Founded in 1935, the BC Cancer Foundation has grown to become the largest funder of cancer research in British Columbia. As the fundraising partner of the BC Cancer Agency, it enables donors to make contributions to research and the improvement of cancer care for patients across the province.
While the BC Cancer Foundation raised over $10 million through individual philanthropy in 2013, leaders were interested in deepening the donor network to ensure its long-term sustainability. “We were doing good work, but we weren’t expanding our reaches,” said Erik Dierks, the foundation’s Vice President of Development. Among major gift donations, the foundation has a group of committed donors who make regular contributions in support of cancer research. But the foundation wanted to explore potential donors who were beyond the core group and decided that the best way to start was by researching its own database of nearly 500,000 past supporters. “Our existing database seemed like the perfect place to identify new prospective donors with whom we should be fostering deeper relationships and having conversations about future support,” said Dierks.
To aid the BC Cancer Foundation in its major gift donor search, Environics Analytics (EA) created five models to analyze the foundation’s existing donors and identify opportunities for increased giving opportunities. Using decision trees, EA modelled the likelihood of converting existing donors to major contributors. To calculate the potential for each prospect to make a major gift, researchers at EA used financial datasets like WealthScapes and HouseholdSpend, which use existing public data to gauge donors’ overall capacity to give. This provided the fo undation with information-rich background on donors with a higher likelihood to increase their giving levels through a number of channels. “We were able to find more people bubble up from just annual giving to major gift giving,” said Dierks. Then analysts classified donors using EA’s PRIZM C2 segmentation system to better understand their de-mographics, lifestyles and values.
The BC Cancer Foundation used its new major gifts identification system in a number of ways. At a fundraising event on Vancouver Island, three couples—who likely wouldn’t have been invited based on recent giving history—made significant contributions of more than $10,000. “The EA analysis gave us further insights into our donors, which resulted in significant gifts to support cancer research,” said Dierks. And in a September 2014 direct mail campaign focused on raising funds for a state-of-the-art VERO™ radiotherapy delivery machine, the foundation used the data-driven approach to include 10,000 additional names of donors to their mailing list. The average gift from the resulting mailing list was significantly higher than the standard lists the foundation was using. The mail campaign was extremely successful and when combined with other targeted fundraising initiatives, $6.5 million—the full cost of the equipment—was raised to bring VERO to BC to benefit cancer patients throughout the province.