The three keys to more confident fundraising


The following is a guest blog post for by Ryan McCarvill of iWave.

Thanks to platforms like iWave, today’s development departments have incredible sources of donor information, or fundraising intelligence, at their fingertips.  You can learn more about prospective donors than ever before.  It’s possible to go beyond wealth capacity and consider a prospect’s propensity (inclination) to give and affinity (linkage) to your cause. 

Not only is it possible to know more, but it’s also critical to know more.  With increasing competition for funding between nonprofits and because philanthropists consider their donations impact investments, developing a holistic understanding of your prospect is essential to presenting the right ask to the right person at the right time.

The Three Keys to More Confident Fundraising

The process of finding generous and passionate major gift donors is where fundraising intelligence comes into play.  For each major gift prospect, there are three big questions to answer:

Propensity - Does the prospect have a history of philanthropy?

Affinity - Does the prospect have a connection to your cause?

Capacity - Does the prospect have enough wealth to contribute a major gift?

If the answer to all three questions is Yes, you have a great prospect. But if you are missing (or worse, ignoring) one or two of these prospect ratings, you’re missing the bigger picture.

Donations to charities, foundations, and political organizations are publicly available, but very hard to find. Some nonprofit software providers like iWave provide access to these public records in a searchable donation database. The database may source records from original tax documents like Form 990 or a nonprofit’s annual report. Each record offers insight on a prospect’s philanthropic history and behavior.

Key 1: Propensity           

A person’s giving history (or maybe lack thereof) provides clues about that individual’s propensity, or inclination, to give to charity.

If an individual is philanthropic, examining giving history also helps identify personal trends and tendencies. John Smith may contribute small amounts in regular increments, while Jane Thomas awards major gifts annually.  Robert Johnson may donate his time as a volunteer, board member, or pro bono consultant.

Imagine you work in the development department for a performing arts center in New York.  You are tasked with researching Jane Thomas. Using a fundraising intelligence platform like iWave (or the iWave integration with Salesforce), you can quickly generate a rating of Jane’s propensity to give.  Jane’s propensity rating is based on all her associated public giving records. She may have contributed charitable and political gifts, as well as through a small family foundation.

The system returns a strong propensity rating, which indicates Jane is an active philanthropist. But does she have any interest in the arts? What about your specific organization?

Key 2: Affinity

Nonprofit consultant Helen Brown describes affinity, or linkage to your cause, as the most important of the three ratings for prospects. Our prospect Jane Thomas may have a strong giving history and millions available to contribute to another major gift. But if she does not believe in your cause, a major gift request is likely to go unanswered.

By selecting our nonprofit category as Arts & Culture in iWave (other categories include Education, Health, Environment, Religion, and more), the system will rate Jane’s affinity-based on gifts contributed to Arts & Culture organizations.  Jane’s results show she contributes gifts to higher education and healthcare, but she also makes regular donations to a nearby NYC museum since 2012. With this insight in mind, is she a viable candidate to give to your performing arts center?

Key 3: Capacity

Now we return to capacity.  While it’s critical to understand your prospect’s propensity to give and affinity for your cause, the impact of these factors is lessened if the prospective donor doesn’t have enough wealth to contribute a major gift.

Some of the information we can use to determine capacity include income, real estate holdings, and stocks and assets.  We can also turn back to Jane’s charitable and political giving and look at the amounts of gifts she’s contributed over time.  

The caveat to wealth data is that wealthy individuals are very good at hiding their assets. Marge Egge sums up capacity ratings in this way: “The capacity rating represents a rough estimate of the best possible gift we could get from the prospect, assuming our organization is their top philanthropic priority and they do not have any other negative factors limiting their ability to give.  The rating takes into consideration only the information available.”

In the case of determining capacity, the more records you can find the better.  Fortunately, iWave offers access to over 1 billion wealth and philanthropic records on individuals across the United States, Canada, and worldwide.  

iWave for Salesforce

iWave for Salesforce brings the three keys to the forefront of a nonprofit’s Salesforce database.  Enriching nonprofits’ internal data in Salesforce with iWave’s wealth and philanthropic records, the app helps you focus time and effort on your best major gift prospects.  Each iWave score provides a snapshot of a prospect’s potential to become your next donor. Insights include:

  • Capacity Scores
  • Estimated Capacity Values
  • Propensity and Affinity Scores
  • Planned Giving Capacities
  • Value of Properties
  • Value of Charitable Donations

The latest version of the iWave for Salesforce app enables more functionality than ever before. Features include:

  1. Batch scoring: Users can segment and score hundreds or thousands of contacts with one click so they can work more efficiently.
  2. Access to Profiles: Within the app users can generate a new, custom profile for their prospect, or link to an existing profile that details comprehensive donor records.
  3. Tailored User Preferences: Users can now customize individual settings so they can score and filter prospective donors based on their individual goals.

Start Opening Major Gift Doors Today

There’s never been a better time to find donors that have the passion, preference, and power to donate to your cause.  By understanding your prospect’s giving history and wealth capacity, you can confidently present the right major gift ask to the right person at the right time.  

For more information about iWave’s data and platform, check out these free resources:

The iWave Blog

eBook: 3 Keys to a Better Major Gift Ask

eBook: The Power of Past Giving

Prospect Research Cheat Sheet

About iWave

iWave is the top-rated fundraising intelligence platform on the market because it enables advancement departments to fundraise with confidence.  Our solutions help you determine who to ask, how much to ask for, and when to ask by scoring, screening, and providing intel on your donor’s capacity and inclination to give.

Schedule a time to chat with our team