Prioritizing the 4 Types of Major Donor Prospects

Essentially there are 4 categories of major donor prospects in your donor database:

  1. The Generous – Those with financial capacity who give to your institution up to their capacity;
  2. The Contributors  – Those with financial capacity who give to your institution but are not as generous as they could be;
  3. The Non-Engaged – Those with financial capacity who give up to their capacity to other institutions, but not yours;
  4. The Ungenerous – Those with financial capacity who are not generous with any institutions;

That’s it, really.  In prioritizing our work, we should start first with “The Generous” prospects (group #1) and work our way down the list.  That sounds easy, right?  The first two groups (“The Generous” and “The Contributors”) are easy enough to prioritize – we already know them.  But it is in group #3 (“The Non-Engaged”) and group #4 (“The Ungenerous”) that our priorities can get skewed.

For so many institutions, “The Ungenerous” take priority over the “The Non-Engaged.”  Here is how it happens.  An MGO or volunteer leader says, “Sally (i.e., a “Non-Engaged” prospect) is involved with Institution Z, so we shouldn’t waste our time.”  And then someone else says, “John (i.e., an “Ungenerous” prospect) has so much potential, we just need to get him involved!”

And as simply as that, we start investing more time and resources into “The Ungenerous” than we do the “The Non-Engaged.”  Big mistake.  Far more often than not, the return on investment with “Ungenerous” prospects simply isn’t there.  Teaching someone who is not generous to give is long-term proposition.  And it’s costly.  That’s why spending resources on “The Ungenerous” is usually a poor decision.

But teaching folks who are donors elsewhere to give in support of your mission (“The Non-Engaged”) yields much better results.  These folks already understand what it means to be generous.  You just have to do the work to engage them in your mission.  Your very best donors also give in support of other missions – they have learned generosity.  Engaging donors who have already learned generosity but have not yet given in support of your mission will almost always yield better results than starting from scratch with “The Ungenerous” – no matter how much money they have.


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