Is it time to dump donor ‘scores’?

Are scores really worth the trouble?

It seems like every service provider has a scoring system for your donors. They've got capacity scores, likelihood scores, and MarketSmart even has an engagement score. But I have yet to find a fundraiser who solely relies on a score for anything.

Why score?

I think most major and legacy gift fundraisers really want to know three things:

  1. Does the supporter have capacity to make a meaningful impact?
  2. Does the supporter have sufficient 'why' (passion) to make a meaningful impact?
  3. Is the supporter ready for your outreach?

Problems with scores.

Unfortunately, the scores provided by wealth screenings and predictive analytical models usually deliver way too many donor prospects. They overwhelm fundraisers who reach out to the supporters only to find that:

  1. They really don't have the capacity
  2. They don't have sufficient 'why' (passion)
  3. They just are not ready for outreach (at least not right now)

Capacity is impossible to completely bring to light.

I have found that capacity simply cannot come first because it's impossible to ever entirely know the truth about a supporter's capacity. Don't believe me? Well, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (a crafty bunch indeed) listed 7 charts that show how the rich hide their wealth. Trust me on this. No matter what you and your prospect researcher believe you know, it ain't 100% accurate!

Alternatively, passion and readiness is easy to uncover.

Since capacity research can only go so far, the 'why' and readiness for outreach are your sure bets. Plus, these days they are pretty darn easy to uncover cost-effectively.

Once you know their 'why' and their readiness, you can back into their capacity using traditional and innovative means.

The sector is doing it backwards.

Yes! I said it, finally! I think the sector is doing it wrong.

Instead of looking at capacity first, you should begin by surveying your donors to capture their 'why'' and readiness for outreach. Then monitor their digital body language to determine exactly when you should engage them. Doing it that way will ensure that your supporters will be more willing to accept your outreach. The result? More meaningful meetings with highly passionate supporters who want to engage with you on a deeper level.

Self-serving? Yes! Because I invented the system for surveying and tracking donors. But I did that because I wanted to lower costs for nonprofits. Not just to make money.

A win-win.

Once you alter the direction of your fact-finding:

You'll cold-call less and get accepted more.

You'll no longer be an annoyance but, rather, a welcome friend.

You'll be happy and your supporter will be happy.

Want to see how we deliver the 'why', readiness for outreach AND capacity to fundraisers at hundreds of organizations around the globe? GET A DEMO TODAY.


Related Posts:

>>3 new phrases/concepts engagement fundraisers need to know
>>Your donors want to find meaning in their lives. But are you helping them?

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Katherine Swank
5 years ago

I agree with you Greg, that analytic and capacity scores are not the end-all-to-be-all… and no one that I’m aware of at the company I work for, Blackbaud Target Analytics, at least, said that they were. You and I both know it’s all about understanding their value to the overall fundraising effort and knowing how to apply them at the right time, in the right way. That’s why our analytic consulting services (and others) are so important and why I’ve just started into my 12th year in that role at Blackbaud! I’m a teacher, a cheerleader, a counselor and an advocate.

You’re spot-on with your list of qualifiers for our directed attention… but if you have a database of 2,000 to 20 million names – how are you going to find the RIGHT prospects to survey if you haven’t the financial or staff resources to survey them all? That’s where analytics, screenings and engagement scores find their appropriate place. This discussion is one of the most important ones in planned giving today – thanks for bringing it up! You can’t raise money or analyze your money-raising efforts without data. And data isn’t applicable or understandable with analyzing it – even minimally. I think you’d agree that your Fundraising Report Card service and wonderful blog that accompanies it supports my statement.

As a planned giving professional that raised over $200 million in my career 20+ year career, I’m a firm believer and constant user of analytics. I also agree that data can be overwhelming sometimes – but I lay the issue at our own feet (read: each person in a fundraising or managerial role). If we, as professionals, don’t take time to learn about and grow our own knowledge about our available data and it’s application, we can’t blame the data! I encourage all of my customers – including the cross-over customers that we share with other companies like MarketSmart – to learn, keep learning and still continue to learn about analytics, data, application, implementation and the analysis of it. IMHO it should be within the top 3 items on every planned giving professionals’ list for profession development.

Every conference program will contain these sessions. Professional research is based on it. It’s reported to our managers, leaders, and even our supporters. Data and analytics is truly the difference between the wheat and the chaff in successful planned giving programs of today and tomorrow, not to mention in job interviews, evaluation of programmatic goals and achievements and resource acquisition to run our efforts.

Thomas Taylor
5 years ago

There isn’t one right answer that fits all circumstances.

Whether you data score before using a prospecting survey, or survey before you data score, the sum of both gives you best the donor view.

In both cases the variable costs (assuming digital surveying) are minimal, so in a digital world, the order of action isn’t important from a financial point of view.

If you are using mail or phone to conduct the donor discovery (survey), you really don’t want to apply your data overlay scoring after surveying for two reasons: 1) the score may help select a target audience because when using mail, phone or gift officers for discovery you can’t or shouldn’t afford to prospect everyone; and, 2) some people won’t answer the prospecting survey and yet they may be high scoring leads who should go to gift officers after scoring.

On the other hand, capacity scoring isn’t infallible. Getting the donor to lean in and state their intentions will always discover opportunity that didn’t score well.

Both approaches are valid, and both are better because of the other.

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