Live From BBCON: 2 in 5 Americans Lack ‘Philanthropic Footprint’

BALTIMORE — Roughly 40 percent of Americans have “no philanthropic footprint” and can’t be counted on for a meaningful relationship with charitable organizations. Another 4 percent of Americans don’t have a philanthropic history, although they have donor potential based on their assets.

That stark reality is derived with data from Target Analytics, a division of Blackbaud, from more than 4 billion transactions and 75 million U.S. households, according to Melissa Bank Stepno. She presented the information here as part of a session at the 17th annual conference held by technology firm Blackbaud, known as bbcon. More than 3,000 are in attendance. The session was titled “Target Analytics Affluence: Identifying Wealth and Philanthropy in the U.S.”

The thrust of the session was predictive analytics versus wealth screening of donors. She called the contrast the “great debate” as to which to use.  Neither is “the end all and be all,” she said. A little of both are required. Predictive modeling suggests a donor will do something specific in the future. Wealth screening relies on determining the type of wealth.

Wealth isn’t everything, according to Bank Stepno. Fourteen percent of those with the highest incomes are in the lowest 10 percent of spending disposable revenue while 17 percent of those with lowest incomes are in the highest 25 percent spending.

The data show donors who give more recently, more frequently or who have given more money over their lifetime skew older, are more likely to be married, and are highly educated with greater home values. These donors have more invested assets and higher net worth. They are also less likely to be active on social media, she said.

The data was divided into five donor groups and 13 segments. The groups are:

  • Philanthropists:  High Net Worth, Financially Secure and Upwardly Mobile;
  • Humanitarians:  Steady, Devoted and Faithful;
  • Casual Donors: Middle Class, Working Class, Marginal, Sporadic;
  • Enigmas: Affluent;
  • The Masses: Blue Collar, Non-starter.

Those in the Philanthropist category annually donate at least $4,000 with each gift being at least $250. Comparing the groups, there was virtually no difference in how they acted based on age, Bank Stepno said.

Her top four takeaways from the data were:

  1. Tried and true methodology for segmentation and identification might no longer be sufficient. Big data and analytics will continue to push fundraisers to think differently, more creatively, and more strategically.
  2. A multi-faceted strategy for prospect identification is important. People are not one-size-fits-all and neither is the strategy.
  3. Knowing who to contact is just as important as understanding how to contact them and which messaging might resonate.
  4. Knowing what segments are least worthy of your time, talent and treasure will help your organization be more effective and efficient.