One of the least favorite tasks for a fund development committee is the process of identifying and evaluating donors.  Most volunteers will tell you that they really don’t like to “guess” at the giving potential of other people–many of whom they may not know personally.  This is understandable, but consider the following approach when planning your donor outreach for the year:

1.  Evaluate the giving potential of only your top donors.  For most nonprofits, this means paring your entire donor list from last year down to your top 10 or 20% of your donor base.  Look at those who made the largest gifts and those with the longest history of supporting your cause.  Volunteer board member’s eyes will glaze over if you ask them to start with a list of hundreds of donors.

2.  Once you have your list, look at it two ways.  First, rate each donor based on their gifting capacity.  Some of this can be determined by past giving history.  In other cases, you’ll have to rely on donor research to uncover this information.  The best bet is to ask your volunteers to help determine gift capacity of those they know in the community.  Assign a number to each donor name.  For example, a donor with a gift capacity of $25,000 or more, might get a “1,” while a donor with a gift capacity of $1,000 or less, might get a “5.”

3.  Next, look at a donor’s affinity for your mission. Again, assign a number for each name.  A donor who has great passion for your mission might get a “1.”  A new donor, or a donor with limited knowledge of your work, might get a “5.”  You can determine affinity through a variety of means including: volunteer work the donor does for your organization, number of events they attend, number of annual gifts they make, types of regular feedback they provide to the staff, and comments they make about their interests or your work.

4.  Once your rating process is complete, focus your energies on those donors with the highest gift capacity and the greatest affinity for your mission.  Make a plan for each highly rated donor–with an emphasis on personal contact to build the relationship with your organization.

Follow these steps and you’ll quickly change your fundraising efforts from a “shotgun approach” to an effort that has laser like focus.