Propensity, in the fundraising world, is someone’s tendency to get involved in philanthropy. This is their likelihood to make a donation, of either money or time. To discover an individual’s propensity, check their giving history. Have they given? How often? How much?
Affinity is defined as someone’s natural liking for someone or something. So, put into nonprofit terms, it is an individual’s connection to a cause. It’s all about knowing your alumni to better understand their affinity, or interest, for specific causes.
Finally, Capacity. This is probably the term that is most easily understood, yet hardest to qualify precisely. It is an individual’s actual ability to donate.
If you find an individual who seems to be strong in all three categories, you’re looking at an ideal prospective donor. However, while many alumni won’t fall into this perfect category, that does not mean that they should not be prospected.
The question is, how do you decide whom to research further?
We suggest focusing on data related to a potential prospect’s affinity.
Why start with affinity? Well, consider the other two options. Propensity is an alumnus’s habitual pattern to give – or not. It is black or white. An alumnus’ capacity can change with time, but it can take years and is completely out of your control. Therefore, if there is one aspect of this trio that you could delve deeper into it is affinity.
Now, of course, there is no way to change what an alumnus feels fondness for, however, good data and research on this topic could improve your donations. Alumni are all too often closed-minded about donating, but the desire to give may change if you pinpoint an alum’s passion.
Are they involved in a specific cause? Where else do they volunteer? Do they sit on any boards? The more specific, the better. If you are looking for donations for a nursing program instead of searching for alumni interested in ‘education’, narrow your search down to ‘health care’.
Taking the time to try to qualify alumni based on capacity and propensity can lead to some great donations. However, if you want to dig a little deeper, make sure you aren’t missing anyone by researching potential donors based on their passions and interests. Affinity is a powerful motivator.
Final thought – don’t let out-of-date data mislead you!
If your data is outdated and you are trying to discover an alum’s affinity based on records from when they graduated, you could be reading your alumni all wrong. Imagine the changes an individual goes through after graduation; new careers, new personal influences, family life, and children. Time changes people and is quite likely to change their affinity as well. It is yet another reason why it’s good practice to keep your data as up-to-date as possible.
 Propenstiy, Merriam Webster Dictionary
 What Should You Look For In Potential Donors?, NCS Services Blog