Tag Archives: capacity

Can you Achieve Faster-Better-Cheaper Profiles?

“I need a profile on this person today…can’t you just Google it?” It’s the kind of question that makes prospect research professionals cringe. But why shouldn’t a development officer want it faster, better, and cheaper? Why is your organization paying thousands of dollars a year for research tools if it still takes forever to get the information needed?

So what’s happening to cause this disconnect between development officer and prospect researcher? I suspect there a few causes, but first, let me tell you a story…

As a consultant I charge a flat fee for projects. I want my clients to be able to budget, and as a professional I should have a fair idea of how long it will take to do the research. Profile-type research falls into this category. And it’s this kind of pressure that keeps us razor sharp. It’s me and the team against the clock!

That’s how I “rediscovered” one of my favorite tools the other day – DonorSearch.net.

Faster-Better-Cheaper with DonorSearch.net

At Aspire Research Group we’ve taken on a few new clients that, in addition to standard profile research, needed some “situational” research done. Things like prioritizing, quick checks to be sure assigning for a visit is appropriate, or key items researched to prepare the president. So I asked myself, “How could we manage our time researching, keep up the high quality of information, and make it the right price?”

In my quest, I took a fresh look at our tools and settled on DonorSearch to start our projects. Of course, being able to upload a small batch of names for a prospect screening is a time-saver, but even when we entered only one name into the Integrated Search, suddenly everything was at our fingertips. DonorSearch had made so many updates to their product – the combined result meant we could be very competitive.

For example:

  • Time Management: The big name family business was clearly the source of wealth, but why was the prospect not listed on the website? Open Corporates in the Integrated Search demonstrated a long list of companies where he was a director – many with the same word in the name. From there a quick Google search revealed his specialty in the family business. Faster.
  • High Quality: There was a large, outlier gift to an organization with a strange name. I didn’t want to put it in the list without checking, but didn’t want to have to do a distracting search. A click on the source link gave me a searchable PDF – and lo and behold – it was an organization with a mission similar to the client! Better.
  • The Right Price: By letting the tool do all of the upfront “grunt” work finding relevant information we spent less time gathering and more time thinking, and that meant we could charge the right price. Cheaper.

Ask the Librarian: Can’t you just Google that?

But if you really want your research to achieve the business mantra of better-faster-cheaper, you need more than a great tool like DonorSearch. You need to start with a really good understanding of the need and continue with really good communication throughout.

So why do researchers get asked to Google it in seconds flat? Let’s go ask the librarians! Librarians are trained to interview the customer. When you go to the reference desk, the librarian has to figure out what you are trying to accomplish and then help you navigate your way to success.

While we don’t view the reference librarian as an expert on the subject matter that brings us to the library, we do view the librarian as someone who has received training in library science and is an expert on helping us find information. The librarian is a professional.

The “just Google it” request suggests that any amateur without training can perform quality prospect research, which can be insulting … but it also happens to be a great opening for a really good conversation to clarify the  problem to be solved.

Professionals are Always in Demand

The more that software tools are able to do, the more important prospect research professionals become. Librarians don’t worry that books will put them out of business!

And on the flip side, the more that software tools are able to do, the more we must use our communication and problem-solving skills to provide flexible, custom solutions.

If you manage a prospect researcher, if you are a prospect researcher, or if you want to be a prospect researcher, you can arrive at better-faster-cheaper profile research if you recognize the importance of great training (including communication skills) and tools. It’s what qualifies us as prospect research professionals!

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Cure Analysis Paralysis with this Visual

In this wonderful era of exciting, off-the-shelf prospect research tools and one-click-away data analysis, how is it that we still struggle to prioritize our donors and prospects? But we do. The results come in, the scores are assigned and yet there are still way more highly-rated prospects than our staff could possibly contact. Which names do we call on first?

Human brains are not wired to interpret and act upon long lists of names with appended information, such as those found in our databases and Excel spreadsheets. And when you need 50 names, but there are 300 that all have the same top score, it can be paralyzing!

Whenever I hear about data visualizations I always see pictures of charts and graphs in my mind’s eye. But when I was grappling with how to deliver a prioritized prospect list to a client recently I decided against charts and graphs. I wanted something that would give them a colorful visual with graphics, but also actual donor prospect names with dollar signs.

The organization had decided to create a more formal corporate giving program. It had been happening accidentally and now they wanted to get serious. So she sent me a list of over a thousand of their best donors based on giving history. My job was to sort it out and send it back.

