Recently at this site I suggested ways to “erupt” new names from your “prospect volcano”. I encouraged researchers to look beyond the assets when reviewing wealth screening results and glean insights from things such as affluence indicators when the asset total may look less than impressive. This time I would like to suggest yet another way to capture more of those prospects possibly sitting dormant inside that volcano: peer screening. This is something I have discussed previously, but is still, in my mind, a highly under-utilized strategy.
When meeting with clients I typically ask whether the organization is utilizing board members and other volunteers for peer screening activities. More often than not, the answer is either, “Yes, we did that during our last campaign,” or, “No, we don’t do that around here.”
Either response inevitably leads to another question: “Why do you only do it when you have a campaign in progress?” or “Why don’t you ‘do that’ around here?” This may prompt some uncomfortable chair squirming, but it also opens the door to a lively discussion.
Way too often organizations only undertake highly effective strategies when an active campaign is underway. I don’t understand that—and we will explore that topic on another day–but, peer screening truly should—and easily could—be a regular part of your regular development activities and not limited to campaign prospecting.
Peer screening can take place almost anytime you have a gathering of your constituents, whether it be a development committee or alumni board meeting, a reunion activity, or even a career event with alumni, parents and friends. Any of these activities presents a chance to pick the brain of the constituents on hand to learn more about their peers. Take advantage of this! The more you do it, the more comfortable participants will be with the process. You will find that soon they will better understand the process, enhancing the outcome of the sessions. You certainly don’t need to wait till the next campaign begins to take advantage of this useful undertaking.
The next reason for not doing it—“We don’t do that around here”—seems to imply there is something inherently wrong with the concept. I beg to differ. Take a look at two postings from this site that I posted last year (Peer Screening 101 and Peer Screening 201) for insights into the “whys” and how-to’s” of peer screening. This may shed some new light on the value of doing this and also clarify why, when done correctly and with proper training, there is nothing wrong or inappropriate about it. It certainly takes some time and effort, but, with the proper preparation, it can be a highly effective tool.
So, how exactly how does peer screening “erupt” new prospects? Isn’t peer screening just a chance for others to weigh in on what they may know about major gift prospects?” Well, yes—and no. It definitely can help you confirm and clarify insights on those already on your radar, but it is also a great tool to use with names you know little about, such as those identified through a database screening. You may find that you have hundreds, if not thousands of new prospect names to explore. With a well designed response form, you can elicit information you may never have found on your own. You’ll soon discover the value of peer screening in enhancing the eruption of that volcano!
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*Laura Worcester is a consultant for Target Analytics. You may reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.