Before you send me angry responses to this headline, know these two things first:
Having said that, here are 7 reasons why wealth screening might be a foolish activity:
1. The data you get back is overwhelming. It buries and paralyzes fundraisers. It’s too much. Most of it goes unused. Wouldn’t it be great if you only paid for the data you used?
2. The information is confusing. You might end up with 17 “David Millers.” Which one is your donor? Do they really care about your mission?
3. The information doesn’t tell you why they care and what you should say to them when you call. Pretty much all you learn from wealth screening is that they have capacity. You won’t understand what’s in their heart, who inspired them to care about your cause, how they like to give (appreciated assets, real estate, cash?), if they have children, do they have a donor-advised fund or a family foundation, and so much more.
4. You might learn that they’re giving to your competition. So what!?! So that shows that they might care about a similar cause. Ok. But then you better hope that they are not being stewarded properly. If so, your value proposition better be much more worthy of support. Plus, just like stocks, past performance is not an indicator of future success.
5. The investment is costly. You don’t only pay for the screening. You also pay for the time you spend analyzing it, understanding it and sorting it (or for the consultant’s time you hire to help you do that). Time IS money.
6. Turnover makes it even worse. If a fundraiser gets hired and gets wealth screening done but leave after just a year, who’s working the list? Then 6 months later you hire someone new and what do they want? More wealth screening!
7. Most of the donors won’t be ‘ready’ for your outreach. Just because someone shows up on a wealth screening doesn’t mean they want you to call them. You still have to bridge the chasm between distrust and trust. Identifying a donor prospect can be helpful to direct you toward the right people, but getting them ‘ready’ to welcome and accept your outreach is a whole other story.
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