Excuse me, your bucket is leaking! The Importance of Acquisition Lists in The Raiser’s Edge…and what to do with them!

Oct 21, 2013

Have you heard of “the leaky bucket analogy”? It is commonly referred to when discussing Direct Marketing & Fundraising. If you are unfamiliar with the term, this analogy symbolizes a bucket as your donor base. The “leaks” in your bucket are lost donors over time, and “the incoming water” represents your new donors.

While it is extremely important to focus on retention efforts (“plugging the leaks”); unfortunately, your bucket is always going to leak. The number of active donors in a database generally shrinks 15% or more each year through attrition. To continue growing a healthy donor base, these donors have to be replaced. One of the most common sources of identifying these new donors is through acquisition lists.

Acquisition lists look different from one organization to the next, but every acquisition list includes prospects or suspects that an organization would be interested in connecting with. This could be due to many factors such as their wealth, participation, affinity, interest areas, or any other criteria which makes them compelling to your organization. The source of this list can also vary from one situation to the next. An acquisition list could be created by your organization, or even purchased through an outside vendor. For example, Blackbaud’s Target Analytics provides acquisition lists through a cooperative database. An acquisition list could contain event attendees, volunteers, alumni, ticket purchasers or even prospects from a purchased or rented lists. Regardless of the source or contents of the list, acquisition lists can be effective fundraising tools when leveraged within a donor management system such as The Raiser’s Edge.

While each acquisition list is unique and could contain various information, they usually are not ready to be used “out of the box”. Learning more about the prospects within a list is the first step when determining a strategy. Use the information provided within a list to determine target groups and how to communicate with them. Alfred A. Blum, Director of Institutional Advancement at Boston College Law School gives great insight on this topic by stating: “The best solicitation occurs when the right prospect is asked for the right gift by the right solicitor at the right time in the right way… For that to occur, research is essential”. Blindly sending a one-size-fits-all communication or solicitation to a list of individuals can result in poor performance. There are many variables to keep in mind when following Blum’s advice: Who is the right prospect?  What is the right gift ask amount?  What is your budget? To answer these questions, additional research and screenings are sometimes required.

Wealth screenings are a great way to learn more about your prospects and effectively target your messages. There are many vendors available in the marketplace for such services including WealthPoint (Target Analytics) and Wealth Engine. Once a list has been screened, criteria such as giving capacity, propensity to give, estimated wealth ratings, and more can be determined through these services. This information is extremely valuable to determine target groups within a list. For example, if you learned that 10 percent of your list scored extremely high on a wealth rating scale, how would you change your communication strategy? A moves management program or an assigned solicitor may be more applicable to this group rather than a direct mail program. Regardless of the criteria you use to find specific target groups, a segmentation process is required to find these groups within your list(s)/prospect base.

While all organizations desire the same results from segmentation; the process looks different from one organization to the next. In regards to acquisitions lists, the goal of segmentation is to effectively identify specific target groups within a prospect base. The criteria that is important will be specific to your organization. One organization may use the interests of the prospects while another organization is solely focused on demographic and wealth data. The message that is sent to these prospects needs to be tailored.

This all sounds pretty simple, right? Grab a list, run it through a wealth screening service, segment the list to get the desired target groups, and begin the solicitation process. It is not always that easy, especially when utilizing a donor management system such as The Raiser’s Edge. The data must be stored and accessible before it is effective. For users of The Raiser’s Edge this can be tricky as there is no functionality built-in for acquisition lists.

Storing and managing acquisition data in The Raiser’s Edge can be difficult. Database integrity is compromised by adding every interesting prospect into the database. Because of this, most organizations have strict criteria that should be met before an individual can be created as a full constituent record in The Raiser’s Edge. For example, once an individual gives a gift or a pledge they are entered into the system. This keeps queries, exports, and reports clean of unwanted data. To ensure database integrity, acquisition lists need to be managed separately from existing constituent data.

Historically, organizations have handled these lists in many different (sometimes even creative) ways. Outside vendors or data systems, such as Access Databases or data warehouses, are commonly implemented to store and manage prospect lists. Other organizations will import the lists into The Raiser’s Edge and flag the constituents in a manner which indicates that they are prospects/suspects. Excel is even a common method of storing and managing these individuals. In any of these cases, the data is either not integrated within The Raiser’s Edge or the data is cluttering up queries, reports, and exports within The Raiser’s Edge.

Clearly, we can see multiple challenges that could arise when dealing with acquisition lists in The Raiser’s Edge. The idea of implementing a holding tank is a common thread across the previously mentioned solutions. But, what if acquisition lists could be stored in The Raiser’s Edge without impacting data integrity?  Envision an integrated holding tank within The Raiser’s Edge keeping prospects separate from constituent records while keeping queries, exports, and reports clean. What I am describing is List Management, an integrated prospect management solution for The Raiser’s Edge.

List Management is an add-on for ImportOmatic. As many know, ImportOmatic provides awesome import functionality for The Raiser’s Edge allowing users to import data from nearly any data source. List Management sits along-side ImportOmatic allowing prospects to be imported and stored within a secure holding tank where they are kept separate from “full” Raiser’s Edge constituents. These prospects, or “non-constituents” still have records and can be accessed at any point within their respective lists. The non-constituent records act similar to constituent records, holding biographic data, addresses, prospect data, appeals, attributes, and more. This data can be used for segmentation purposes.

Simple segmentation and grouping can be handled within List Management using filters and constituent queries. Easily find all of the prospects that live in a specific area, fall in a specific age range, or scored highly on a wealth screening. If more advanced segmentation is desired, SegmentOmatic can include List Management non-constituents allowing multiple queries and segment levels to be defined within a segmentation profile. SegmentOmatic also streamlines the engaging process by globally applying appeals/packages to targeted segment groups.

Once the target groups have been defined and tailored solicitation messages have been sent, List Management also assists with the data entry process. The records can be managed and tracked during the solicitation process and once they meet a specific criteria, they are added to The Raiser’s Edge as full constituent records.

We obviously think these tools are pretty cool, but check out some of our users feedback to hear how awesome they really are! Regardless of your system, make sure you have a plan in place to address the ever leaking bucket.



Omatic Software
Omatic Software is dedicated to integrating disparate systems and democratizing data access for today’s nonprofits. Founded in 2002, Omatic has worked with thousands of nonprofits globally to remove their data barriers by integrating systems and enabling nonprofit teams to leverage their donor data rather than be burdened by it. The Omatic team has one goal – unleashing the power of data to show a complete view of your donor, enabling data-driven decision making and opportunity creation for your organization.