Amergent's technology helps nonprofits identify major givers

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Direct marketing agency Amergent, Peabody, MA, has developed RainMaker to help nonprofit organizations determine who on their donor lists has the capacity to become major donors.

According to Jim Trebbe, chairman and CEO of the 18-year-old agency, the technology will best suit groups with large donor files that contain a significant number of prospective major donors.

"This was developed to help groups that have donor files of 50,000 or more and at least a few thousand to 10,000 prospective major donors," he said. "You aren't going to use RainMaker if you have a donor list of 200 people."

Trebbe said RainMaker, which was developed six months ago, will help an organization identify donors who are most likely to move up the "donor pyramid," as well as generate major gifts in the short term, increase the average gifts from direct mailings and cultivate planned giving and bequests.

"The direct marketing that an organization does helps bring donors in," he said. "RainMaker helps you move people up the ladder. If you have someone that has been donating $10 or $25 a year but have the ability to give more than that, this is going to help you mine those people with a much higher capacity."

RainMaker combines client donor information with publicly available information on a group's donors that will help determine wealth. Amergent then uses RainMaker's modeling capabilities to segment the list of donors on affinity to the organization. It then assigns a ranking to each donor based on his or her capacity to give. This donor-wealth information usually is provided by wealth-identification companies such as CDA/Investment, Rockville, MD.

"From there, we then combine the two and segment their best prospects so they can prioritize their solicitation to best suit them, allowing them to get the best results possible," Trebbe said. "It provides the service of combining all of that information and customizing it for the user interface."

The process, which can cost from $20,000 to $40,000 depending on the size of the application, can take two to three weeks.

"[End users] will receive information on their donors, volunteer and membership history, demographic information and overlay information," Trebbe said. "And it's all consolidated with a custom-designed access-query tool."

The information is available over the Internet, on disk or on a CD-ROM.

Trebbe said RainMaker can profile donor lists ranging from 50,000 people to 2 million.

Amergent decided to create RainMaker because of what Trebbe termed a "major generational transfer of wealth" from the World War II generation to baby boomers.

"All of the intelligent nonprofits need to develop their relationships with these new prospective donors," he said. "There has been a large amount of wealth built up by these people since World War II. We want to enable them to get their share of that philanthropic pie."

The first group so far to implement RainMaker is the California division of the American Cancer Society, which has a donor file of 1.5 million people.

"I look at our donor file as a funnel," said Ted Meyers, the society's vice president for marketing, research and development. "We start out with 1.5 million people at the top, and this technology will allow us to manage a major gifts campaign -- but at the same time narrowing it down making it easier to identify who the best 25 prospects are. It helps remove the subjective approach to how you identify your prospects."

Meyers said RainMaker's appeal lies in its ability to let an organization merge its information with numerous types of demographic lists from multiple vendors instead of just one.

The society is awaiting the results of its initial run of the program.

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