5 Steps for Building Portfolios, Finding Filler Visits, and Closing Transformational Gifts

Finding the best new prospects goes beyond looking up a wealth rating or capacity score. The best fundraising leads aren’t just those with the biggest bank accounts. Wealth matters, but the best prospects also have the right mix of affinity for an organization, an interest in making a difference with their philanthropy, and the capacity to give at levels that make an impact.

Finding those prospects is a challenge. Here’s how gift officers at the Oklahoma State University Foundation use EverTrue to make uncovering new prospects easier — whether they’re building out portfolios, closing eight-figure gifts from donors discovered in EverTrue, or finding hundreds of new potential major donors

Real quick… here’s how EverTrue works. Our software sits on top of Oklahoma State’s database (Salesforce), combining information from the CRM with continually updated career, wealth, engagement, and interest data that fundraisers can quickly use to identify the most likely prospects. EverTrue also notifies users when new leads turn up in a saved search, powering continual prospect discovery. 

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    Step 1: Create a library of shared prospect lists

    “I call it ‘social prospecting,’” said Justin Smith, Assistant Vice President of Philanthropy. “I’ve built a ton of lists in EverTrue that I can share with anyone on the regional development team. They include lists of anyone that’s taken a visit, was once managed, who has contributed to a certain academic unit, given above $5,000, or mentioned a planned gift.”

    Sharing lists lets the OSUF team collaborate and stay on top of prospects who come across their radar but haven’t yet landed in a portfolio. It also gives them a solid foundation for prospecting when they head out on the road.

    “The best part is not only sharing the list, but growing and refining the lists as a team,” said Justin. “With five, ten, or 30 development officers contributing to an iterative process, you can end up with something wonderful. It’s much better than the days of a private spreadsheet that got lost whenever the gift officer left the organization.”

    When Ashley Hesser, Senior Director of Regional Development, stepped into a new West Coast territory, she knew she needed to fill out her portfolio with new prospects. In just a couple months, she added more than 20 new prospects to her portfolio using EverTrue (and Justin’s lists) to book meetings with the most likely donors and quickly qualify their potential.

    “I walked into a great situation because all these lists were already built,” said Ashley. “Knowing that they’re constantly updated helps when I’m trying to book visits because I know I’m working with the most up-to-date information.”

    Take action: Start building lists with your team. Follow Justin’s lead and look for “pre-qualified” potential prospects. Start with simple lists like “Last Gift $5000 + Unassigned” or “Disqualified due to timing.” Share these with your team and have everyone help keep them updated.

    Step 2: Layer lists onto a map for trip-planning

    “I’ve got all these different lists built in EverTrue, so that when I go to Denver [for example], I can use each one as a filter when I’m looking to book meetings,” Justin said.

    EverTrue’s built-in map-based search feature lets users look at their portfolios, lists, or searches on a map, which helps regional gift officers and alumni engagement teams focus on the right group of constituents in each city.  

    Laura Ketchum, Senior Director Of Development & Team Lead for OSU’s College of Arts and Sciences, does the same thing.

    “Now I’m traveling to northwest Arkansas, which is a new area for me,” Laura said about a recent trip. “I had booked a couple of visits, but I needed to reach out to more to justify the travel expense. So I ran some searches in EverTrue. I found more than 30 constituents to reach out to by starting with my assigned unit (Arts and Sciences) and then filtering by giving history.”

    Take action: EverTrue’s Saved Searches give gift officers alerts for new prospects in their region. For example, if you’re responsible for Chicago, you can save a map-based search that will alert you whenever an unassigned prospect within 25 miles of the city makes a gift larger than $2,500. Customize those Saved Searches to your needs and region and you’ll continually discover new gems in your territory. 

    Step 3: When prospecting, weave in donor status, recent giving, wealth, and age

    When Laura was looking for visits in Arkansas, she started with giving history, since the best predictor of future giving is past giving, but she didn’t stop there. EverTrue allows her to easily apply other search criteria including net worth, graduation year, and a proprietary Donor Potential Score to find prospective donors.

    “I sometimes sort by age and reach out to the most senior prospects first,” said Laura. “They are often the most philanthropically inclined.”

    New research shows that more than half of all consistent mid-level donors have either made a bequest or are considering one. So if your organization prioritizes planned gifts, look for prospects giving between $1,000 and $5,000 annually. 

    Take action: When trip-planning, always look for one more visit. You never know who you might meet (it’s how UConn closed its first full-tuition medical scholarship). Play with filters and look for prospects with a high Donor Potential Score — EverTrue’s proprietary score for donor strength — or look for interesting job titles or high net worth. 

    Step 4: Practice polite persistence

    Laura reaches out to prospects four or five weeks before a trip to ensure she can reach everyone on her lists multiple times before she travels.

    “If we don’t have an email address, I’ll call first. But usually, I’ll start with an email,” Laura said. “I’ll send a note with a ‘PS’ that says I’ll be calling in a couple of days. I’ll do this even if I don’t have a phone number because people often respond to that to avoid a phone call. They’ll either accept or decline a visit right away.”

    Take action: EverTrue research shows that it takes an average of 6.5 touchpoints before a cold prospect books an initial visit. That means fundraisers must practice polite persistence and reach out with consistent, personalized communication to book more meetings. Signal by EverTrue streamlines this cadence-based outreach, helping gift officers stay on track when prospecting or managing their portfolios. 

    Step 5: Don’t be afraid to go a little bit further

    Justin Smith exemplifies “going the extra mile” in his approach to donor visits. He’s unafraid to make an extra stop if he books a meeting with the right prospect. 

    Leveraging EverTrue’s mapping and filtering capabilities allows him to plan extensive trips, like a 1,500-mile drive through Montana and Wyoming and to Alberta, Canada. 

    “The stuff I do is extreme to most people,” Justin laughs. “But I don’t mind driving.”

    The trip paid off. Justin met with a donor who lived in a remote location and had never been visited before. The connection and subsequent meetings resulted in a transformational principal gift for Oklahoma State.

    “I don’t know how in the world I would plan a trip like that without EverTrue and its map,” Justin said. “There’s no other way to figure out where those prospects live and plot out visits that are hundreds of miles apart. It would have been impossible without EverTrue.” 

    Take action: Don’t be afraid to go farther when planning trips and donor visits, especially if you’ve found the right prospect.

    Finding new prospects and productive filler visits can be challenging, but EverTrue makes it way easier by giving fundraisers software that lets them collaborate for prospect discovery, filter through the best donors by region or location, deliver alerts when new prospects raise their hands, and plan and execute trips efficiently. 

    If you’re trying to build donor pipeline, expand portfolios, or follow cadence-based outreach to engage more donors, then take a look at EverTrue. We make the really hard job of fundraising easier for every gift officer.

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