Using Data to Focus Your Major Gift Efforts

Using Data to Focus Your Major Gift Efforts

February 10, 2020 by Andy Canada


Though personal visits are the gold standard to engage and cultivate major gift donors, they can be costly and labor intensive if you are not seeing the right prospects. But how can you ensure you are connecting with the best prospects?

Your database holds the answer. Big data is a buzz word we’re hearing more and more about, particularly for its ability to organize large volumes of data to uncover hidden trends and its ability to make organizations more efficient through predictive analytics. This emerging trend involves utilizing historical data to find patterns and correlations to build assumptions and develop potential scenarios. So how do we take those concepts and put them into practice with our nonprofit organizations?

Streamlining Your Major Gift Efforts

The trick to finding major and planned gift donors within your data is to identify those with both the ability to make a major donation, as well as the affinity to give to your organization. A good prospect has not only the capacity to give to your organization, but also an interest and inclination to give to your mission.

While you can’t grow a prospect’s capacity, inclination can be nurtured through cultivation.

You can use the data in your own database to uncover the best prospects for your cultivation efforts by looking for those donors who meet the following characteristics:

  • Your largest donors
  • Your most loyal donors
  • Your most engaged donors

What types of engagement should you measure? Activities donors engage in like volunteering, serving on committees, attending events, etc., increase an emotional connection to your organization, which increases a donor’s propensity for donating. When these engagement factors are combined with wealth data, they can help you focus your efforts on your most impactful donor segments and implement strategies faster than traditional wealth screening alone.

Applying this data-driven fundraising strategy, JGA has partnered with DonorSearch and developed a new and innovative tool that pinpoints the best prospects for cultivation and gets the information to your team more quickly and efficiently. Acuity® integrates a donor’s financial data with your data about their engagement with your organization.Acuity Actionable intelligence on your most passionate donors

JGA then helps you take this information to structure an efficient segmentation plan. This process delivers actionable intelligence about your donors that you can put to use right away to produce more efficient, productive, and successful donor solicitations.

By building on data from wealth screening and combining it with engagement data, you get a clearer picture of donors’ gift potential and passion for your organization. It’s a quantitative approach that is data-led and adds an engagement filter that helps solicitation efforts be more successful.

Wilmington College recently engaged with JGA to conduct an Acuity analysis of its donor base. The college had built a loyal donor base but wanted to identify donors that needed further cultivation to expand the major gift donor base and reach out to new donors as they looked to the future. Wilmington wanted to ensure it was maximizing its available resources and that gift officers were focusing on the right prospects. Wilmington and JGA partnered to drill down into Wilmington’s database to explore potential capacity while also examining various engagement characteristics.

“Acuity provided a level of intelligence that we could quickly implement and allowed us to uncover new prospects in our database that weren’t on our radar,” said Matt Wahrhaftig, Vice President for College Advancement at Wilmington College. “We are already in conversations with new major and lead gift donors we wouldn’t have been having without Acuity.”

In addition, a detailed staffing analysis was conducted to outline donor coverage and ROI. This insight was used by leadership to evaluate and determine timing to add additional staff to cultivate the newly uncovered donor capacity.

Listen to our webinar  to learn more about various techniques for using data in your fundraising. We will also examine more closely how Wilmington College used Acuity to streamline its major gift officer portfolios and make a case for additional investment in advancement to its board and campus leadership.


Andy Canada HeadshotAndy Canada, senior consultant, brings to Johnson, Grossnickle and Associate’s clients significant development experience focused in annual giving, planned giving, major gift development, data analytics, and campaign development and implementation. Before joining JGA in 2010, Andy served as development director for the Indiana University Foundation, where he served as lead development director for the School of Health Physical Education and Recreation (HPER). Prior to joining the Indiana University Foundation, Canada distinguished himself within the development team at Purdue University, serving as director of development for the Krannert School of Management. Canada is a graduate of Purdue University and holds a bachelor’s degree in Organizational Leadership and Supervision.