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Wealth Screening: An Overview Of GDC Methodologies
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By Mary Reinders, Research Consultant

Growth Design researchers conduct wealth screening for organizations who are interested in learning more about the financial wherewithal of a large sample of donors. Researchers use estimates of "hard assets," or wealth indicators, provided by a list-matching vendor, and giving patterns supplied by the organization, to build predictive models that estimate both donors' gift capacity and propensity to give. While the methodologies employed by researchers do not represent an exact science, they enable development professionals to efficiently focus their efforts where they are likely to have the greatest impact.

Wealth screening is not recommended as a stand-alone product. Rather, it is most effective when strategically integrated with other capital campaign planning tools like donor surveys and prospect research.

Prediction models used in wealth screening analysis are drawn from best practices of prospect researchers across classes of trade referenced in current development research literature. Key predictor variables used in these models include: age of head of household, combined annual household income, home value, annual giving history, and expendable income ranking.

Once donor capacity has been estimated, we also consider propensity to give, operationalized by donor giving history over the last five years. Combining the estimated giving capacity and level of commitment for each donor results in an overall score. For example, a donor with a giving capacity of more than $75,000 and a consistent giving history over the last five years would have an overall score of A5 and would be considered a "best" prospect. This concept is summarized in the following grid.

This method allows for an efficient, high-level screening of a large number of donors, and is an indicator of where the greatest potential may exist. We take a known piece of the financial puzzle (e.g., age, income, real estate value) to project an estimate of the entire financial picture for each donor.

InfoUSA is Growth Design's preferred vendor for list matching services. The firm provides data from a mixture of public and private updated sources, including the federal government, public real estate records, and proprietary customer survey data gathered by Donnelly Marketing, Inc. With them, we have successfully achieved a minimum of a 40% match of verified donor addresses in each of our wealth screening projects. For unmatched donors, our firm's researchers also rely on statistical models to estimate gift capacity by developing projections based on giving history alone.

After the wealth screening process has been completed, Growth Design clients receive the following deliverables:

  • Comprehensive analysis of wealth screening findings with strategic recommendations
  • Estimates of gift capacity
  • Estimates of propensity to give
  • An easy-to-use Excel database of all donors, with financial variables, giving estimates, and variable definitions
  • A geographic illustration of major potential donors to focus the efforts of development field staff
  • Research support to help interpret and search database
  • Access to GDC senior counsel to review findings and help develop cultivation strategies based on our findings

For more information on how wealth screening can benefit your organization's mission, contact Mary Reinders, Research Consultant, through the Growth Design Customer Service Center at 414-224-0586.

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