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Identify New Donor Prospects

Learning Objectives:

After completing this unit, you’ll be able to:

  • Identify top potential donors with Pardot lead scoring and grading.
  • Manage potential donors with lead conversion.

If you’re a member of an advancement team you know how important it is to have a reliable process for identifying and engaging potential new donors (referred to as “leads” in Salesforce). Education Cloud equips you with the tools you need for essential tasks like lead generation and maintenance. In this unit we show you how to use Salesforce to promote donor pipeline efficiency with lead management strategies and introduce you to Pardot lead scoring and grading, tools that give you the power to understand the most important characteristics of a potential donor.



Many institutions that use Education Cloud collaborate with a Salesforce Partner to conduct prospect research. Head to the Resources section of this unit to find more information about selecting a Salesforce Partner that’s a good fit for your institution, and to see some prospect research solutions featured in the Salesforce AppExchange.

How is a Lead Different from a Contact?

In Salesforce, a Contact is a person that is known to your organization. In many cases, alumni are contacts in your Salesforce org. Leads, on the other hand, represent anyone who has shown interest in your institution. Your advancement team’s leads could be friends of the school or parents of current students, to name a few.

Streamline Your Pipeline through Lead Management

With Education Cloud, managing your leads can be as simple as adding new leads to relevant campaigns and assigning campaign member statuses as necessary. Let's look at how Cloudy College staff work together to identify potential new donors who participated in recent Homecoming activities.

Cloudy College Homecoming weekend was a great success due to the hard work of several different teams across campus. After Homecoming, Virginia Cook, the Vice President of Development, reaches out to the athletic department. She asks for a ticket sales report for all club-level seats purchased for the football and volleyball games that were part of the weekend’s festivities. She asks that the report exclude alumni already listed as contacts so she can focus only on friends of Cloudy College who attended the games.

Virginia meets with members of the athletic department to see how season ticket holder data could translate to a new crop of prospective donors.

Virginia shares the ticket sales report with the major gift officers on her team. Together they review the lead report and the leads are assigned to individual gift officers who will reach out to this group of potential donors who have already shown an interest in Cloudy College.

The major gifts staff gets to work qualifying these new leads. For this team, qualifying a lead means confirming that the individual has legitimate interest in becoming a donor to Cloudy College. When a Cloudy gift officer qualifies a lead, they are then ready to convert that lead, turning it into an opportunity and a new contact.

We get into the details of how to run an advancement report in Salesforce later on in this module. If you’d like to see a step-by-step tutorial on how to create a campaign and assign campaign member statuses, check out the Major Donor Relationship Management with Education Cloud module we included in the Resources section at the end of this unit.

For now, let's see how Cloudy’s lead qualification efforts are supported by Pardot lead scoring and grading.

Pardot Scoring and Grading

Pardot has two features geared toward lead qualification functionality: scoring and grading.

  • Scoring represents how interested a lead is in you (or in this case, your institution). The score is determined by implicit signals of engagement like opening emails, clicking on links, downloading files, or simply visiting a webpage.

  • Grading represents how interested your institution is in them (in advancement, this is likely a prospective donor or volunteer). Grades are determined by explicit information such as the prospect's industry, company size, or geographical region, for example.

A potential donor list with Pardot grading and scoring metrics.

Pardot Lead Score

There is a scoring model already in place by default in Pardot, but it can be customized. Consult this chart for things to consider if you are thinking about developing a custom scoring model.

Tips for Planning a
Custom Lead Score Model

What it Looks Like in Practice

Identify lead touchpoints

Some possible touchpoints:

 When a lead: 

  • fills out particular forms
  • engages with key websites
  • attends events
  • downloads relevant files

Prioritize the touchpoints in order of importance

Event attendance is the most important way to know if a lead is interested. Filling out a form can be prioritized highly because it often leads to additional interactions.

Decide on a threshold score (the point at which a lead qualifies)

There is no one right number for a threshold score but institutions often apply a 100 point scale.

Assign point values to each identified touchpoint based on your threshold score

Weight the most important touchpoints (like event attendance and form completion, for example) more heavily.

Once you decide on a scoring model and enter your institution’s touchpoints and threshold score, you can preview your scoring rules in Pardot.

Scoring rules for a Pardot lead scoring model.

Pardot Lead Grading

Pardot grading uses the standard US grading rubric of A+ through F. Grades are adjusted in increments of ⅓ so you might go up or down by ⅓, ⅔, or a full grade depending on lead criteria.

A Pardot grading profile with designated grading criteria.

Grading depends on two functions that you have to set up.

  1. A profile that identifies what you are specifically looking for (those explicit data points referenced above).
  2. An automation rule that checks lead records against the profile criteria and then adjusts the grade accordingly.

For example, Cloudy College’s profile for an ideal donor prioritizes the finance industry as being worth a full grade. Jamal Jones is one of the donor leads from the Cloudy Homecoming ticket holder list provided by the athletic department. Because he works in finance, the automation rule automatically increases his grade by a full letter grade.

Every lead in Pardot starts out with a default grade of D. A grade doesn’t actually appear on the lead record until an automation rule interacts with that record, so if Laurel Carson, another lead from the ticket holder list, doesn’t match any known donor profile criteria, you won’t see a grade on her record. But Jamal Jones from the example above will have a grade of C noted on his record. It may change again if new information about Jamal meets the major gift officers’ identified criteria.

Because advancement teams often vet leads for a variety of purposes, Pardot makes it possible for teams to create multiple profiles with different sets of criteria depending on the circumstances. The profile for an ideal major gifts donor, for example, might be quite different from the profile for an ideal volunteer prospect.

Pardot lead scoring and grading has transformed the way Virginia and her team identify and prioritize new donor leads. It’s saved major gift officers time and helped them focus their efforts on prospects that are most interested in and most likely to give.

If you’d like to keep learning about lead qualification in general, or about Pardot’s lead qualification tools specifically, check out the resources just below. When you’re ready to move on, we’ll meet you in the next unit to explore using reporting for donor management.