Tag Archives: affinity

Top Secret! How to Bulk up your Prospect Pool

HappyKeySMIn this article I’m going to share the secrets of finding great prospects. Maybe you’re one of those fundraisers who is always reading the Business Journal scouting for a lead, but they don’t pan out. Do you wonder how those other organizations pull in the big gifts? Or maybe you’re new and all the best prospects are assigned to senior fundraisers. You can get great prospects too!

If you read a lot of blogs (like I do) now is where you get skeptical. Is she just going to give me theory I already know (and hasn’t yet helped me find good prospects) or will I get at least a couple of nuggets I can actually use? I’m aiming for the latter. The “trick” is that you still have to work hard!

Fundraising research theory tells us that you need to know who you are looking for so you can spot them. We use jargon like linkage, ability and affinity. And there are tools that give you a competitive edge with that. But you can do it even without bright, shiny tools.

The First Thing…

The first thing any good fundraiser (and prospect researcher) needs to do is learn what it looks like to be wealthy. Watching soap operas may seem like a good education here, but much better is reading through some of the wealth reports like the Knight Frank Wealth Report 2014. You’ll find links for other reports in the sidebar on your right.

And the second first-thing-any-good-fundraiser-needs -to-do is get in front of people, especially donors. You should read and get in front of donors at the same time. Start with known donors because they are the most likely to give (again) and it’s always better to get a gift, right?

Call, visit, and read.

When you are reading about the wealthy at the same time as you visit prospects you’ll start making the connections. When the prospect talks about how he and his wife are taking classes in gemology and he has a watch collection, you’ll remember what you read about this being an investment hobby for the very wealthy. And when a different prospect brags about taking regular trips to Europe on mileage points you’ll recognize that what you thought were luxury vacations probably aren’t.

You can do that without any tools except your eyes and ears. Well, I guess you need to use your mouth to place the phone call…and, okay, guide the conversation. But you get it, right? Recognizing the wealthy – the truly wealthy – takes an education.

Get Your Toolbox Dirty

Getting an education on spotting the wealthy still isn’t likely to fill your prospect pool with GREAT donors – those with linkage, ability and affinity. If you have tools that assign ratings to the prospects in your database, use them! Don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t work out perfectly the first few times.

For example, you might pull a report of people who rate high for ability and likelihood to make a gift, but find most won’t take your phone call. You may need to add additional criteria depending on your organization. Maybe it’s “donor within the past two years” or “attended an event in the past two years” or some other criteria that makes it more likely they will let you visit with them.

Keep track of your efforts so you can repeat what works best. And, yes, this does mean you will have to make a lot of phone calls that end in “no thank you I don’t want a visit”.

It’s the same even if you don’t have tools that provide ratings. Without tools you have to get more of an education. You might use a free tool like the Washington Post’s interactive map** of the nation’s super zips to identify wealthy zip codes to search for in your donor database and combine that with “donor within the past two years” or other criteria that suggest a “warmness” toward your organization.

The Secret Weapon

If you are really lucky, you have a trained prospect researcher on staff. Use all your fundraising powers of relationship building to get this prospect research wizard on your side!

HOT TIP: your researcher is likely to get the most excited about searching out top prospects if you reward her with feedback from your calls and face-to-face visits.

With a prospect researcher on your team you are more likely to out-produce even seasoned professionals in the race for fundraised dollars. Really, really!

…and if you can’t support a trained prospect researcher full-time, you can always outsource. Just sayin’!

**Julie, Prospect Research Analyst in Pennsylvania and Groundbreaking Student at the Prospect Research Institute, shared this fantastic resource with the class!

Did you get a nugget or two?

I hope you found a useful tip you can apply in your office. Maybe you have great suggestions you’d like to share with others. Please comment and share!

Jenz Favorite Wealth Reports

Relationship Mapping for New Prospects

I just can’t stop thinking about relationship mapping! Probably because I am deep within a project to use relationship mapping to generate new prospects and illuminate the path to identified prospects within a campaign. A soft touch for new software, I really, really want the product I’m using, Prospect Visual, to deliver the goods. But will it?

The Many Shades of Relationship Mapping

Relationship mapping is not new, but some of the tools used to find relationships are new. Essentially, you create a visual (think family tree style) or data map (like in Excel or a database) or both of someone’s relationships. Many organizations collect this information in the donor database as an afterthought or “extra”. Relationships might be mapped to family members, boards served, club memberships, religious involvement and others. Why, you could even map all of the interrelated relationships of the Mad Men television show characters…

Mad Men Relationships

In higher education there may be a wealth of information from the school that connects individuals to one another, such as club membership, degree majors, and sports participation among many others. In 2012, Queens University presented at a CASE conference on their use of TouchGraph to map relationships within their own database.

What some new products, such as Prospect Visual and Relationship Science, are attempting to do is allow you to take the relationships you have collected on one individual and find paths to reach other individuals “out in the wild”.

LinkedIn does a reasonable job of this for prospecting within business networks. I have used LinkedIn, in combination with verbally asking people in my network, to identify paths to prospects I would like to cultivate for business. A personal introduction by someone with a strong relationship is much preferable to a cold call!

A nonprofit organization can use a trustee or engaged volunteer to introduce it to new prospects who are likely to have an affinity for the organization. Nothing new about that!

The Missing Piece: Spheres of Influence

What is new is identifying, perhaps by visualizing, someone’s sphere of influence. Some people are connected to more people and some people have many people in their network that are strong or deep connections. Strong connections suggest that the person can influence the other person. In the triad of Linkage-Ability-Inclination, relationship mapping provides the piece research has not always been so good at delivering in the past: Linkage.

