Donors don't donate just because they have money

Have you ever heard of the “dowsing“? No? Then what about “divining,” “doodlebugging” or “water witching“? Oh, come on . . . I am sure you have heard these terms, but you probably don’t recall. All of these words describe a process whereby someone uses a Y-shaped stick to locate groundwater. In fact, sometimes people use this process to locate gems, ores, metals, oil, and even graves. Don’t believe me . . . click here and read about it on Wikipedia.
If you want to see what water witching looks like, you can click on this YouTube video and check it out.
For the record, there is no scientific evidence that proves that water witching works.
I’ve been thinking about water witching a lot for the last few days after a conversation with a fellow fundraising professional. Here was the gist of that discussion:

  • waterwitch1Wow! We have lots of money in our community.
  • I need help identifying who has that money.
  • I need access to tools like WealthEngine and Target Analytics to identify who has money?
  • Once I get that prospect list of wealthy individuals put together, I will ask all of them for money and life will be good.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I think very highly of sophisticated tools like WealthEngine and Target Analytics. Very powerful stuff!
What I am bristling about this morning is the assertion that affluent people will give to you just because you’ve identified them and asked them to share their wealth with you.
I hate to be the party pooper here. But neither tech tools or a Y-shaped stick will ever take the place of good old fashion relationship building.
networkingHere is a recipe I suggest you consider when it comes to your prospect identification strategy:

  1. Use your network, your current donors’ network, and your board members’ circle of influence to identify other individuals and companies who like your agency’s mission.
  2. Sit down with those individuals and companies. Talk about your mission, vision, goals, programs, outcomes and impact. Tell them stories about your clients and the impact you’re having on their lives.
  3. Invite these prospects to tour your facility. Help them see you in action.
  4. Ask these prospects to get involved. Join a committee. Do some volunteering.
  5. Invite them to one of your special event fundraisers. And down the road engage them in your annual campaign pledge drive.
  6. After these people renew their contribution and support a few times, then you may want to invest in a donor screening or donor profiling project using WealthEngine or Target Analytics.

magic treeOh heck . . . if you don’t want to follow this simple, sound and proven advice, then hire me. I am happy to be your water witch. Just give me a moment to run out back and pick a fresh Y-shaped stick off of my magic fundraising tree.
How does your agency find new prospective donors? There are many different strategies. Please use the comment box below and share. We can all learn from each other.
Here’s to your health!
Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

How many undiscovered “diamonds” exist in your donor database?

Welcome to O.D. Fridays at DonorDreams blog. Every Friday for the foreseeable future we will be looking more closely at a recent post from John Greco’s blog called “johnponders ~ about life at work, mostly” and applying his organizational development messages to the non-profit community.

In a recent post, John re-told a story about an African farmer, who sold his farm to go in search of diamond mines, only to find out that the farm he sold turned out to be one of the worlds largest diamond mines. John applied the story in OD terms to your co-workers and all of their talents (aka diamonds that are unmined in your organization).

When I read this story, my mind naturally wanders to fundraising and all things having to do with donors. I think of your organization’s donor database and imagine all of the undiscovered diamonds that exist in those data records.

I commonly get asked by agencies how they can better mine those diamonds out of their donor database. After all, we’ve all heard stories about those $100/year annual campaign donors who go on to give millions of dollars to capital campaigns and endowment campaigns.

Of course, the easy 30 second answer is investing in donor analytics services like Blackbaud’s Target Analytics or WealthEngine.

I am a data-kinda-person, and these services are amazing, but . . .

The more complicated (yet amazingly simple) answer is exactly what John encourages you to do his post about the African diamond farmer. Before investing in expensive data analytics services, you really need to commit yourself to “getting to know people”. It starts with you and that is the easy part. The harder part is changing your organizational culture to embrace this idea.

I am by no means an “OD expert,” but it seems to me that changing your agency’s fundraising culture will entail some of the following:

  • hiring the right people (e.g. people who like people)
  • looking at all of your systems, identifying obstacles, and eliminating those barriers to change
  • aligning your systems (e.g. performance management systems, compensation, recognition, etc) with your new vision of “getting to know donors”

If you want to read more about change leadership, click over to John’s blog and thumb through a number of his posts on change and culture.

All of the data in the world won’t help you identify your donor database diamonds if you aren’t willing to get out of your office, sit down with your donors, and get to know them and understand their passions.

Do you subscribe to a donor analytics service, but find it a little disappointed that the big gifts aren’t magically appearing? What do you love about your analytics services? What don’t you like? How have you inspired your organizational culture to celebrate “getting to know” donors?

Please scroll down and share your thoughts and experiences in the comment box below. After all, we can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Wow . . . Non-Profit Donors are Naked!

