Getting Started With Engagement Scoring ― An Idea for Your Next Campaign

By Jason Shults, Associate Director, Prospect Research, University of Arizona

As more vaccine doses are administered and life returns to something approximating normalcy, organizations are dusting off pandemic-shelved campaign plans and thinking anew about fundraising on a visionary scale. Prospect development professionals are ramping up screening activity, but one challenge many shops face is how to prioritize prospects for qualification once they’ve received new or refreshed ratings.

Approaches to prioritizing prospects for qualification can vary by shop size and organizational priorities, but one useful tool to consider is a simple engagement scoring rubric. Engagement scores can be as simple or as complex as your data will allow, and ensure that the most engaged prospects float to the top of your list.

At the University of Arizona, we have developed a simple engagement scoring model based on our most robust data points. Prospects are selected for assignment based on how many engagement indicators they have. Indicators include:

  1. Geographic location
  2. Alumni or parent status
  3. Committee membership
  4. Presence of a donor advised fund or family foundation
  5. Confirmed gift(s) to other organization(s) at or above $25,000
  6. Lifetime giving of $25,000 or more
  7. Recency of giving
  8. Frequency of giving
  9. Event registration and/or participation
  10. History of a personal visit by a development officer

Individuals receive a certain number of points based on how many of these attributes apply to them, and certain attributes are weighted more heavily than others. In addition, we have identified negative engagement attributes, such as specific solicit codes and historical qualification outcomes that allow us to further fine tune our list by subtracting points.

A great way to build your own engagement scoring rubric is to start by examining your most engaged and generous donors, and identifying what characteristics they have in common. Questions to consider are:

  • Do they come to events on a regular basis? (Or did they, pre-pandemic?)
  • Are they volunteers?
  • What does their giving history look like, both to your organization and to others?
  • If you are an educational institution, are they alumni or parents? Where do they live?

The more robust data you have on your constituents, the more options you will have for building your rubric, but you can also build a simple model with just a few yes/no data points. Has the constituent given your organization a gift in the past year? Have they given multiple gifts in the last five years? Have they given through a donor-advised fund or family trust? Has anyone at your organization had personal contact with them in the past three years? If you’ve never done this before, consider starting with a small pilot with just a few names and compare the results. A random sampling of as few as 25 constituents can help point the way to the data fields that might indicate higher engagement. Talk to your frontline fundraisers and ask them what data points they think have value ― whether you’re currently tracking them or not. With some experimentation and feedback, you’ll find the combination of engagement factors that works for your organization and your donor pipeline will flow more readily.



This article relates to the Campaigns domain in the Apra Body of Knowledge.






 Learn more about the author featured in this article on the Connections Thought Leadership Page.

Recent Stories
Apra Connections Chapter Capture — Q2 2022

Prospect Identification as a Tipping Point to Hire for Research

Willkommen, Bienvenue, Welcome, C'mon In: Onboarding for Success and Retention