We decided to focus on two variables that we labeled engagement and gift potential. Engagement was based on RFM scoring, which stands for recency, frequency, and monetary and represents a giving history analysis. We also appended some estimated sales and other data to determine gift potential.

As you can see from the picture below, the key to the data visualization was limiting the presentation two only two, easily understood and highly relevant variables. (The information in the grid is fictional.)

Click to enlarge

Following is how you “read” the picture for this donor list:

  • Stars = high engagement, high gift potential
  • Loyal = high engagement, low gift potential
  • Opportunities = low engagement, high gift potential
  • Likes = low engagement, low gift potential

I knew that my client, a talented fundraising professional, really wanted to begin her efforts with a fighting chance of receiving major gifts in the first year. Who wouldn’t want that? It was up to me as a researcher to understand how to translate the organization’s fundraising program intentions into data points, create or get those data points, and then translate it back into fundraising actions.

My client didn’t need to understand exactly how I sorted and filtered to assign donor prospects into each of these categories. She needed to be able to recognize some names, be pleased and surprised to see some names she didn’t recognize, and be able to quickly make decisions about which ones she will call tomorrow.

No matter what kind of fundraising professional you are – front-line, prospect research, or something in between – you now have a simple way to visualize two variables that you can ask for or apply to the data yourself.

If you have a data visualization triumph I’d love to hear about it! Reply to this email or better yet, comment on the blog post.

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Can You Trust Gift Capacity Ratings? 5 Things Fundraisers Should Know

capacityGift capacity ratings were a marketing moment for wealth screening companies. Suddenly thousands of records could be matched individually to wealth records and assigned a score. Your constituents could be assessed by their potential capacity – in the form of dollars. And everybody loves money. Have gift capacity ratings lived up to the hype? Yes!
With the sophistication of fundraising analytics we now have ever more ways to evaluate our prospect portfolios, but gift capacity ratings remain an important tool for the fundraiser. To get the most out of your gift capacity ratings, following are five things you should know.

1. Prioritizing your prospect pool saves you from yourself.

We are all human and that means we prefer to call upon and visit people we like – people who are more like us. Unless you are a major gift donor yourself, your prospects are not like you. Assigning numbers, gift capacity ratings, to your prospect pool helps you overcome your natural tendencies and allocate your time based upon the impact someone can have on your organization.

You will spend as much (or more) time on someone who can give $10,000 as someone who can give $100,000 or $1 million. If you want to excel in major gifts, capacity ratings will help you focus.

2. Ratings and scores are never exact unless it’s the Olympics.

Gift capacity ratings don’t have decimal points! Or at least they shouldn’t. Typically a gift capacity is expressed as a range, such as $250,000 to $499,999. The range should clue you in that this is not an exact science. The goal is NOT to pinpoint a solicitation amount. The goal is to categorize your prospects by their capacity or ability to give.

A successful solicitation strategy requires much more than a gift capacity rating. A $1 million+ capacity rating is exciting … until you visit and discover he believes philanthropy is bad for the economy. A $1 million+ capacity rating is exciting … until you discover she has been harboring fantasies of making a transformational gift to your cause. Then it’s a MIRACLE!

3. You must know your prospect types.

You and your prospect research professional are not high-net-worth-individuals (HNWIs). You are not usually doctors, lawyers, or investment bankers either. Recognizing and being able to categorize how different prospect types accumulate, manage, and give away their wealth is for you and your researcher to discover together.

Know that HNWIs are generally UNDER-valued by gift capacity ratings. The more wealth there is, the more likely that wealth is hidden from view. Prospects outside the U.S. frequently have wealth indicators that can’t be assigned a number.

4. Not knowing produces anxiety. Embrace the unknown.

Before you get frustrated with how little we can really know about the prospects we want the most – HNWIs – remember that gift capacity ratings were never meant to be the final word. As you evaluate your prospect pool by its capacity ratings and any other tools available to you, embrace what you don’t know.

Create a checklist of what clues you in to prospects of great wealth. Use this to create a strategy for your discovery and cultivation visits. Use what you don’t know as a roadmap to discover your prospect. If you know a fundraiser that came of age pre-internet, find out how s/he prepares for visits!

5. Your researcher is your best ally.

Prospect research professionals have as much fear of ambiguity as gift officers. Calculating capacity ratings fills us with anxiety and angst! This is also to your advantage. Engaging your researcher in conversations about gift capacity ratings, wealth indicators, and what you might discover in your visits will only make you both better in your professions.

