Engaging a partner to conduct a screening on your database is a relatively easy task. The challenging part is knowing how to effectively implement the results into your development program. Listed below are some key steps to ensuring the screening results have the greatest possible impact on your organization.
Decide what your objectives are for using the data
Before you start digging through the data determine what your top 3 objectives are. The best way to use the data will largely depend on what you are trying to achieve. Don’t waste time looking through the data until you know what you are looking for. Some possible objectives are: identifying new major gift prospects, determining the right target ask, or targeting leadership annual giving prospects.
Develop a feasible process to verify prospects with high ratings
Screening results truly represent the starting point of the prospect identification process. Even the most accurate ratings will require some verification to ensure that the information is correct and incorporates any additional information that is known about the prospect, but not reflected in the data. The threshold for whether to verify a prospect is to whether additional information will change the next action with the prospect. If the answer is yes, then proceed with verification.
The verification process should not burden your staff. Most organizations define a certain number of prospects to be verified over specific time periods. For example, research staff will “check” 3 names per week per gift officer. This system generates an even, steady flow of names from the research side to the gift officer side. This rate can be accelerated or decelerated based on the need for prospect names and the resources available to do the work.
Begin the relationship-building and discovery process for new prospects
Development is always a relationship business. Screening offers information on who might be a good prospect with whom to build a relationship, but building the relationship will reveal who among that pool are the most promising prospects for your organization. Once gift officers receive new, verified prospects who have not been qualified before, they need to initiate a substantial contact with the prospect. Referred names should be treated as “discovery” prospects and development officers should attempt substantial contacts (e.g., face-to-face meeting, event-based personal contact, scheduled phone meeting) rather than a more passive approach (such as a letter without specific follow-up).
Like the verification process, the initial contact process needs to be doable and continuous. A common practice is two names per two week period with a report on progress due at the end of each two-week window, but variations are possible based on staff and resources. It is critical to keep the time frames short to encourage action and to track progress closely. Fifty names referred with a six month window almost always ensures five and a half months of non-activity followed by a two week flurry of inefficiency.
Let us know if you have other ideas on the best practices for implementing screening results.