In Pursuit of the Low Hanging Fruit | npENGAGE

In Pursuit of the Low Hanging Fruit

By on Aug 9, 2011


I am frequently asked what suggestions I have for determining the best “Top Prospects” for each type of giving.  Undoubtedly, if I ask what measures have been used to date, the answer usually gravitates to some interpretation of greatest wealth–whether it is actual assets or anecdotal wealth information obtained from another source.   All too often I sense that there is a search underway for the proverbial magic bullet, or a single rating or score that will allow for a convenient ranking of prospects.  What is often missing from the response is an understanding of what is almost always has to be a multi-faceted approach to the question of, “Who represents our Low Hanging Fruit?”

While wealth is obviously important when identifying best major gift prospects, I think we would all agree that it isn’t the only factor.  Measures of propensity, whether it be evaluating past giving, looking at likelihood modeling results or soliciting peer screening feedback can (and should) be considered in the decision making process.  In fact, there should be multiple indicators, scores and ratings evaluated when determining best prospects for a particular appeal or giving opportunity.  When interacting with Target Analytics clients, who often have a modeled giving likelihood score (A), a modeled suggested ask amount (B), wealth screening results (C), giving history (D) and various types of anecdotal information (E), I often illustrate an “A + B + C + D + E” approach, while explaining that not every prospect will have all indicators pointing in the “right” direction.

The goal here, though, is a balance of accuracy and efficiency.  It is amazing how many times I get a surprised look when I say, “Start with the best ones first—and the wealthiest may not come out on top.”  What is needed, in effect, is a scoring system, where a prospect essentially earns points for having a “yes” in each area.  Large research shops have elaborate formulas of how these points are assigned and weighted.  But, for smaller shops, this can become cumbersome and hard to manage. The good news is that your system doesn’t have to be complex:  simple can be effective, too.  The key is identifying how much credit each aspect of the system should have in the final evaluation, and assigning a point system that reflects this.

Got a great “low hanging fruit” formula at your organization? If so, I would love to hear it.  Share your thoughts in the “Comments” section of this blog or email me at
I will post some creative formulas soon!


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.

Comments (2)

  • Andy Petersen says:

    Very well stated!  Rarely does this kind of preparation happen in small shops, which is unfortunate.  Targeting constituents saves time on marketing, cultivation and solicitation.

    • Laura Worcester says:

      I couldn’t agree more, Andy–I fully understand the time constraints of the small shop, but, in reality, targeting these prospects can result in both efficiency and effectiveness.  It doesn’t need to be complicated–even a simply system can identify the “best” prospects.  Thanks for your comments!

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