Some of my best conversations have been with confident fundraisers who wanted to better understand how I arrived at a gift capacity rating or how a particular type of wealth factored in to the prospect’s ability to give. Prospect research professionals want the donor to give a major gift, too!

Gift capacity ratings are not going anywhere anytime soon. Learning to use them to your advantage will help you achieve success as a fundraiser.

Do you have advice for others on pitfalls to avoid, or tips on how best to use gift capacity ratings? I hope you’ll share!

More Resources You Might Like

Join the Resource Collections online community to access this handout. Use it to facilitate discussion with prospect researchers, gift officers, and leadership



Net Worth: Nasty, Nice, or Neutral?

cash-1169650_1280There was a cry for help on the PRSPCT-L list-serv: “I’m a new researcher and my boss wants me to provide net worth on a prospect. He says it was the previous practice to do this and I can get what I need to calculate it from Dun & Bradstreet.” What would your response be?

To begin, a simple definition of net worth follows:

Assets – Liabilities = Net Worth

The Three Common Responses to Net Worth

If you mention “net worth” in the prospect research field, you will likely hear one of the following three responses:

  1. Don’t do it! Or you will be voted off the prospect research island!
    The argument against estimating net worth is usually this: If we cannot find or know the values of all assets and liabilities (which of course we cannot), then we have no business estimating net worth. This is often a strong, unequivocally held opinion.
  2. Hide that you are doing it by using another term or keep it behind the capacity rating calculation.
    This is the most common practice in our field. Instead of using the words “estimated net worth”, researchers rephrase with a term such as “estimated wealth”. Even more common is to use the results of wealth surveys, such as the chart on page 19 of the Capgemini 2016 World Wealth Report, to estimate net worth based on a known asset such as real estate and then take a percentage of estimated net worth as the gift capacity.
  3. Boldly present estimated net worth.
    There are researchers who feel comfortable presenting estimated net worth. Some provide disclaimers or educational explanations to communicate better generally or to clarify outlier situations.

Easy Formula, Tricky Calculation

Assets – Liabilities = Net Worth

The formula looks so simple, but this is deceptive. As prospect research professionals we know that we can’t discover and value all of a prospect’s assets or liabilities. It is the reason we use the word “estimated.”

Among the challenges in estimating net worth, there are two that jump out quickly:

  1. Many assets (and liabilities) are troublesome to value – none more than private company ownership.
    I have discussed the difficulty of private company valuation before. A common route to wealth is to start a private business, and many of these successful entrepreneurs want to “give back”, among other motivations for giving.
    And it brings us back to our fellow researcher’s list-serv plea. Dun & Bradstreet (DNB) sells data, including estimated values of a private companies. Assuming we know how much of that company our prospect owns, we could use the DNB dollar amount to estimate the prospect’s ownership value. Or could we? DNB uses its own formulas to estimate and can be very far off the mark.
  2. Are we talking about titled ownership such as a name on the deed, or influence over money, such as sitting on a grant-giving family foundation board?
    Our prospect could be a child of a wealthy family with very few public assets identified. And yet, we may find she has influence over millions of dollars in a family foundation. Estimated net worth and gift capacity clearly diverge at this point. You might estimate a low net worth, but still consider her to have a million dollar gift capacity because of her influence over grant giving.

Logic and Emotion – Let them Collaborate!

There is nothing simple about money. Money is one of the most emotionally volatile topics you can discuss, and those emotions flow into the workplace. Addressing your own emotions and biases about money is the first step.

You might want to seriously consider whether your difficulty imagining the wealth of multi-billionaires is affecting your ability to logically estimate net worth or gift capacity – and whether you have negative emotions attached to great wealth accumulation. Emotions are not your enemy. Ignoring them is.

Now you are ready to balance how you and your gift officers “feel” about your prospect’s potential wealth with the logical, quantifiable assets and liabilities found in the public domain.

Following are the most frequently used tools or ratings:

  • Estimated Net Worth
  • Gift Capacity Range
  • Affinity (how close they feel to your organization)
  • Philanthropic Inclination (do they give at all?)
  • Linkage (how are they connected to your organization)

When used responsibly, estimated net worth is one more tool prospect research professionals can provide to assist frontline fundraisers in creating major gift solicitation strategies. Don’t be afraid to use it!

