How to Raise More Money with Less Work (Part 2)


Last week, I wrote about the 80/20 rule, how it applies to fundraising, and how you can make sure to spend your time where it will have the biggest impact. Because 80% of funds raised for your organization will come from 20% of your donors, why not spend 80% of your time with these top donors?

To identify your top donors and prospects, you’ll want to look at LIA, an acronym for Linkage, Interest and Ability. A LIA assessment will help you gauge the potential impact of your prospective donors, which in turn, can help you decide with whom to spend the bulk of your time.

Too often I see fundraisers trying to manage giant prospect lists and not making progress—I did this myself early in my career. If you’re wrestling with a large prospect list, do you notice that many of your prospects get a little bit of cultivation but no one really gets enough?

You need focused, tailored and continued cultivation to build relationships and increase donor engagement with your organization. Even if you have a small number of prospects, focus your attention where you can have the greatest impact. Try these tips:

Rate each prospect on Linkage, Interest and Ability

Take your prospect list and next to each name add three columns: Linkage, Interest and Ability. You’re going to consider each donor/prospect and give them a “score” for each aspect of LIA. I tend to use 0 as the lowest rating and 5 as the highest (most valuable) rating.


Let’s consider “Prospect Bob” and start with Linkage. Linkage is the connection or potential connection you have with a prospect. Let’s say Prospect Bob is best friends with your board chair. That gives you a strong connection for introducing Bob to your organization’s work, so you might give Bob a Linkage score of 5.


Interest is a measure of whether or not the prospect is interested in your work and mission. If you know Prospect Bob supports other organizations in your community with similar missions (e.g., education, healthcare, social services, etc.) then you would give Bob a high score for Interest.


Ability is a measure of Prospect Bob’s capacity. If Bob is known as a philanthropist with the ability to make large gifts, then rate Bob with a 4 or a 5 in this area. Be sure to check your donor database for information about Bob’s gifts if he is a current or past donor.

After you do this exercise for each donor, total the scores. Those donors with the highest overall scores are where you should be spending the majority of your time.

Of course, to be a top prospect, it’s important that a donor rate high on all three qualities. Just because a person has Ability, doesn’t mean they have Interest in your mission or sufficient Linkage to facilitate an introduction to your organization.

A note about your Major Gifts Committee

Your major gifts committee can be a great resource for this exercise. These key volunteers will likely know some of your prospects and can help assess LIA. It’s great to have a lot of brains on this project! Your committee members are out in the community and may see prospects supporting other organizations at various levels of support. Be sure to tap into this knowledge.

Does your organization spend time qualifying donors and prospects? Please share in the Comments box below. Your fellow fundraisers and I thank you!

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