Estimating Donor Capacity

7 ideas for estimating capacity to give…

The task was to launch a $1 billion campaign. The obstacle was a limited history of principal gift fundraising.

That was the problem facing Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) in New York City when officials decided to make a major investment in both clinical areas and research in 2001.

During the Association for Fundraising Professionals (AFP) Fund Raising Day in New York 2011, Richard Naum, vice president of MSKCC, and Kate Chamberlain, campaign strategic research director, outlined the Center’s approach.

Before this, fundraising at MSKCC was direct mail based with limited major gift or patient-oriented programs.

The new approach took two perspectives: capacity estimates of donors and a major gifts model for prioritization.

The campaign surpassed its $1 billion goal in August of 2006. Following are highlights from the two thrusts of the campaign. Capacity estimate for a five-year pledge included:

• Giving history
• Income and home value based in ZIP code
• Screening data from pervious years, to include real estate, stockholdings and private company sales.

Major gifts uncovered and refuted several myths:

• Major gift donors are new to the file. A whopping 86 percent had made a gift before their first $1 million gift.
• Major gift donors don’t give to direct mail. Some 58 percent had made at least one direct mail gift.
• Major gift donors don’t make tribute gifts. More than half (53%) did.
• Major gift donors don’t give to events. Less than one-quarter (23%) have given through a marathon event.

What insights can you add in regards to estimating capacity of donors? Please offer your comment below.

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About Gary Coiro

Nonprofit & Church Leader Nonprofit Leader and Consultant since 2004, following 15 years as a pastor. Competencies include board development, fundraising, staff development and management, strategic planning, church work, Bible teaching, and capital campaigns. Currently consulting and serving on the Church Ministries Management Team for a large multi-cultural evangelical church.
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