Why You Need NOZA
As important as these philanthropists are, though, most charitable donations are given by people whose names are never mentioned in the Forbes 400. You may not have a Gates or a Buffet in your constituency, but the chances are quite good that you have donors who are capable of making significant major gifts, but have not yet done so. NOZA, a service of Blackbaud, is an online database of charitable donations that can aid you in identifying those high priority prospective donors.
Given the necessary correlation between wealth and the ability to give it away, it is natural to assume the best way to discover major gift prospects within your donor list is to search for the wealthiest ones. While the relationship between wealth and philanthropic ability is not in question, wealth is not always easy to discover.
ResearchPoint, an online prospect research application by Target Analytics, allows users to match the names and addresses of constituents against the names and addresses found in various public databases that give clues to wealth and community connections. This is an excellent first step in identifying top major gift prospects. However, there are always people whose wealth is private. Most people are not private company owners or public company insiders. Therefore they don’t appear on lists of executives that might help identify those who are well compensated for their work. Their salaries and investments are not published. Yet, many such people do have successful careers and investments. They are capable of making larger gifts than you would guess based only on what you can find using public wealth data.
This is where we turn to alternative ways to identify philanthropic capacity. And one of the best ways is to find the actual gifts that people have already made. If you know that your prospect has previously given a five or six-figure gift to another organization, it isn’t immediately necessary to know where the assets came from. You can use that prior gift as a benchmark for capacity. More than likely, that donor can give at that level again.
You also learn something else from donation histories that wealth indicators alone can never tell you: philanthropic passions. People support what they care about. To the fundraiser, this is crucial information. It will help you align your mission with the known interests of the donor. It will help you know how likely your cause is to be embraced by a donor who has already supported similar causes – or conversely, who has never shown any such interest.
With this in mind, many savvy fundraisers collect programs and brochures from performing arts organizations because of the donor lists that are commonly included. Annual reports published by nonprofit organizations often include an honor roll of donors. Industry publications such as the Chronicle of Philanthropy and the Chronical of Higher Education publish lists of the largest donations in the country.
Collecting and organizing all of these documents is a monumental task. Searching dozens of donor lists for the names of your organization’s constituents can be even more daunting. Enter NOZA.
NOZA provides the world’s largest searchable database of charitable donations. NOZA has developed technology to take unstructured data like donor honor rolls found in annual reports and convert it into a structured, searchable database. At this writing, it has more than 136 million gift records. 128 million of those are gifts to US nonprofits. Just over 8.3 million are to Canadian organizations.
The source of NOZA’s gift records are documents that have been published on the internet. These are mostly annual reports retrieved from the nonprofit’s website, but can also include press releases about announced gifts. The data reported for each gift include:
- Donor name as it appears on the source document
- Donation range if it is stated in the source document
- Recipient organization
- Donation year
- Donation category (e.g. annual gift, cumulative giving, planned gift, etc.)
- Recipient location
- Recipient scope (e.g., local, national, international)
- Recipient category. Using the NTEE (National Taxonomy of Exempt Entities) codes, an organization is assigned one or more categories such as animal related, art, education, human services, healthcare, etc. Sub categories are available as well. For example, under education are sub-categories such as adult education, alumni associations, charter schools, higher education, etc.
- A link to the nonprofit’s website and to the actual source document
It must be recognized that NOZA’s donation list is not a comprehensive list of all gifts ever made. Not every gift is published in an annual report. Not every annual report is published online. NOZA is still finding more than a million new gift records each month. Regardless of the fact that the list is inevitably incomplete, gifts that can be matched to your constituent’s name can give you useful benchmarks for capacity and guidance on your prospect’s philanthropic priorities.
The NOZA dataset can be accessed in two basic ways. First, NOZA data are included in ResearchPoint’s public data search. When you use ResearchPoint to identify a prospect’s real estate, indications of wealth, and business and nonprofit relationships, you will also retrieve any gift records that match your constituent’s name in the NOZA database.
Admittedly, most matches can’t be automatically confirmed. ResearchPoint makes matches based on name and address. A donor’s address is never included as part of a published honor roll of donors. So the primary criterion for matching your constituent to a NOZA donor is the name itself. However, ResearchPoint gives you ways to sort the matches to help you quickly identify the best ones. Confidence levels in ResearchPoint will guide you to those gift records where the recipient organization is geographically close to your prospect. Also filtering on keywords – such as when both spouses are listed as the donor – helps to quickly find the right gift records.
To aid in this matching process, NOZA has implemented a technology that enhances gift records from donor lists and appends home addresses to some of them. This is not always possible, but the machine logic is similar to the thought process a researcher would use to determine if the gift from John Doe is a gift from the particular constituent named John Doe.
- Is the name relatively unusual?
- Is the organization geographically close to John Doe’s address?
- Is there a distinguishing middle name or initial, prefix or suffix?
- Are the first names of both spouses who live at a particular address also mentioned on the donor record?
The other way to access the NOZA data is through NOZA’s own website, www.nozasearch.com. Here you can sign up for a subscription account that allows you to search the entire database, including gifts to US or Canada based organizations, or both. You can get an annual subscription or, for a lower cost, choose a monthly pass. You can search the foundation portion of the database (that is, gifts from foundations that have been reported in online honor rolls of donors) for free.
There are several aspects of searching at www.nozasearch.com that deserve special mention. If you are looking for a particular donor, of course, you can simply put the donor’s name in the search form. However, if you are interested in creating a prospect list for a specific cause or project, you can search by other criteria like geographic location, general cause, and sub-cause. Looking for donations that support community clinics in Seattle? There are 17,291 gift records for that. That’s today as I write this. Probably more next month. Only want to know those that were over $10,000? There are 240 records. How many of those were recorded in the last three years? 62. Now that’s a prospecting list worth researching!
Recently there has been a rapid increase of the use of donor-advised funds as vehicles for a family’s philanthropy. Would it be useful to know who in your community has a donor-advised fund? Let me first say that NOZA won’t answer this question for you specifically. It will tell you which donations it has found that have been attributed to donor-advised funds. Each nonprofit will follow its own rules about how it reports gifts from donor-advised funds, sometimes recognizing the person behind the fund, and sometimes recognizing the fund itself as the donor. The latter is proper for tax purposes, but donor recognition policies are up to the organization. If the donor-advised fund is recognized as the donor, NOZA will let you know and usually the name of the person behind the fund is part of the fund’s name. Sticking with our Seattle example, 63 gifts in the NOZA database to organizations in Seattle are from donor-advised funds. How about family foundations? Yes, you can search for that too.
NOZA is a useful resource for corporate and foundation research as well. As mentioned earlier, searching for foundation giving is free. There are other resources that are specialized in doing research on corporations and foundation, but using NOZA as described above to find corporation and foundation giving to a particular cause in a particular area can be a useful first step in researching your organizational prospects.
Prospect research involves so much more than just identifying the assets that a prospect has. Do they have expensive real estate? Great! Will they give that to your nonprofit? Probably not! Now, it may be true that real estate points to other more private assets that can’t be found in public sources. That is worth consideration! But did your prospect make a large gift to an organization similar to yours? That person should instantly go to the top of your contact and cultivation list.
It is a fundamental principle of philanthropy: past giving predicts future giving. NOZA is your key to understanding past giving.