Peer Screening 101 | npENGAGE

Peer Screening 101

By on Apr 8, 2011


Frequently, when meeting with organizations interested in prospect screening, I ask them what other research strategies they currently employ.  All too often the answer I hear is, “Nothing”.  That is usually followed by, “We can’t afford to do anything,” or “We don’t have the staff to do anything.” 

OK, admittedly those limitations can be, well, limiting.  But, hey—let’s get creative.  Let’s think about what we can do that is both time and cost effective.  To those organizations that tell me they just can’t afford to do anything, I typically ask, “Have you ever done any peer screening?”

You’d be amazed at how often I hear, “Oh, we can’t do THAT!” Or, better yet, “Sure–we did that for our last campaign (five years ago.)

So, what is it about Peer Screening that evokes such a response?  The belief that it is somehow inappropriate?  Or maybe that it’s only needed when a capital campaign is underway?  Neither could be further from the truth.

In my 25+ years of fundraising I have run across countless organizations that truly believe that it is taboo to engage in “people talking about each other.”  And, I have come across dozens of others who raise a great deal of money simply because they take full advantage of this highly effective strategy.  And, the best news?  It doesn’t cost anything (save for some goodies to keep your screeners engaged).  Plus, it has countless side benefits, including creating a culture and better understanding of giving among some key constituents.

 Take a look around you.  Ask your peer organizations if they doing any type of peer screening.  You might be surprised by what you find.  The secret, they will most likely tell you, is how you go about it.  There is definitely a right and a wrong way to do this.  Stay tuned for Peer Screening 201 for my thoughts on the “right” things to do.   Better yet, send me your Peer Screening success (and, OK, horror) stories.  I will share some next time. 

*Laura Worcester is a consultant for Target Analytics. You can reach me at


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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