Enhancing Your Major Gift Fundraising Strategy with Analytics

As a fundraising analytics consultant, I see a variety of development program structures and fundraising strategies. The results of a predictive modeling and/or wealth screening endeavor can improve programs and strategies of all types – Well… that is if you smartly utilize the results of your data.

The role of  these projects with all your programs and initiatives is to help you identify and strategize the right individuals and target audience for specific types of gifts, as well as how much to ask for and who to prioritize.  When embarking on a comprehensive analysis of your database, be sure to keep your goals and objectives first and foremost. Ensure that all next steps and work plans include specific strategies that you and your team will utilize so that you can achieve these goals and objectives.

Here are a few tips and recommendations on how to approach analytics projects to enhance your major giving program.

First, it’s important to note that newly discovered prospects are typically a combination of those you have never heard of and are not assigned to a gift officer (often because they are smaller donors or non-donors), as well as those who are known but not being cultivated at the level identified from your analytics project.

Growing a relationship over time with newly identified prospects is key to developing or enhancing major gifts programs or initiatives. Keep in mind that even though an analytics project may identify a new crop of prospects able and willing to give more significant gifts to your organization, the scores themselves don’t guarantee that you will raise a particular amount of money or that individuals will give you a more significant donation.

Prioritizing Assignment & Outreach

Utilize inclination to give a major gift in combination with identified top giving capacity in order to build or grow a major gifts program.

Those who appear more likely to give major gifts to your organization and have higher capacity would be the top group to assign to major gift officers and/or development leadership so that giving staff can qualify, cultivate, and solicit larger giving opportunities.  Some initial pre-qualification via prospect research with key wealth screening data is also recommend to identify public assets, business information, relationships, and philanthropic connections that individuals might have to your organization or to other nonprofits.  Prospects with lower scored likelihood but still have larger capacity should be targeted for longer-term qualification, cultivation, and solicitation strategies.  They may have the ability to give larger gifts but look unlikely to donate major gifts at this time. Special attention should be given for a more personalized approach as opposed to mass mail and email strategies.

Campaign Planning

Major giving inclination scores and giving capacity information can also be used to segment prospects for either inclusion in campaign feasibility studies or raising funds for a specific campaign.

In combination with a feasibility study, nonprofit organizations often look at analytics to identify the overall potential from their prospect base by discovering who would likely give significant gifts to help realize a campaign goal.  Fundraisers should also analyze how much idealized potential exists for a proposed campaign by calculating the low, middle, and high end of capacity ranges, thus weighting “hit rates” or yield ratios.  For example, if you have 100 prospects who are likely to be targeted for gifts of $25,000-$50,000 and your historical yield or “hit rate” in securing gifts is from 1 out of every 10 prospects you reach out to and qualify/disqualify, then you are looking at idealized potential from these 100 prospects of $250,000 to $500,000.

When embarking on, or in the midst of, the silent phase of a campaign, look to analytics to help identify the giving capacity of leadership donors for the campaign.  Analyzing where ultimate capacity lies within your leadership donors can be helpful to ensure that you do not leave any potential dollars “on the table” during the beginning stages of your campaign.  A close and careful review of wealth screening results and in-depth prospect research is highly recommended on these individuals.

Once the silent phase is completed, you will need to identify prospects for the public phase.  These capital prospects are often going to be the newly discovered contacts who, through predictive modeling, have the unique characteristics of current major gift donors and thus should be prioritized, assigned, and qualified by gift officers and development leadership.


Applying and leveraging a mix of data models to find those most likely to give, mixed with appended wealth information, will help fundraisers setup and advance major or principal giving programs. Remember, start by defining goals in order to plan strategic next steps. Leverage data insights at the beginning to frame a prospect audience and then further implement findings to cull out targeted segments. With a little know-how and the right data insight tools, researchers and direct fundraisers can drive better giving with better return on investment.