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Office of Development

Finding New Donors for the University of Washington

Executive Summary:
It is imperative for the UW Development Office to expand the number of generous and capable donors if we are to continue to build on the fund raising successes of previous years. We recently received delivery on a tool that will help us do that. A company called Prospect Information Network (PIN) performed a screening of our database that helps to identify alumni and friends with major gift capacity. The Prospect Research Office is in the process of reviewing the PIN results and distributing verified prospects to the Development staff. The administrative overhead of this task, however, is significant. The UIF will fund an assistant to the researchers to help them push good prospects to the front-line development staff as efficiently as possible.

The Need for More Donors
The Prospect Tracking System is a database that keeps track of prospective major donors (individuals, corporations or foundations who can make a gift of $25,000 or more). It also records the anticipated gift amounts from each. There are less than 4,000 prospects on the system right now, with targeted gifts totaling about $550 million. This figure is just a guess as to how much the UW will receive from these prospective donors. Industry standards suggest that at most one third of that amount will actually come in. Further, gifts from currently identified prospects will most likely come in over a 5-year period, not all at once.

Using common industry ratios, we need nearly two-and-a-half times the number of prospects we now have in order simply to maintain the level of giving from last year ($84.9 million). In reality, the picture probably isn't that bleak, because there are some prospective gifts that haven't been recorded on the system, and some large gifts will come in that are not anticipated. Nevertheless, there is good reason to believe that the gift pipeline is substantially under-supplied.

To further drive home the point, we would need approximately 20,000 qualified prospects if we were to engage in a major fund raising campaign. This is six times the number we currently have on our Prospect Tracking System.

How to Find More Donors
The Development Office recently contracted with a company called Prospect Information Network (PIN) to screen 300,000 records from our database in order to identify individuals capable of making a major gift. PIN's product is unique among database screening firms in that they specialize in identifying individuals at the highest levels of private companies. We received the results in mid-December, 1999 and our initial review of the data is favorable. We hope to discover as many as 10,000 previously unknown highly capable individuals. Such a powerful tool does not come without a cost. We paid $170,000 for the screening (about $.57 per record screened). This is an investment that we must capitalize on, not only to make sure we steward the resources that have been entrusted to us, but also to fill the donor pipeline sufficiently to supply the needs of the University for the coming years.

Before distributing the PIN data, the Prospect Research Office must check and verify the information we received. This ensures that the Development officers do not waste their valuable time chasing false leads. Verification is a time-consuming and labor-intensive process. We have four full-time researchers and a research manager who must provide ongoing research support to the development office (the Research Office responded to over 400 requests for information last year). They now have the added task of sifting through 300,000 records returned by PIN to find and verify the best 10,000-20,000 prospects in the bunch.

In order to speed the process of delivering good prospects to the Development staff, the UIF is funding a research assistant who will take from the researchers some of the repetitive tasks that they routinely perform as part of their job. These tasks include maintaining internal databases, filing, updating the Advance Alumni/Donor database, compiling and preparing raw data for use in donor/prospect profiles, and other tasks as needed.

The addition of a Research Assistant to this unit in early 2000 will greatly enhance the research analysts' productivity and allow them to move valuable information about highly rated prospects out to the front line Development staff as quickly as possible.

Contact: David Lamb
Director, Prospect Research and Tracking
Allocation: $27,631
Date Funded: January 2000