Wealth Screening is Stupid

That’s right, I said it. As a nonprofit fundraiser and marketer, you are constantly on the prowl for new donors to help elevate their mission and purpose. I have no doubt that at some point you have heard of wealth screening or wealth scoring tools in some capacity.

In fact, you make have end used it in your search, as they are often regarded as a necessary component of donor prospecting efforts. As you probably know, these tools are used to aid an organization in prioritizing their outreach efforts, but unfortunately, most people have had less than satisfactory experiences with tools like this. Are you one of those people?

If you are, I am glad you landed here. I have outlined some of the deficiencies of these wealth screening tools to aid you in better understanding not only how they fall short, but how you can optimize the use of these tools making them a little less “stupid.” As you dive into these deficiencies, you will examine wealth screening concerns including:

1. A focus on quantity over quality

2. The use of no-so-definitive data

3. The curses of undependable third party data

4. A lack of organizational control

However, as you conclude, you will be given new ideas and ways to integrate these tools that will not only impact your prospecting timeline, but drive an overwhelmingly positive impact on your ROI. Let’s dive in.

Quantity Not Quality

When it comes to identifying who in your contact or prospect list is going to give and when, it doesn’t take an industry veteran to understand that money isn’t everything; just because someone has the money to give, doesn’t mean they are going to give it. Wealth screening tools do a decent job of uncovering the value of an individual’s wallet, but often lack the tools required to inform you of their value to your organization in particular. This is especially inadequate as a method when talking about the nonprofit sector, where value goes well beyond the monetary.

Making connections with people who are passionate about your cause, or with interest adjacent to it, can inspire more connections and lead to a significant monetary ROI through word of mouth referrals from these high-affinity individuals. With this in mind, qualitative metrics, such as affinity scores and models that calculate gifting likelihoods, are far more valuable to a nonprofit than any quantitative wealth-based metrics. That being said, using wealth screening tools to supplement the qualitative metrics can certainly help you fine-tune your focus and ask amounts, but the qualitative scores help make sure your fundraisers don’t waste time on valuable people that have no interest in giving. Fortunately, many wealth screening tools are beginning to add such qualitative metrics to their offerings, but they remain a secondary focus for many organizations.

Not-So-Definitive Data 

Another aspect of wealth screening that often disappoints is the fact that the wealth and, when available, personal affinity values that they append to your records are descriptive values based on definitive data. These definitive data points are often limited in scope as they mostly come from data sets on financial indicators and giving history made using only data which is publicly available. There are three major issues within the scope of this problem.

The first is that money is a very personal thing and many people choose to spend their money, and donate, privately. In the non-profit space, a common way of doing this is through a donor advised fund (DAF) wherein individuals contribute to make a single, large donation, effectively making their donations anonymous.

The second issue is that the dollar amounts presented from these data are historical in nature and can more reliably say what someone *has* given rather than what they *will* give in the future.  Additionally, this means that these definitive data sources are incapable of staying up to the latest trends, such as crypto-philanthropy, and ultimately leave certain avenues of value out of their descriptive calculations.

The last issue is that these indicators are not always accurate and may refer to wealth indicators at scales larger than the individual person you’re trying to screen. For example, suppose you have a contact that you are screening who owns an apartment in a big building, but the only real estate information your wealth screening provider has accessible is the last sale price of the entire building, not just the apartment. When this value is associated with your contacts record, it will surely inflate that individual’s perceived wealth and can have a severe impact on your fundraising efforts.

Undependable Third Party Data

Suppose that you want to enrich a list of previous donors, for each of which you have recorded giving amounts and the times of year that they have given to your organization. These data points are undeniably useful for fundraising efforts, but when it comes to the wealth screening process, all this valuable data is often left on the table.

Since wealth screening tools are built around deriving values from the third party data sources, many lack the functionality to incorporate your first party data into their calculations. This ultimately means that all of your calculations and values depend on the data of your which is hidden from you behind their contractual agreements with their data providers. This means that you are required to trust data that you cannot see and if there are issues with the data you are given, there is no way for you to look for yourself and diagnose the data issues to know where things went wrong.

Lack of Control

The last issue we’ll discuss is something we just alluded to in our previous point, but extends far beyond not being able to see what data goes into your calculations. When you give your data to a wealth screening platform, there is always turnaround time associated with the ingestion of your data and calculation of the wealth metrics they provide. This is usually a very brief time-frame, but if you want to do anything further with your data and you don’t have a data team on staff, you may need to contract out a data scientist from the wealth screening company to perform analysis or build models with your data. This is not only cost-prohibitive, it also puts you and your project’s timeline at the mercy of the contractors priority list, not to mention the minefield of miscommunications and misunderstandings about project goals that may arise when working with people outside of your organization. 

Go Beyond Wealth Screening

You see, wealth screening when paired with the appropriate additional data points can be of value, but the exclusive use of wealth screening data can lead you astray. While using these tools in their exclusivity may cause you to have inaccuracies in your decision making, allowing these tools to be part (not the entirety) of your donor prospecting can make all the difference. boodleAI allows you to view wealth screening data as just a piece of your full picture by incorporating a variety of additional data points which are pertinent to your success. With affinity-based information and your own first party data thrown into the mix, boodleAI can hand select and deliver the prospects most likely to convert with ease. Contact boodleAI today to see how you can boost your donor prospecting results, and ultimately, your next campaign’s outcomes.

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About boodleAI

boodleAI is changing the game for donor acquisition and retention by delivering groundbreaking lifts in donations, engagement, and lifetime retention rates. We have revolutionized donor prospecting by dynamically providing high-quality, mission-aligned donor prospects directly to nonprofits. Using our seamless advertising solutions, converting these AI-curated donor prospects into lifetime donors has never been easier.