The difference between wealth screening and wealth appending

First, wealth screening.
Over the past 10 to 20 years, wealth screening has become a common practice for fundraising shops. But staff should always remember that wealth screening is just a tool. And, tools can be used to break stuff as much as they can be used to build stuff.

Or, in some cases, staff might actually use wealth screening to delay their activities. “I can’t make my calls yet because I’m waiting for the vendor to send me the wealth-screened list,” they might say.

Use it to narrow down a list not build a portfolio.
After all, wealth screening is just that — a screening. It is not a portfolio building tool. Instead, it is a filter designed to help you cull your list prior to outreach for qualification purposes. Remember, you still must qualify any wealth screened supporter for passion and interest before you assign them to your major or legacy gift portfolio.

In other words, you have to understand why each donor in your portfolio cares and whether or not your cause entwines with their life story in addition to whether or not they are wealthy and want to have a relationship with you, not just your organization.

Wealth alone is an indicator of nothing much. Yet, I’ve heard board members or leaders command their staff saying, “Call _________ , she has a lot of money!” This is probably one of the many reasons why fundraising shops have such high turnover.

Understand what you really get with wealth screening.
I hate to burst your bubble but wealth screens are not exceptionally accurate indicators of wealth anyway. Wow! Can you believe I said that?

Well, NEWS FLASH… wealthy people are really good at hiding their true capacity. In fact, here are 7 ways they hide their wealth.

Look, they didn’t get wealthy being stupid! So, it makes sense that they learn how to hide what they’ve got.

That’s why, at all costs, you should try to avoid reaching out to people just because the wealth screening said they are wealthy. Doing it that way will result in lots of dead-ends, wasted time and sunk costs.

Instead, you should try to find people who are passionate about your cause first and whose life story intersects with your mission. Then screen them for wealth.

Put another way, once the list has been ‘distilled’ for potential wealth, then you should further qualify it but not with prospect research. And, yes, I DID just say that!

Prospect research is expensive and time-consuming. Especially when it’s compared to the fastest, most cost-effective and more accurate way to further qualify your list: donor lead generation and donor self-qualification.

Let me repeat that: The best way to further qualify your list is with donor lead generation and self-qualification resulting from tech-enabled donor discovery.

Donor lead generation using your refined (‘wealth-screened’ list).
Donor lead generation involves an offer that provides value to your prospective donor. We’ve found that donor surveys work best and I directed the development of the most powerful and most used donor survey platform in the world (employed by the most respected charities and institutions worldwide).

Plus, you don’t necessarily even need to wealth screen your list. Many nowadays are skipping that stage since our surveys inspire hi-capacity supporters to self-report their wealth.

I’m serious! We have helped donors answer questions about whether or not they have family foundations or donor-advised funds, how many properties they own, their business interests, etc. Plus, we’ve also asked if they’d like to use those means to fund initiatives and they’ve said, “Yes!”

A tremendous amount of research has been conducted in order to determine what words designs work to ensure that the surveys actually get filled out. This works! But I don’t recommend you do it on your own. You could actually insult or offend your potential donors if you do it wrong. So be careful with this lead generation tool.

Donor self-qualification.
Now that you understand that wealth screening should be used to cull your list (or not used at all), you need to recognize that a well-developed, tested and proven survey can help your supporters qualify themselves for your portfolio.

With a survey you’ll quickly and efficiently understand why they care, their level of passion, how your cause compares to others in their hearts and minds, and so on.

The value of this kind of low-cost donor self-qualification cannot be understated. Supporters qualifying themselves are essentially leaning in saying, “Yes! I want you to cultivate a relationship with me so I can learn how I can make a difference using my wealth to essentially purchase empowerment.”

You simply can’t get better qualified than that and no amount of wealth screening or prospect research will ever match that kind of intelligence gathered directly from your supporters.

Finally, now it’s time for wealth appending.
Assuming you decided to forgo the wealth screening and, instead, you employed a donor survey first, you will have generated leads that include hi-value, super-passionate donor prospects. They will have leaned in and that’s great. So now you will need to prioritize them. And one of the best ways to do that is, indeed, with wealth appending.

Basically, you take your ‘donor self-qualified’ list and add information about capacity to it from outside sources so you can prioritize your outreach.

Keep in mind that every donor call and visit costs your organization money. Being judicious about how you spend your time is important. Add all the wealth information you can but don’t forget the donor’s verbatims and digital body language.
Donor verbatims and digital body language take precedence over wealth screening and wealth appending.

Yep! I said that too.

Read it again if you must. It’s a new day. Fundraising HAS changed.

The best method for prioritizing your outreach is based on what the donor says and what they do online (when they aren’t with you).

For instance, if your donor prospect keeps watching a video about how they can get their name on the new building, the centerpiece of your capital campaign, I’d bet that’s a good indicator you should act upon. Don’t you agree?

Last thing… recency of online engagement.
Once you’ve got all that going
….you’ve qualified your list based on passion;
….you’ve prioritized your list based on wealth;
….and you’ve monitored your list based on verbatims and digital body language…
….you’ll want to rely heavily on recency of online engagement, not recency of their last donation as your best indicator for timely outreach.

Simply stated, when it comes to major donors, their last transaction doesn’t necessarily indicate interest in meeting with you. But recency of online engagement (for instance, engaging at 3 am with your online list of naming opportunities for that new building) does!

Next steps.
So what will you do and in what order will you do it? Wealth screening first? A survey first? Wealth appending later?

If you’ve been struggling with determining who to call and visit, maybe you should contact us at MarketSmart. Just email:

Or, learn more by requesting a chat to see if we might be a good fit for your needs…

Related Posts:

>>7 reasons why wealth screening your donor list might be an incredibly foolish activity.
>>7 big reasons why capacity is so hard to uncover (how the rich hide their wealth)

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Tim Strawn
5 years ago

Greg –
Were you lurking in the Board meetings at my previous employer…when the Board kept harping: “You need to get a gift from X.”?? Well, much to their surprise, I did…a gift that named one of our facilities. And the donor actually showed up for a dedicatory ceremony…which, again, surprised everyone. No sooner was that event over when the Board went on to the next name on their list, not offering to help or open a door…just telling me I needed to get that guy’s gift!
So typical of Boards that don’t get it!

5 years ago
Reply to  Tim Strawn

Yep. I was that fly on the wall Tim!

Laura Waller
5 years ago

Wow – I think this is your best piece so far!! I just spoke with a client this morning who is caught in this wealth screen trap and is engaged in what I call the “chase of death” – – they are pursuing capacity and chasing after money for money’s sake. And they’re worn out, feel overwhelmed, and nobody’s listening because they don’t really understand why they should connect with that organization and invest in their good work.
What MarketSmart helps an org do is build CLARITY around values and heart-felt fulfillment for the donor . . . It’s important to add value and connect on a values level first, then invite people to be part of something that’s making a difference in the lives of others by channeling resources.
Wealth Appending helps the donor and the organization connect values with specifically identified resources to take action that unleashes abundance purposefully and meaningfully.
In short, chase SIGNIFICANCE, not capacity. MarketSmart has THE ideal systems to allow you to stop the insanity and truly grow a sustainable, growing stream of resources and capital.
(No, Greg has not paid me to say all this! I’m passionate, that’s all.)

5 years ago
Reply to  Laura Waller

Awwwww. Thanks so much Laura. Hope you are well!!

Ameya Redkar
Ameya Redkar
5 years ago

Very good article. Indeed a great way to reach out to potential donors more efficiently without wasting theirs and your own time. I couldn’t help but picture the scene from the film ‘The pursuit of Happyness’ where Will Smith’s character (Chris Gardner), while interning, defies protocol and reaches out to a potential high value customer skipping the top few names and going straight down the list to strike luck! Would be great to see that happen frequently while going down the list of potential wealthy donors. Which brings me to my question, How long does one wait for a potential donor’s charity before “skipping down to the bottom of the list” without sounding or being too impatient or in other words without wasting time? Thank you.

5 years ago
Reply to  Ameya Redkar

Thanks for commenting on my blog Ameya.
Here’s the thing…. recency of engagement is actually the best indicator of likelihood that a supporter will accept outreach resulting in a meaningful conversation. Therefore, that should be used as the predominant trigger, not lucky skipping.
P.S. – That movie was fabulous!! I think I’ll watch it again. Thanks for the reminder.

Roy Jones
2 years ago

Great article Greg. We should do a podcast on this topic soon!

Roy Jones, Eckerd Connects

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