“Hangin’ with Henry” and talking about Determining Gift Capability

Good morning DonorDreams readers! As most of you know, the month of May was dedicated to the Nonprofit Blog Carnival, which took us out of our regular blog rhythm. So, when I checked the calendar this morning and saw that it is the first Thursday of the month, I realized it is that time again. Uh-huh! You guessed it. We’re “Hangin’ With Henry” today and talking about what goes into determining a donor’s gift capability.  
For those of you who subscribe to DonorDreams blog and get notices by email, you will want to click this link to view this month’s featured YouTube video. If you got here via your web browser, then you can click on the video graphic below.
After listening to Henry for the last six minutes, I was struck by:

  • how well he hits the nail on the head with what considerations go into evaluating a prospect (he obviously has a lifetime of experience under his belt)
  • how many different methods and strategies I’ve used to help clients determine  a suggested ask amount for their annual campaign, major gifts program, and capital campaign donors

I used to be convinced there was a right way and a wrong way (or a better tool than another) when it came to prospect evaluation, but now that I’m a little older my opinion has changed. You will get to a good place for your campaign and your donors as long as you and your fundraising volunteers take into consideration the following principles that Henry talked about:

  • financial capacity
  • relationship / connectedness to your mission and organization
  • philanthropic orientation

As for tools and approaches that I’ve used, it typically depends on the client and their culture of philanthropy (or lack thereof) which dictates their level of comfort and willingness to engage in these discussions.  The following are just a few approaches and tools that I’ve found helpful.
Peer review
peer reviewThis is as simple as sitting down with a group of volunteers and talking about your pool of prospects. One simple tool that I’ve use is something I call an “A-B-C-1-2-3 worksheet“.
Using this tool, volunteers first assign every prospect an A, B or C rating that relates to their willingness to give to your organization (e.g. are their a hot, warm or cold prospect). Then volunteers do the same thing with a 1, 2 or 3 rating which simply assigns a prospect to a specific level on your campaign range of gift chart (of course there are likely more than three gift levels on your ROG and you’ll add as many numbers as there are levels).
Staff aggregate everyone’s worksheets, use giving history to set preliminary ask amounts and facilitate consensus building discussions with fundraising volunteers.
Moves Management
moves managementMajor gifts work is usually more in-depth and the tools change a little (e.g. nine cell grid, individual prospect cultivation plans, Moves Management tools, etc). Prospect evaluation typically is done in small teams that include the following individuals:

  • Natural Partner (someone close to you, knows prospect well, and has the ability to open that door)
  • Primary Player (might be the prospect’s BFF, but someone with whom they definitely have a hard time saying NO)
  • Relationship Manager (this is a staff person who helps with Moves Management, strategy, tracking and accountability)

There are lots of different tools involved in this process. Bill Sturtevant is one of the most well-respected experts in this area. You’ll want to definitely read his book “The Artful Journey“. You can also sneak a peak at some of the tools I’m referencing by checking out Bill’s presentation handouts from a Minnesota Planned Giving Council conference in 2009.
Another expert with great tools is our featured guest this morning — Henry Freeman. You might want to check out his website for interesting resources.
Data Driven Prospect Research
prospect researchI’m sometimes frightened by how much data is available out there on each of us. I’ve personally used all of the following tools for prospect research:

  • Google (OMG … there is tons of data you can find with a simple search)
  • 411.com (I go here to find contact info and confirm family relationships)
  • Facebook (I check-in here to see if their privacy settings are turned off. It is amazing what you can learn about someone’s family, social network, interests, etc from this social media site)
  • LinkedIn (I look around this site for work info, professional network, etc. I also use it to help me create prospect lists of natural partner, primary players and campaign volunteers/solicitors)
  • A variety of pay-for-service data providers like WealthEngine or Blackbaud’s Target Analytics (and this is where your mind gets blown with all of the info you can get)

If your organization engages in prospect research, please scroll down to the comment box and answer one of the following questions:

  • what methods have you used to determine your donors’ gift capability?
  • what tools have you use and which ones did you like?
  • if you’ve used pay-for-service providers like WealthEngine, what advice do you have for others?

Please take a minute to share your thoughts and experiences. We can all learn from each other!
If you want to purchase a complete set of videos or other fundraising resources from Henry Freeman, you can do so by visiting the online store at H. Freeman Associates LLC. You can also sign-up for quarterly emails with a FREE online video and discussion guide by clicking here.
Here’s to your health!
Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC


  1. Great post! We enjoyed the Nonprofit Carnival series, but we’re also happy the blog got back on its usual track.
    We are a fundraising platform for nonprofits and churches (www.fundlio.com) and we strongly agree that knowing your organization’s donors and their giving capability should represent top priority; we think that checking past donation history and using a good CRM where crucial data is included can help a lot, and, why not, networking – not everything happens online.

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