More Resources You Might Like



Join the Resource Collections online community to access this handout. Use it to facilitate discussion with your gift officers and leadership.


Fire your Prospect Researcher! Artificial Intelligence (AI) has arrived.


For years now we’ve been told that Artificial Intelligence was going to take over prospect research tasks. Truth is, it has. Well, some of them anyway.

Consider wealth screenings. What used to take month after month of tedious, routine, baseline capacity rating work now takes less than an hour. Upload your file, it processes, and presto! You have gift capacity ratings on your prospects based on external wealth matches.

Or how about the user-friendly lookup tools, such as iWave’s PRO, that remove the first step of searching that prospect research professionals used to perform?

Does all of this mean prospect research is on the fast track for complete takeover by the machines? Should you fire your researcher? No way!

Artificial Intelligence has had a lot of hype over the years and very little real action – until now. A few events have led to some breakthroughs:

  • The internet has made vast amounts of data available, which can be used to train computers.
  • Graphical Processing Units (GPUs), the specialized chips used in PCs and video-game consoles to generate graphics, have been applied to the algorithms used in deep learning, a type of Artificial Intelligence.
  • Capacity to run GPUs can be rented from cloud providers such as Amazon and Microsoft, allowing start-ups to innovate.

Self-driving cars may still be on the horizon, but the bots are on the road already! They can schedule appointments on your calendar, draft replies to emails, and even read radiology imaging studies more accurately than a radiologist. The Economist describes the opportunity and threat quite succinctly as follows:

 “What determines vulnerability to automation is not so much whether the work concerned is manual or white-collar, but whether or not it is routine.” (6/25/2016)






It’s easy to leap to the conclusion that prospect research professionals will lose their jobs to the machine – much of what we researchers do is routine – but that would be forgetting how machines have changed the world in the past.

Across the centuries, people have feared the march of the machines. In the late 1700’s to early 1800’s the Industrial Revolution rocked our world. As recently as the 1980’s, the rise of personal computers revolutionized the way we work. And with every introduction, much hand-wringing and predictions of unemployment were had.

How will prospect research professionals likely weather the advancing army of machine algorithms and programs?

Much the same as we adapted to wealth screenings and tools like iWave’s PRO. We learn new skills that wrap around the new technology. We leverage the new technology to work for us and for our fundraising team. We change the tasks we perform.

Prospect research professionals have a unique blend of skills. We can scan mountains of information and pull it together in a way that is meaningful for your specific need, whether that is creating a $5M gift strategy or a $5B campaign. We recognize the opportunities for our organizations in the data patterns the machine discovers.

If you want your organization to keep in step with the advances of machine learning, do NOT fire your researcher! Instead, reassure your prospect research professional of her value and insist that she take advantage of training that will give her the skills to use new technology. If you do this, she will be better able to guide you into new worlds, such as fundraising analytics … and beyond!

More Resources You Might Like


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!

Warning! Did You Recognize Your Million-Dollar Donor?

You are launching a campaign or pushing forward with a major gift initiative and finally have the budget to order some profiles. Yay! You pick the first name – a prospect you’ve met who comes across as wealthy – only to discover the capacity of the prospect falls under $100,000. So disappointing. What went wrong?

Even when an organization has performed a wealth screening, sometimes gift officers still gravitate toward lower-capacity prospects. Many times this is because they are not aware of the lifestyle and asset differences between affluent and high net worth. High Net Worth Individuals (HNWI) do not look like the typical fundraiser – you or me. They are different. And sometimes that can make us feel uncomfortable.

HNWI According to Knight Frank

The recently released Knight Frank annual Wealth Report helps to illuminate some of those differences. Many groups define a HNWI as someone with $1 million in net assets, but Knight Frank cranks it up to an individual with $30 million or more in net assets. Let’s give those numbers some context. Suppose your prospect is passionate about your mission and wants to donate 5% of her net assets.

  • At $30 million, she gives you $1.5 million.
  • At $1 million, she gives you $50,000.

Among these elite, Knight Frank finds the following:

  • London and New York are the top destinations in the world.
  • HNWI’s in North America own an average of 3.6 homes.
  • The top 3 most popular investments of passion in North America: Fine art, wine and classic cars

Affluent vs. HNW – Some Examples

One prospect I researched was so interested in wine that he founded a vineyard and winery – as a hobby! His capacity was very different from his partner’s, who also invested in the winery and ran the operations. The partner invested his savings and was earning his living. The prospect was a HNWI and his partner was affluent.

