Gift Capacity & Wealth Estimation

01. Introduction

The study of gift capacity and wealth estimation is a critical, but often overlooked, area of fundraising. While we have known for some time that a small proportion of our donors contribute a large fraction of the funds raised by our organisations, we have as a sector tended to under study how much our donors could contribute. This chapter aims to address that gap.

Understanding wealth and capacity to give are key to our discipline and enable researchers to add a great deal of value to our teams; arguably, this is a unique skill set in the profession. But what does it involve? The goal of this chapter is to answer this question by equipping researchers to use a range of modern methods and resources to analyse gift capacity and wealth in a systematic way. It describes methods and data sources to arrive at capacity estimations for individuals, foundations, and corporates, including suggested ways to rate these types of entity; researching in a British context, as well as looking at international cases; how to have confidence in the data you use; and what best practice looks like, and how to achieve it.

Is wealth and gift capacity estimation an art, or a science? In recent years, the answer to this question has, we think, shifted decisively in the direction of science. The huge increase in data produced and released into the public domain, and a renaissance in academic, non-government organisation (NGO), and commercial study in this area, have combined to create a golden age for the study of wealth. We have tried to bring an awareness of these disciplines to the chapter content. Having said that, it is unavoidably true that a great deal of information remains out of the public and commercial domains. We know more than we did, but there is a great deal we still do not know, and in the age of privacy by design probably never will. This means that our informed intuition remains an important tool.

Another fundamental goal of the chapter is to answer the why question; why do we need to analyse wealth? Again, we touch on this in different parts of the chapter, but the answer is deceptively simple: to enable our organisations to raise requisite funds in support of our work. Without a solid understanding of how to ask for appropriate amounts, from whom, and when, we simply will not raise as much as we could.

We have tried to write for researchers working within a range of organisational sizes, as well as those working independently or on a consultancy basis. Regardless of the size of the organisation, researcher time tends to be at a premium, so we have tried to incorporate our practical experiences wherever possible to make the chapter content useful and usable to as wide an audience as possible.    

Any of the sections within the chapter could themselves be the subject of report or even book length studies, especially the sections touching on international research or technical areas such as remuneration and reward. While such detail is beyond the scope of the current work, we feel that the reader of this chapter will both feel confident in using the techniques described to produce high quality outputs in their work and be empowered to learn more via the many links to other resources included.

We hope this chapter is useful, usable, and relevant. We plan to add to, revise and bolster it in future, to make it as comprehensive and insightful as possible. If you would like to help do this let us know.


  • Methodologies and Systems for Rating Capacity to Give
  • Types of Data: What Goes in to Estimating Wealth
  • How Much Detail do you Need?
  • Remuneration and Reward
  • Contextual Information
  • Rating Trusts and Foundations
  • Rating Corporate Prospects
  • UK vs International
  • Confidence in Data and Knowing When to Stop
  • Best Practice
  • Bibliography
  • Further Resources

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