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Donor “street” research is essential

Subscription services like DonorSearch and Wealth Engine are the go-to donor research tools. They are the best tools you have—until they are not. We all have many examples of wealth estimates being wildly off, high, or low.

Why it matters: There is no substitute for what I call “street” research. Find out all you can about the donor from people who know them. Remember, the wealthy have many ways to account for and stash their wealth, where the screening services cannot find it. This includes cash into a bank account, stocks, and real estate investment trusts.

Work it: Don’t take the subscription service or contracted wealth research at face value. Your volunteer who knows the donor may have game-changing information. I once paid for a deep dive on a family, and the recommendation was to ask for $5M. A board member who knew them shared with me the nature of the donor’s wealth. We got the green light for $50M!

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