Is Your Prospect Volcano Erupting? | npENGAGE

Is Your Prospect Volcano Erupting?

By on Jul 12, 2012


“We are just recycling the same prospects over and over again.”  If I had a dollar for every time I heard that comment, I would be a very wealthy woman.

Truth is, this doesn’t have to happen.  If it is happening, most likely your prospecting efforts are reactive rather than proactive.  You might be waiting for a prospect to “self identify” by making a gift that catches your attention, or to hear about someone’s ability to give from your organizational grapevine.  These are perfectly acceptable strategies, but they should simply compliment other efforts, not be the sole source of potential top donors.

There are many sources of new prospects.  Imagine that all of the individuals on your database are stashed inside a volcano.  Year after year most volcanoes stay dormant, only periodically spewing out hot, molten lava.  Every once in a while, something happens that forces that lava to erupt.  Your job—with your prospect volcano—is to find ways to keep those prospects pouring out of the top. 

Over the next few months I will address a few of these methods, including predictive modeling, peer screening and wealth screening.  For now, let me shed some light on just one of the ways you can get more value from a wealth screening than you might have anticipated.   You might find that this is a virtual “hot bed” of volcanic stimulators!

If you are like most people, when you look at the results of a wealth screening, you might be tempted to focus on one thing—assets. Who wouldn’t be sidetracked by the “fun” prospects that seem to magically float to the top?   What could be more fun than sorting the prospects in reverse order of assets and see numbers such as $200,000,000+ dance in front of your eyes?

Fun, yes. Sustainable, no.  Scroll on down and you most likely will soon be into numbers that don’t look all that impressive.  The vast majority of your prospects most likely have total assets found through the screening of less than a million dollars.  Why does this happen?  The answer is simple:  only certain hard assets are available in the public domain, most notably real estate and public company insiders.  If you think a wealth screening is going to reveal the stock portfolios of every prospect, or tell you what someone has in retirement savings, you may have unrealistic expectations.

Now, before you get frustrated and wonder what did you pay for with this screening project, spend a little time learning how to read between the lines to discover new ways to make your volcano erupt.

If your wealth screening has a category for “affluence indicators”, this can be a hidden trove of new names.  This is typically a collection of information from various sources that may not translate to hard assets, but most likely identifies individuals with an affluent lifestyle.   Imagine reading the following descriptors for prospect:

“Travels, golfs, yacht owner, speculative investor.”

That person may not have been included in your list of millionaires based on assets alone; however, now that these key words have come to light, you realize she “just missed” your group of millionaires with a $920,000, 6800 square foot primary residence.  In addition, now that you have taken a look, you see that she serves on the board of several non profits and makes numerous charitable gifts each year.  However, if you had just been looking at asset numbers, you may never have noticed this individual. 

So, look for ways to keep those prospects erupting.  And, watch our blog for more insights into keeping new names right at your fingertips. 

Do you have a secret to erupting your prospect volcano?  If so, post it a comment at this site.  Or, feel free to email me at [email protected].

*Laura Worcester is a consultant for Target Analytics.


Laura Worcester, senior consultant at Target Analytics, joined Blackbaud in 2001.In her current role she advises nonprofits on utilizing screening results in identifying and evaluating best donor prospects. In 25+ years of fundraising experience, Laura has served as the chief advancement officer for numerous organizations and managed her own consulting business, providing grant writing services to arts, educational and health care organizations. She’s presented at development conferences and has been a regular contributor to Blackbaud’s blogs with selected posts being reprinted in journals such the NonProfit Times. A traveler since her study abroad days in Denmark, Laura’s committed to passing this enthusiasm on to her teenage daughters. Her family’s travel adventures were just featured in a neighborhood magazine in her suburban Milwaukee community. Contact Laura by email.

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