In our book, Prospect Research for Fundraisers, Helen Brown and I discuss relationship mapping in the last chapter. Helen provides a great example of an organization that used its alumni group on LinkedIn to identify individuals who were highly connected and then qualified them for affinity. This process uncovered some great new prospects.

Jen Filla’s Facebook Spheres

I attended a course at the Nonprofit Leadership Center of Tampa Bay led by social media expert Bryn Warner, and I created a visual representation of my relationships from my personal Facebook page, which I have included here. Just look at all the connections around my husband and my favorite live-music venue, Mahuffer’s! Clearly this represents a sphere of influence. And it’s a messy, tangled ball of yarn, yes? I did not take the time to manipulate the graph results to make it pleasing to the eye or to make the names all readable. Make no mistake, these tools may be powerful, but they are time-hungry beasts!

Analyzing and Verifying

My experience so far using Prospect Visual is two-fold: (1) Visualizing spheres of influence is effective in identifying promising paths to new prospects; and (2) Just as in a wealth screening, this big relationship database is great at prioritizing, but I still have to analyze and verify the information.

What I have been doing so far in Prospect Visual is identifying clusters of relationships – spheres of influence – inside and outside the defined group of individual, foundation and corporation prospects in our project space. While one trustee may have strong relationships to identified prospects, another trustee may have a deep and wide network with organizations and people that my client has not considered before.

Once we see a sphere of influence, the next step is to confirm it truly exists and then discover whether there is any ability or inclination. Because there are errors in the underlying database of relationships – such as duplicate records and connections that are just plain wrong – the connections must be verified. And once the connections are verified, further research is needed to discover those shiny glimmers of affinity.

Getting Results

As with wealth screenings, moving the process from mass prioritization all the way through cultivation and solicitation takes time. It will likely be at least a year before any results, let alone gifts, are realized from the effort. And this project is not exactly number one on everyone’s to-do list. Prospects and donors in active cultivation and solicitation create the crisis of time that vacillate the prospect identification project between hot and cold attention.

Who is at the Watering Hole?

Are you actively using relationship mapping techniques and tools? Do you plan to? Do you wish you could be a fly on the wall hearing about it? Join the conversation! In a geographically dispersed environment where many of us perform prospect research solo, sharing our work successes and challenges builds our profession and ourselves.

Relationship Mapping Work Group

Aspire Research Group has created a free-to-participate work group that meets online. You can join the conversation – or lurk about listening – by signing-up for the email list. I’m looking forward to sharing with you!

Yikes! Donor Personality Traits Can be Predicted?

Who’s watching your brain?

Wouldn’t it be great if we could discover the personalities, values and needs of our donors and prospects? Now we have access to demographic information – things like age, sex, marital status, residence, average income. But what if we could really *know* what makes our prospects tick?

Of course, businesses would love this deeper layer of extremely personal information too. And a group of researchers at IBM’s Almaden Research Center in San Jose, California are getting much closer to making this information accessible. How? Well, just for fun, let’s use the current buzzword – Big Data!

But it’s a little more nuanced than that. Really it’s social media. That’s the place where we bare ourselves the most. We talk with our friends candidly and share our feelings along with facts. Led by Eben Haber, the IBMers are capitalizing on research done by Tal Yarkoni at the University of Colorado on how certain words correlate with certain personality traits. Dr. Yarkoni looked at blogs. Dr. Haber and crew are looking at Twitter.

What do you say in your Twitter feed? A new product created by Dr. Haber and his team is being tested by a financial services company. The claim is that in just 50 tweets it can describe your personality reasonably well. In 200 tweets it gets uncomfortably accurate.

The big question is: Could we use information about personality traits to raise more money?

Up until now, the big data sets have been pretty exclusive to higher education and sometimes other large institutions. This is not because they have so many individual records (although they often do), but because universities have so many pieces of data on each of their alums. They keep track of things like what clubs they belonged to, how many degrees received, events attended, participation in directories and more recently, online alum communities. The local food bank is not likely to ever have that much information about each of its donors. But could organizations have more information in the future?

Multi-channel fundraising – print, email, website, Facebook, Twitter, etc. – means that organizations have access to multi-channels of data. This data is attached to specific individuals. Before you can blink your eyes, the software to ride the big social media data beast will drop in price and become more accessible to the masses of nonprofit organizations. Okay, maybe it will take a few eye blinks, but if the past is a good predictor of the future, it is definitely coming.

Right now the most common piece of data we use to determine whether someone has an affinity (likes our org) is giving. We want to see things like frequency, recency and longevity. We can do a wealth screening to identify people capable of giving a lot, but that does not help us turn them into donors – into people who have an affinity for our organization and its work.

Now close your eyes and imagine … wait! read this first before closing your eyes … that you can run your database through a screening that assigns rated personality traits to each constituent record. Ahhhh! Now you can group people by personality traits and create messaging that resonates with who they are – resonates with the core of their personality. WOW! People would convert to donors at amazing rates! Right?

Until that magical day, let’s see if we can’t work on our current messaging. Little things like communicating with donors in the medium in which they like to give. No more of this sending paper to people who have demonstrated online giving. Many organizations are still struggling with what feels like “traditional” message segments, but are quite new to many. Messaging. It’s like exercise and good nutrition. There’s no magic pill (or database screening) that will ever replace it.

Which brings us back to the heart of fundraising – relationship building. Some organizations are better at it than others – regardless of budget size or the depth of data.

So although it is always fun to play with new technology and to imagine a day when science will turn “magic” into a software product, the feet on the ground (you and I) need to stay focused on what builds the best and most relationships with our organizations and missions. The right messages. The phone calls and face-to-face visits. Being real with real people.

P.S. Are you on Twitter? Let’s connect! You can find me @jenfilla I promise I won’t try to predict your personality!!

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