Estimated reading time: 4 minutes, 51 seconds

donor discoveryMost experienced fundraisers know that the donor discovery process is absolutely critical for qualifying supporters for caseloads based on their capacity and affinity for an organization’s mission. But if you are still employing a traditional donor discovery process you know how time-consuming, tedious and expensive it can be.

First you pull a list. Next you try to slim it down by analyzing each supporter’s past giving history, conducting basic Google or social media searches, and enhancing the data with wealth screenings or predictive analytical models. Then you either seek a referral introduction or start sending letters and making calls. If you are lucky, you connect with a supporter and engage in a meaningful conversation that eventually leads to a face-to-face meeting. Finally, after all that, you either qualify or disqualify the supporter for your caseload based on whether or not they agree to opt-in to a relationship (assuming an ‘oil and water’ personality situation doesn’t emerge).

The complications that arise using this arduous, conventional approach are endless. First, just as past results in the stock market are not relied up too heavily as a guarantee for future performance, past giving should not be relied upon to predict future giving. Second, while wealth screening and research might help you ‘peel back the onion’ further, those efforts can mislead fundraisers since most wealthy supporters know how to hide their money in other people’s names, shell companies, trusts, donor-advised funds, and offshore accounts or tax havens. And, third, getting an appointment with a supporter these days is nearly impossible because they rarely respond to outreach via email and screen their telephone calls.

So what’s a well-meaning fundraiser to do? Leverage technology to conduct most of the donor discovery for you! Here’s how:

[Full disclosure: I developed a lot of these technologies for the nonprofit sector but I’m not the only one. Other providers surely exist.]

1. Use technology to capture verbatims

Verbatims are the exact words supporters write or say. They can be captured easily at relatively low cost using online surveys. Supporters are starved for an opportunity to provide feedback. Plus if you ask for money, you’ll usually get advice. But if you ask for advice first, you’ll usually get money later.

2. Use technology to automate cultivation

It’s unfair to ask someone to give up their most valuable asset (their time) to take a survey without some follow-up so they know you heard them. But, since survey response rates tend to be high, you’ll probably be hard-pressed to find the time to follow-up with each supporter in a meaningful way. Thanks to technology, now you can automate the follow-up (cultivation) process so each supporter receives valuable, relevant, and personalized communications and engagement offers that show the supporter you care about them, their life story, why they care, and where their interests lie. Just keep in mind that your automated cultivation (via email) should include links that lead each supporter to online pages that make them feel like VIPs. If you skip this part, you’ll deplete their trust right away.

3. Use technology to monitor digital body language

If a verbatim is what a supporter says (online using donor surveys), then digital body language is what they do. It’s like truth serum since people don’t always do what they say. For instance, some supporters might say they aren’t interested in notoriety. But what if you tracked their online engagements and found that they spend a considerable amount of time look at naming opportunities and lists of donors along with their giving amounts? You’d probably conclude that, although they said one thing, their digital body language tells a different story. Tracking your supporters’ online behaviors help fundraisers learn the truth about their interests and alert them to when the right time arises for outreach that will most likely lead to a meaningful conversation.

4. Use technology to seamlessly append capacity information to the verbatims and digital body language

Once you have captured verbatims supplied by each supporter, you have begun cultivating the relationship automatically, and you are continuously monitoring their digital body language, you’ll want to prioritize some of them for outreach. And, since at least 80% of your revenue will likely come from just 20% of your supporters, you’ll want to determine which ones have the capacity to give the most. Using powerful data integrations you can sync the records of only the supporters who have leaned-in, taken a survey, and opted-in to the cultivation pipeline. That saves money by ensuring that you only buy the amount of capacity data you really need instead of for your entire database.

5. Use technology to score, sort and filter the data so you can build better caseloads and reach out to the most qualified leads

Finally, technology can help you organize your data quickly and effortlessly. Scoring, sorting and filtering features in simple tools like Microsoft Excel can help you properly populate caseloads and determine which supporters are ready for outreach.

The best fundraisers realize that the donor discovery process never ends. But, as budgets become tighter, they also realize that the question isn’t whether or not they will employ technology to improve upon the traditional discovery process. Instead, they are asking themselves when.

Greg Warner is CEO and Founder of MarketSmart, a legacy and major gift marketing software and services firm that helps nonprofits raise more money more efficiently, as well as the author of Engagement Fundraising: How to Raise More Money for Less in the 21st Century. The firm’s cornerstone engagement fundraising platform uses cutting-edge tracking technologies to help fundraisers zero-in on and effectively cultivate donors that are most likely to deliver large, major or legacy gifts. Connect with Warner on LinkedIn and Twitter.


Last modified on Friday, 31 August 2018
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