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Be Careful With Wealth Ratings

Posted: 9/7/2022

Click here to read on NonProfitPRO.

By Richard Perry

"Useful data comes in the form of stories — not statistics" is a very powerful statement that is important to apply in major gifts as it relates to the use of wealth data to determine the inclination of a donor to give to your organization. I most often hear this when discussing wealth screening: "They have a lot of money. Add them to the list. They will make a great donor."

But what does that statistic have to do with real life? Not much. And that is why I really liked how that quote framed this thinking. Here are some selected points from his article:

Here is what captured me about this Quartz article that included the quote. It is the story of the customer (read: donor) that drives the insight and the planning. It is not the data.

I have proof that this is true. I have seen scores of situations where the story of the very wealthy donor is not known, nurtured or developed, and the donor gives hardly anything. And I have seen thousands of situations where the major gift officer learned the story (read: passions and interests) of the donor and, in that story, found that donor's path to transformational giving.

When thinking of the donors on your caseload, keep these three statements from the article in mind:

  1. "Useful data comes in the form of stories — not statistics."
  2. "Real people [are] struggling to make progress in their personal and professional lives." So be curious about the story and struggle of the donor.
  3. "Outliers are more valuable than averages." The donor's story will show you the way, not all the data about their wealth.

Remember, it is the life and heart of real people that drives giving. It is what is buried in their experiences and journey that informs their choices. Use data to uncover capacity. But uncover the story to reveal the heart and drivers in a donor's giving.

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