Bryce DelGrande By Bryce DelGrande • February 13, 2017

    Prospect Ratings, RFM Scores, then what?


    The case against ranking and rating

    You may be gearing up for a capital campaign, or refreshing your prospecting efforts in your CRM, or maybe you're building a major gifts effort; regardless, you and your team have just put in incredible effort towards evaluating your current and potential donors. 

    What often happens next is the information gets uploaded to your CRM, exported to excel spreadsheets, and sorted countless times and ways in an attempt to achieve the best fundraising results. In the end you and your team end up putting in quite a lot of effort. 

    Will it pay dividends? 

    Unfortunately, it's unlikely. 

    Generally speaking your organization likely already knows who the very top of the pyramid is, which these scores will just reiterate. Ranking efforts, much like capacity scores, are limited in scope and effectiveness. While they may make for great columns to sort in excel, the end result of these efforts is more perception than reality. 

    These systems do offer a method for prioritizing the rest of pyramid that is marginally more effective than just sorting by given history, but in the end the return on the effort is pretty limited. This is because all of these systems overlook crucial factors of the fundraising life cycle. 

    They might tell you who your best prospect is, or who you should spend the most effort on, but not when or how. 

    They are subjective. 

    They don't consider the sum of the parts


    1. Not now! 

    As a fundraiser, you need to meet donors where they are. Ideally asking donors to give:

    • when they want to give
    • to what they want to give to,
    • how they want to give

    In order to do so, you need to go beyond looking for the best prospects. While you can alter your parameters to better attack the funding opportunities your organization has available, and you can change policies to be more open to the growing complexity of gifts, there is little these exercises to do to answer the pivotal question of distinguishing who the best prospects are from who are the best prospects right now.


    Timing is everything. 

    2. Sum of the parts

    What happens if you don't have or can't reach enough 10/10 prospects or 300 RFMs? Do we just continue to work or way down the list? 

    These rating systems don't account for the cumulative reach of a fundraiser, what if for example you can reach solicit three 200 RFM prospects who might give $5,000 in the same time as one 300 RFM prospect who might give $10,000? Well, your overall fundraising potential is actually higher with the three lower prospects than with the one higher one. 

    These kind of holes are abundant in this analysis and often result in inefficiencies in your fundraising efforts. 

    3. Will you consider an increase? 

    These measures don't indicate who is likeliest to make a bigger gift, simply who is the best prospect. Unfortunately, charity, both from an organization's perspective and from a donor's perspective, is about last years gift. Organizations set goals focused on growing year over year and donors are focused on giving relative to what they have given before. Prospect rankings and RFM scores do little to reflect that. 

    We can look at things like sticky amounts, age and other indicators to look for better indicators toward growth. 

    Sticky amounts are a personal favorite. 

    Do you find certain giving levels have the same people stuck there year after year just on the cusp? 

    This indicates a sticky amount, a donation level where donors stay stagnant and can often be correlated with rewards or recognition 


    Dynamic ranking systems based on the time-sensitive nature of fundraising will drive major increases in capacity, efficiency and ultimately total funds raised for nonprofits. 

    This is why at Gravyty we have created a platform that uses this form of dynamic ranking in collaboration with external data sources. Combining giving patterns and timing with motivation triggers such as tax year end, or promotions and bonuses we are able to answer the question of who are best prospects at every given moment separately. As a result, we make sure that fundraisers can maximize their returns on their efforts by asking all the right donors at the right moments. 

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    If you want to take your prospect ratings and portfolio management to the next level contact us today!


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