions of constituents.
Where We Are Going
Now we are at a new watershed moment in scoring methodology. Rather than using scoring for prospect identification alone, we are seeing rapid adoption in the areas of:
1. Portfolio optimization. Establishing thresholds for portfolio diagnostics and balancing.
2. Performance metrics. Determining and ranking which activities lead to better production.
3. Dynamic measurement. Prospect scores changing as constituent activity changes.
Not only are the uses of scoring expanding in application, the methods continue to evolve, too. We are starting to see cross-corroboration algorithms applied to screening and other data appends to bring further efficiency to verification. Some organizations are employing discrete-choice approaches to crowd-source variable selection and even define dependent variables when the population is small or inadequately tracked. And advances in web crawling and variable imputation are starting to fill-in those nagging data gaps.
So, are you keeping score? Or, maybe the better question is, “Are you keeping scores?” Analytics will provide the insight you need to evolve your program, but the scores put that insight into practice.
To learn more about how you can take the next step in the scoring revolution, contact the analytics professionals at BWF.