Another finding by Knight Frank was that 25% of HNWI’s net worth is accounted for by their main residence and second homes that are not owned purely as an investment. I researched a prospect who owned four condos on the beach in Florida. One of them was his home and the others, some in the same building, he held as investments and rented them to vacationers.

That is a very different picture from a prospect who owns a few condos on the beach, all but one purchased during an economic downturn, as well as home and a New York City condo. The prospect living in the beach condo appeared to manage his properties personally and likely earned income of around $100,000 – that’s affluent. The prospect with the New York City condo is a top executive who saw an opportunity to own valuable beach-front real estate near his favorite vacation spot and used cash to purchase when the prices were low – that’s a HNWI.

In Your Own Backyard

You don’t have to be an expert on how wealth and assets are accumulated and managed, but you do need to be a student of wealth to begin recognizing the difference between a prospect capable of a $1 million gift and a prospect capable of a $50,000 gift. If you are in a mid-west rural community your HNWI is going to look different from someone in New York. It’s up to you to know your community – although a skilled prospect researcher can always help you out.

As a frontline fundraiser, recognizing and embracing HNWIs is a valuable skill that could make a tremendous difference for the cause you serve. You might be out of your comfort zone at first, but you can get through that with education, practice and a little help from your peers.

Other Wealth Reports You Might Like

2012 Bank of America Study of High Net Worth Philanthropy

2011 Capgemini-Merrill Lynch World Wealth Report

About the Author

Jen Filla is president of Aspire Research Group LLC where she works with organizations worried about finding their next big donor, concerned about what size gift to ask for, or frustrated that they aren’t meeting their major gift goals.

Is Prospect Research Too Expensive?

Kevin O’Brien, Senior Vice President for Development at The Chester County Hospital and Health System, is in Pennsylvania and Aspire Research Group (ARG) is in Florida, but we had a great discussion over the phone about prospect research that I would like to share with you. Thanks Kevin!

ARG: What first got you thinking about prospect research?

Kevin:  My first development job was at Drexel University in 1993. Prospect research was a critical component of development at Drexel with two or three full-time prospect researchers at that time. With a tight budget we treated prospect research as a precious resource. As a result it was common practice to wait to request a profile until just prior to a solicitation.

ARG: Why is it important to you now to use donor prospect profiles?

Kevin: There are three reasons prospect research remains important to my work. First, as a professional fundraiser I think it is critical to “do your homework” before soliciting a prospect or donor for a significant gift. I want to make sure that the size of the gift I am soliciting is reasonable given the capacity and inclination of the donor. I feel that the best way to determine their capacity is to obtain an in-depth, thorough, research profile that is able to assess, as much as possible, that capacity in an objective manner.

Second, I consider fundraising to be both an “art” and a “science. A successful fundraiser has to have, among other things, good judgment, good instincts, good interpersonal skills, and good communication skills. Those are what I consider some of the “artistic” skills of fundraising. A successful fundraiser must also gather information, analyze that information, and make critical decisions based on that analysis. This is what I consider the “science” aspect of fundraising. I need the prospect research to help me apply that “science” to my work.

Third, I need to work efficiently and be sure I am focusing on our best prospects. A professional research profile provides me with an objective capacity rating that helps me prioritize that particular prospect among the many others.

ARG: What tips or advice do you have for other fundraisers?

Kevin: Prospect research can be an expensive resource if not used efficiently. By staying focused on major gift prospects nearing solicitation and outsourcing the profiles to Aspire Research Group I get a high rate of return on my investment. While not every prospect I have had profiled committed to a major gift, many of them did. In my opinion, if you want to make sure you secure the largest gift possible from each and every solicitation, you need prospect research to help you prepare for that solicitation.

About The Chester County Hospital and Health System

The Chester County Hospital and Health System is a leading provider of care to patients in Chester County, Pennsylvania and surrounding areas, and a national model for quality and service excellence. The Chester County Hospital is the only remaining nonprofit, independent community hospital in Chester County.

Estimating Hedge Fund Manager Compensation

Kate is detailed and thorough and I know you won’t be disappointed with her first article on Estimating Hedge Fund Manager Compensation. We have added it to Aspire Research Group’s library of free articles here.

Kate Rapoport officially signed on in March as our new research associate. From time to time she will write about solutions to various research questions she encounters.

She wrote her debut blog post about Millenial Donors. Check it out here.