Tag Archives: research

Researcher Bias In Stelter Planned Giving Report

Beware courtesy of xadrian on Flickr

Bias is apparent in The Stelter Company’s newest research report, “What Makes Them Give?” The planned giving study recommends expanding communications and outreach to younger and less loyal prospect pools than traditionally thought appropriate. Much of Stelter’s business is communications, direct marketing and outreach.

It’s in their corporate interest to encourage charities to reach out to larger pools of prospects by direct mail, email, calling and website engagement because they have business lines in all those methods.

For lots of decades, Planned Giving pros have promoted estate and retirement plan gifts to prospects in their mid-50s and over. That’s the age at which it’s been believed people generally begin to think of their long-term plans as charitable vehicles. Before then, plans are for protection of family and gifts to loved ones, for the most part.

Also, being in the will or IRA of a 40-something is less valuable than a 70- or 80-year-old because of the vastly greater likelihood that the younger person’s charitable interests will change–perhaps many times–before their death in 50 or 55 years.

Stelter’s research recommends starting promotion at age 40, claiming 60% of best prospects are age 40 to 54. That conclusion may be completely correct.

But because of the company’s bias I cannot rely on their study as evidence of trends that suggest activities that will increase Stelter’s revenue.

Along with direct and email products and campaigns, the company offers a calling program. The more people charities mail to, email and call, the more potential revenue for Stelter.

That creates researcher bias, notwithstanding the research was conducted by a different company hired and paid by Stelter.

“What Makes Them Give?” also suggests expanding Planned Giving prospect pools by setting aside beliefs about donor loyalty as a predictor of giving.

To turn prospects into donors you have to communicate with them, so larger prospect pools benefit Stelter’s bottom line.

The study includes a good number of recommendations unrelated to expanded communications and outreach, including rethinking recognition societies. Those are untainted by Stelter’s bias.

I’d love to expand Planned Giving prospecting. I really would.

We don’t yet have objective research concluding that would be a wise investment of charities’ hard-earned money and limited time.

Nonprofit Radio for June 17, 2011: Giving USA Data Integrity & Google for Nonprofits

Big Nonprofit Ideas for the Other 95%

You can subscribe on iTunes and listen anytime, anyplace on the device of your choice.

Tony’s Guests:

Features editor for The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Holly talks about her coverage of possible shortcomings in Giving USA’s research methods that led to rosier-than-reality estimates of 2009 giving in last year’s report. She tells us what she and others are looking for in this year’s report on 2010 giving. My interview with her was recorded before the 2010 report was released.

Scott Koegler, editor, Nonprofit Technology News. Scott, our regular tech contributor and the editor of Nonprofit Technology News tells me what Google for Nonprofits offers, how to qualify and why it saves your office money. But, there are caveats.


Here is the link to the podcast: 046: Giving USA Data Integrity & Google for Nonprofits


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Here is a link to the podcast: 046: Giving USA Data Integrity & Google for Nonprofits

Best Prospect Research Comes From The Prospect

The Association of Prospect Researchers in Advancement met recently, and a hot topic was the May Wall Street Journal article, “Is Your Favorite Charity Spying On You.” The article didn’t portray prospect research in the best light, suggesting it’s a furtive, unseemly practice. The Chronicle of Philanthropy covered APRA’s reaction. The Journal focused on finding new prospects through research, and The Chronicle cites stats on new donors found for a campaign. I’m interested in a different kind of prospect research. The kerfuffle (a word I’ve always liked) gets me thinking: The best prospect research I’ve obtained and seen has come from the prospect themselves. No research site or algorithm can substitute for a shared meal and conversation between a prospect and fundraiser. You don’t have to meet over a meal, but I prefer it for several reasons.

You’re sharing the table and the meal. Sharing is a good place to start when the discussion is around a charitable gift–the sharing of the prospect’s money, contacts and/or time with an organization they love. Office distractions aren’t as plentiful in a restaurant. I always silence my cell, because I really don’t want to disturb our meal, and I’m hoping my dining partner will do the same. (Many do, some don’t.) Our timing is controlled by a neutral party, our server, and is familiar to both of us. We know the waitstaff will come at appointed times and we know when we’ll be left alone for long stretches. Our shared understanding of the meal ritual furthers our conversation. That’s a sufficient dining digression.

Nothing beats talking to a person when you want to get to know them. And get to know things about them. Prospects are people, not research projects (I’m not implying prospect researchers think of them that way), so have conversations with them. I’ve talked about children, spouses and siblings, wealth, asset mixes, CEOs and fellow trustees, worries, loves, illnesses, professions, boats, homes, economic forecasts, fears, vacations, country club fees, other charitable interests and estate plans. After technical expertise, the skills I most desire in a fundraiser are listening and conversing.

After a meal with your prospects, you should be rushing to write your notes, which go into your prospect report, to get channeled to your prospect researcher for analysis and thought. That’s the best prospect research, much better than any data points you can buy.