Yesterday, I wrote about the power of donor database software in a post titled “What can’t your donor database do?”  In that post, I marveled at the availability of powerful tools such as WealthEngine and Blackbaud’s Target Analytics that have the capability of interfacing with your donor database systems. Of course, these service cost money and for a number of non-profit organizations with scarce resources, sophisticated prospect research can feel out-of-reach.

The reality is that it doesn’t have to be that way. Much of the information that data mining companies provide comes from public sources of data. All your organization has to do is dedicate a little staff time to this project, and you’ll be able to develop fairly complete prospect/donor profiles.

To test this hypothesis, I selected one donor from a local non-profit organization who I don’t know very well and used online resources to find out as much as I could on him. In order to protect the innocent, I will refer to this donor as “John Doe” throughout today’s blog post. In completing my prospecting work, I used a number of free resources that are available to everyone with an internet connection.

Google. It is amazing what you can find out about a person using Google. I typed in my prospect’s name using quotation marks and plus signs. It looked exactly like this:

“John Doe” + Elgin + Illinois

Using the quotation marks and plus signs helps narrow the Google search and improves the search results. With just that simple search, I found the following information on this prospect:

  • Place of employment
  • Address of workplace
  • Phone number of workplace
  • Work email address
  • Job title
  • Number of employees in workplace
  • Company sales volume
  • Last five employers
  • Other non-profit boards upon which they serve or or or These types of sites can help you secure information like home address, phone number, estimated age, and names of relatives. You can also find information on previous home addresses, which gives you more to search on Google. Once I found this prospect’s home address, I went to and found out what those people believe his house value. (If you are feeling brave, you can check on your house’s value. I am feeling a little ill after doing exactly that. Apparently, out house has dropped $92,000 in value since we purchased it six years ago. Ugh!) Publicly traded companies are required by the federal government to disclose a lot of information. I went to this site to learn more about the company for which my prospect works. I also clicked around to see if he is a significant investor or owns large chunks of any publicly traded companies. Unfortunately, he did not. Non-profit charities are also required by the federal government to disclose a lot of information. So, I looked up the 990 forms of the non-profit organizations for which my prospect sits on their boards. I also did a search on my prospect’s name to see if there are any foundations that have been set-up in his name or his family’s name.

Facebook. Even though this prospect and I are not “Facebook friends,” many people don’t understand this social network’s privacy policies. As a result, a number of you have more personal information hanging out there than you care to know about. In this instance, I found out where my prospect graduated from high school. So, now I know where he grew up. I also found out where they went to college and what they studied.

LinkedIn. It is amazing to me what people post on their LinkedIn profiles. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find my prospect on this social network. However, if I had, then I probably would’ve had access to information such as: employer, past employers, job functions/responsibilities, interests/groups, and possibly even his birthday. If I was “linked” with the prospect, I would’ve likely been able to view their network of friends and business associates.

So, the point I am driving at is that you don’t need lots of money to afford the services of data mining companies because there is already a lot of information out there on your prospects and donors. All you need to do is find time to gather the information and enter it into your donor database.

Ohhhhhh . . . I can already hear many of you saying that your organization is too thinly stretched and don’t have time. OK, I get it. I’ve been there and done that. However, how many prospects and donors do you really need this level of detailed data on? For small and mid-size non-profit organizations, it might only be your Top 10, 25, 50 or 100 donors. If you set aside a few hours each week, you will have detailed donor profiles for your most important donors in a very short period of time.

Ohhhhhh . . . I can also hear many of you saying that this feels like an invasion of privacy. Or maybe stalking? I also know some of you doubt the need for this level of detail.

Let me simply end by saying, fundraising is all about relationships. The more you know about your prospects/donors, the more likely you are to deepen those relationships, connect with them, and raise money for your mission. While this might not be necessary for “transactional fundraising” programs that rely on special events and annual campaigns, it is an absolute necessity once you start moving toward donor-centered fundraising and development of a major gifts program.

Still not convinced? Birthday and age information impacts planned giving strategies. Home value is one data point that can contribute to assessing wealth and philanthropic capacity. Understanding a prospect/donor’s social network, friends, and professional relationships will help you with volunteer solicitor assignment strategies.

Online prospecting work will never replace good old fashion relationship building. It is amazing what people can and will share over a cup of coffee, but doing your homework by using free online tools or paying data mining companies certainly helps and it makes your resource development efforts a little easier.

Does your organization use fee-based data mining companies like WealthEngine to do donor screening or compilation of donor profiles? If so, what has been your experience? Have you used some of the aforementioned free online tools? If so, please share your experiences and thoughts by using the comment box below.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847