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Targeting wealthy donors in a slowing economy

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal noted that sales of luxury goods are holding up much better than retail sales in general. The reason is simple: rising gas prices and the slowing economy just have a more dramatic impact on the middle-class. Unfortunately, non-profits are likely to see a similar effect on their fundraising campaigns, with less wealthy donors being more cautious in their donations.

The best strategy to deal with this is obviously to target constituents who are wealthier. Although wealthier supporters often correlate with those who’ve given you larger gifts, a better strategy is to identify giving potential using prospect research or wealth screening techniques.

A simple and inexpensive technique is to add demographic data to your database using a data enhancement service. For instance, when we do this for clients we compare donor names and addresses to a database of 110 million households. Typically matches will be found for 40-60% of the records. When there is a match we are able to add almost a dozen demographic elements such as head of household age, whether they own or rent, marital status, etc. Most importantly we can add estimated household income. The income data is primarily based on the average for their zip code so it only provides a rough guideline, but it can be invaluable for campaign targeting.

Of course even better than relying on demographics is to use actual data about donor assets such as real estate, stock holdings, etc. Much of this information is available through public and private databases, but sifting through such data can be time-consuming and difficult. The best solution is to screen all or a portion of your database using a wealth screening service such as Wealth Engine. They’ve developed proprietary techniques to screen as many as 25 different data sources to identify donor assets which are combined into a simple donor giving-potential score that can be used to drive targeting and ask levels. The more detailed information about wealth and assets is of course indispensable for capital campaigns, moves management and major donor development efforts.

Now is the perfect time to pursue either of these screening techniques so you can have the resulting wealth information to use in your year-end fundraising campaign.

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