Occasionally I hear fundraisers scoff at the idea of predictive modeling and electronic screening projects. More often than not, these fundraisers are working for smaller non-profits, non-profits with very localized constituencies and/or have been involved in their local philanthropic communities for many years. However, I have heard naysayers from non-profits of every size and sector. On the flip side, I also frequently hear stories from those whose experiences really prove why screening is valuable. Here is one story I heard recently (with some artistic license taken to protect the identity of the client I was working with):
Working with a small mostly community based non-profit, I picked a couple of prospects to ‘demo’ during a recent project review. Usually I pick a few prospects who, between all of them, have data that highlights all of the varying types of data returned. I always ask if the fundraisers I’m working with know the prospect. Regardless of the answer, since I only have a finite amount of time to work with my clients, my goal still remains to provide tips and tricks on interpreting and understanding the data in general. If I help the non-profit identify a viable new prospect, that’s just a bonus! But generally, it’s my ‘give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime’ approach.
As always, in this case I asked if the fundraisers I was working with knew (we’ll just call him) John Doe. One of them piped right up: “oh, John, yeah I know him. He’s a long time family friend and we share Thanksgiving with his family every year. I know he works for ABC Inc. (a public company). He’s given our non-profit a couple of $100 gifts over the past few years, and I think he attends our auction, but he’s not really connected to us beyond that.”
A quick review of the data revealed that Joe wasn’t just an employee of ABC Inc, he was the CEO, earning a mid-six figure salary and holding more than $1.5M in directly held stock! Needless to say, the fundraiser quickly realized that while Thanksgiving dinner and $100 gifts do not reveal everything, it does provide the basis of a relationship that is now going to be leveraged for (hopefully) a much, much larger financial commitment to this organization.