Has your organization successfully completed a campaign, celebrated success, and immediately started planning for the next campaign? As fundraising professionals, we need to navigate these perpetual campaigns carefully. We want to be careful about re-approaching the same donors over and over again. We also need insight and information to evaluate whether we have enough prospects to achieve our ambitious campaign goals.

Wealth Screening to Giving Capacity. Organizations are generally able to use wealth screening results to establish a working campaign goal, but they need prospect research to verify philanthropic capacity as names are populated into the campaign gift table to ensure that there are enough prospects identified at each level of the gift table, particulary those who are capable of making transformational gifts.

Philanthropic giving capacity is defined as the prospect’s total ability to make a philanthropic gift, regardless of institution, over a five-year period of time. Giving capacity can be reported as a range ($50K–$99.9K) or can be used to place prospects into a giving program (annual, major, principal). Reviewing giving capacity typically involves evaluating all publicly-available assets (real estate, stock holdings, estimated income) and wealth indicators (luxury items, private school enrollment, philanthropic giving patterns) to gain a comprehensive picture of a prospect’s philanthropic capabilities.


Giving Capacity to Research Verification. One organization we work with recently embarked on a new campaign. They tested overall campaign goals with key supporters and against previous fundraising totals and came up with a number that seemed ambitious but feasible. They created their ideal campaign gift table. As the preparation phase began to shift into the leadership gifts phase, they conducted a wealth screening on prospects newly identified since the past campaign. Then, they turned to prospect research to verify that they had all the prospects they needed based on philanthropic giving capacity.

The value in asking research to verify philanthropic giving capacity can be demonstrated in the graphic above. The light gray band in the middle represents where the screening vendor’s rating is the same as the research-verified rating. Prospects verified above this band have been identified by the wealth screening vendor with higher capacity than they are confirmed to have. Populating these names into the gift table at the higher level would overestimate the organization’s ability to achieve the campaign goal. Similarly, prospects verified below this band have been identified by the wealth screening vendor with lower capacity then they are confirmed to have. Populating these names into the gift table at the lower level could underestimate the organization’s ability to achieve the campaign goal. While no estimation of philanthropic capacity is completely accurate, a review of these records by prospect research will ensure that campaign projections are made based on the most accurate information available.

The organization’s challenge was that prospect research was being conducted by one individual who also had other responsibilities. Her current process to verify philanthropic capacity of prospects was very accurate and provided actionable insights for her major gifts team, but it was also time-consuming. At her current rate, the campaign was projected to end before she would be able to verify all of the prospects in the gift table!

Research Verification to Gift Table Placement. We worked with the organization’s prospect researcher to develop a 10- to 15-minute research verification process to expedite completing philanthropic capacity ratings. This process used the concept of a baseline capacity rating, which involves reviewing one primary wealth indicator to assess philanthropic capacity, in order to make a quick initial determination of the baseline estimate of a prospect’s giving capacity range or giving level. In addition to the primary wealth indicator, this process also incorporated philanthropic giving patterns of prospects to continue to provide actionable insights for her major gifts team.

This research verification process allowed the prospect researcher to quickly verify a large volume of potential prospects and place them in the appropriate levels on the campaign gift table. This gave the organization an overall picture of how feasible their campaign goal was. In addition, prospect research now has a new “first-pass” product to offer gift officers when a prospect is newly assigned into their portfolios for prospect qualification.

Depending on the campaign goal and the size of the prospect research team, some organizations find that a verification process like this, albeit efficient, is still overwhelming given the number prospects to verify and prospect research staff available. Partnering with a proven provider of research verification services may be a very wise choice. This can expedite the process and allow your research team to continue other essential projects during this critical phase.

To learn how BWF can meet your research verification goals and bring industry-leading insight to your campaign, contact Bond Lammey at blammey@bwf.com.

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