While wealth screening is an essential tool for fundraisers of today, I still hold true to augmenting a screening with the old “tried and true” Prospect Rating and Ranking Session.
What is a Rating and Ranking Session and how would you hold one?
Rating and Ranking Sessions were commonly held to prioritize donor lists after doing manual prospect research online or, for those done before the days of online research, searching tediously through periodicals. Remember the old “Who’s Who” directories? Those were a fundraiser’s best friend back in the day.
Today, a Rating and Ranking Session can be used to determine not just capacity but, more importantly, interest and affinity. While we know that, ultimately, capacity is essential, it is somewhat meaningless without knowing a prospect’s interest in, or affinity towards, the cause. The only real way to determine or gauge that interest is through organizing a group of prospective donor peers to manually review each prospective donor on a pre-developed list. This review should determine their interest and capacity based on a rating scale. I highly recommend that you do a capacity screening first to determine the top prospects for the Rating and Ranking Session.
Here are the steps that I recommend to setting up and holding one of these sessions, including potential session pitfalls:
1) Draft agenda based on SAMPLE agenda tailored to the time of the session.
2) Determine if any food and drinks will be served and make arrangements for those.
3) Reserve the room and ensure that you have circular tables conducive to conversation for either small or large groups, as applicable.
4) Send out a meeting reminder notice.
5) Review the “Steps to Conducting a Prospect Rating Session” to review how to conduct such a session.
6) Have rating sheets printed and copied for all attendees.
7) Have a “Master” prospective donor list created for your reference and have this “Master List” loaded up on a laptop for ease in searching.
8) Review the rating scale for interest and capacity. I highly recommend that you have this rating scale on a sheet of easel paper posted on the wall for easy reference for the participants.
9) Stress the confidentiality of this process and the need to limit “gossip” to any extent.
10) Explain how the Development Office will make use of the ratings and rankings in the future, and outline what the next steps might be.
11) I prefer to use the “Group Discussion” method in which you, as the facilitator, read each name in turn, with people coming to a consensus on ratings and rankings. However, rating and ranking can also be done silently where each participant individually reviews the names and makes a note of estimated capacity and interest.
12) This process needs to be VERY FOCUSED or else it will go over time. Keep folks moving along the names. Read them out loud and deter any unnecessary side conversations.
13) You may want to make organizational packets for everyone that will include the Master List, a copy of the rating and ranking scale for their reference, and a “confidentiality statement”.
14) Ensure that someone is on hand to serve as an alternate tracker during the session. Two “notetakers” are better than one. This person may or may not use a computer.
15) After the session, tally all of the rating and ranking numbers into a spreadsheet. Those with the highest numbered ranking should be sorted to “rise” to the top, indicating top prospect (i.e., 5 (capacity) + 5 (interest) = 10). It is extremely important that you track actual numbers for each rating section.
16) I would recommend that you collect all rating and ranking sheets from participants as they leave to stress the confidential nature of the process.
This session also needs to be kept very tight and focused on keeping things moving quickly, or else it will get extremely bogged down and you will not get through the names.
So, here you have the step-by-step instructions on how to hold your session and how best to facilitate the process.
And, here are some more resources you may want to check out: