Apologies for invoking Jeff Foxworthy, but I assure you the rest of my blog post is quite serious!
Over the course of my career, I’ve done a lot of major gift prospect models. After doing enough of them, I’ve noticed some commonalities in terms of the key question of what information you can use to best predict that someone will go on to donate at a high level. I wanted to write about it because while it seems like common sense to me, you might have never seen this list of common factors in one place before.
Without further ado, please have a gander at my list of factors that are very predictive of someone going on to give at a high level:
You might be a major gift prospect if…
Years of Giving to the Non-Profit
It should come as no surprise to you, but your major donors just don’t come out of nowhere. Your major donors give to you because you’ve built up a relationship with them. That relationship is reflected in your gift history data. Out of the last 10 years, they’ve probably been giving for at least 5 of them. They give because they like you. They give because they believe in your cause. They also likely give because you aren’t doing anything to turn them away.
I’ve seen this factor come up time and time again in the major gift prospect models that I’ve made, and I suspect that I’ll keep seeing it until I stop making these models altogether!
So please, don’t expect to approach a brand-new donor with a high level ask and be guaranteed success. It takes time and care.
First Gift Amount
Can you believe that your major donors have a higher likelihood of revealing themselves with their very first gift? I kid you not. I often find when I’m doing these models that if someone comes in at a relatively high first gift amount (even $50!) then that person is much more likely to go on to give at a high level later on. In the last project that I did, donors whose first gift amounts were $50 or higher were 5.7 times more likely to upgrade to a high level of giving compared to those with lower first gift amounts.
I love this result, because it means that you are given the earliest possible warning to pay attention to someone as you could ever hope for!
Distance in KM from the Non-Profit
Call me fancy, but when I do modeling work, I like to use the postal codes or zip codes in order to extract latitude and longitude coordinates. Once I have those, it’s trivial to calculate how far someone’s home address is from the non-profit that has their info on file. The idea here being that there are plenty of cases where those who live closest to the non-profit have the highest likelihood of giving at a high level. It’s a very reliable result that crops up again and again in the work that I do. In fact, the only time it doesn’t show up is in national scale non-profits that aren’t tied to a specific location. It’s just another one of those factors that helps tip the scales in favour of you identifying people who will go on to give to you at a high level.
Another factor that keeps showing up is when a non-profit has records classified as “Individual” vs. “Organization”. Simply put, records marked as organizations have a reliable tendency of being more likely to donate at a high level compared to records marked as individuals. In the last project I did, organizations were over 6 times more likely to give at a high level compared to individuals.
It makes sense, right? Organizations have deeper pockets than individuals can hope to have. Therefore they are more likely to give at any specific high level.
This list wasn’t exhaustive. It only represents 4 factors that I’ve seen crop up a lot in my work. There’s more in any one project that can help tip the scales in favour of identifying major donors, but that tends to be more specific to each individual organization, than general per se. I hope this helps you to think more strategically about your donors and also convinces you that your data is a really powerful tool for your fundraising!