With roughly 100 days between now and December 31st, how can you prioritize your team’s time and resources to decide how to cultivate major gifts and prioritize gift requests?

Almost every cause and organization is facing increased philanthropic need this year. When combined with the reality that discovery visits and in-person cultivation, briefing, solicitation, and stewardship will likely be limited for many more months, deepening your existing relationships becomes an even higher priority in the current environment. It is critical to take the time to examine and analyze your data so that you can identify your best prospects to upgrade and prioritize engagement activity with those who are most likely to support you now.

To achieve year-end goals, sharpen your focus on those who have the greatest capacity to give and are already your friends. Make sure you are working with your top and most obvious donors when prioritizing your valuable time. While a seven-figure prospect who has not responded to repeated outreach may still be a long-term relationship to pursue for lots of reasons, a consistent five-figure donor who is not yet giving at maximum capacity is likely a better focus for a virtual briefing that underscores the critical need your organization faces right now to secure a major gift in the next 100 days.

Fortunately, data can inform how to segment donors into short, medium and long-term focus. Examining the intersection between Recency, Frequency, Monetary Value (“RFM”) and wealth screening is the simplest way to start narrowing your prospect pool to focus on those who are both closest to you and have capacity. When those very basic results are combined with relationship mapping and engagement analysis, they form the foundation of a strong plan to increase major gifts.

RFM: What is it and why would we do it?

A Recency, Frequency, Monetary Value (“RFM”) analysis is the scoring of current donors to rank and prioritize your database through three attributes: recency, frequency, and volume of giving. It can help you answer many questions, including: Who has given recently and is with you right now? Who has given over time and demonstrated loyalty to your cause? Who are your top lifetime givers?

Questions to Answer

Before getting started on your analysis, you’ll want to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Would I like to measure total lifetime giving or total giving within the past certain number of years (e.g. the last 10 years)? This will inform how you set up your RFM key, described in the guide.
  • Do I have enough information about each donor to complete the analysis? You will need name, database ID, the date of their last gift, the number of times that they have given (lifetime or within the time frame you decided), and the amount of their giving (lifetime or within the time frame you decided). 
  • Who will I use to screen my data? There are many vendors; which one you use is less important than knowing that you are aiming to focus on those closest to you with identified capacity and knowing that using publicly available data is one helpful tool to inform that decision.

How to Perform an RFM Analysis

You have followed along and may be wondering, how exactly does one perform an RFM analysis? Jessica Roberts, Director of Data Insights and Client Engagements at CCS, can help! Jessica has used advanced analytics to advance nonprofit fundraising for over 15 years and has put together a step-by-step guide here: How to Perform an RFM Analysis. For questions about the process or donor analytics more broadly, contact Jessica and CCS’s Data Analytics Team at analytics@ccsfundraising.com.

Wealth Screening: Another Tool in the Quiver

There are many vendors who can screen your data for pennies per name, and many organizations already have access to screening built-in through database subscriptions. While wealth screening is not perfect (every screening turns up a million-dollar donor with low identified giving capacity), it can be very directionally important. The consistent $1,000 donor who gave last year with a capacity to give $1M+ that you never thought about is one ideal outcome of this exercise.

Other Recommendations

  • Whether you have 50 front-line fundraisers or are a one-person show, there is some number of people that you can realistically connect with in the next hundred days. Determine your unique number, and create filters in an excel spreadsheet that contains your RFM and wealth screening results to exclude lower capacity and lower RFM scores until you get there.
  • We have found that the most robust results of an RFM analysis occur when they are used to inform community engagement and donor request plans.
  • Having clean data is important. Performing an RFM analysis could be an excellent opportunity to organize and update your data to maximize the accuracy of your results.
  • Harness the power of your data by asking yourself “What do I want to know about donor behavior?” Your questions can likely be answered by increasing data gathering and exploring advanced tools for data-driven fundraising solutions.
CCS Fundraising is a consulting firm that works with nonprofits. We provide campaign counsel, strategic planning, and other services to strengthen development efforts for charities.

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About the Authors

Jessica Roberts has over 15 years of experience in nonprofit fundraising management and consulting, where she has developed holistic fundraising and development strategies for a wide range of clients using advanced analytics. Jessica leverages qualitative and quantitative data to deliver unique insights and tailored solutions for clients. She is currently the Director of Data Insights and Client Engagements for CCS Fundraising. In her role she helps clients define, build and implement fundraising strategies. Jessica serves as a project manager and advanced analytics subject matter expert for directors and executives.

Kate Villa has been helping to design, plan, and implement successful fundraising campaigns since she worked for her University’s development office while in college. She truly enjoys creating and executing campaign plans that connect donors’ passions with projects that change the world. Kate’s 20 years of experience, first as a Chief Development Officer and now with CCS, have included: comprehensive campaign design and management, planning studies, and leading teams of staff and volunteer leadership to develop unique strategies and solutions to achieve ambitious fundraising goals.