7 Ways to Harness Prospect Research for Your Organization

7 Ways to Harness Prospect Research for Your Organization


Fundraising campaigns can take forms that are as unique as the causes they are designed to benefit. Regardless of the approach to soliciting contributions, one common, underpinning element that can strengthen the efficacy of any donation program is prospect research.

Prospect research means familiarizing yourself with your donor base in order to identify potential major donors. Done well, the process provides helpful insight into the information that your nonprofit already possesses and also helps you build on that data. The upshot, especially for established charities, is that your database serves as the launching point, no matter how big or small the body of information.

Simply screening your database, for example, can produce detail on professional connections and giving history patterns. For anyone involved or interested in fundraising, here are seven tips for building a stronger prospect pool via research:

  1. Start with identifying key contributors.

fundraiserThe success of a fundraiser depends largely on the ability to source and secure key contributions. What constitutes “key” will vary from organization to organization, but every campaign needs that support. In fact, nearly 90 percent of the funds generated in a fundraiser come, on average, from just over 10 percent of donors.

During the screening process, look for willingness and financial capacity in prospective donors. This is found in the donation history of the individual or family. Does she or he donate to your organization regularly? Markers of wealth are also instructive. Does the individual engage in real estate investment or the stock market? Of the two indicators, donation history is the more reliable.

  1. Invite annual donors to upgrade.

While searching for key contributors in your donor history logs, you will likely find candidates for an in increase in annual giving. These people will have shown a commitment to the charity by donating on a regular, predictable basis.

Because of their loyalty, there is a greater chance of a willingness to increase their donation amount – if invited to do so, of course. The other benefit here is that annual fund campaigns create a natural environment in which to build relationships and to regularly show donor appreciation.

Another possible use for this element of prospect research is to identify people who have given sporadically. Instead of inviting these people to increase their donation amounts, consider asking them to make their contributions annually.

  1. Determine the position of the individual to donate.

Similar in nature to identifying key contributors, prospect research can help you gain a better understanding of the economic demographics of your donor base. This will be of special help if the fundraising campaign includes asking for specific amounts.

For example, if the projected average donation capacity of a certain neighborhood were roughly $100, sending out a flyer asking for $1,000 would not be a good use of resources. Additionally, it could damage the community’s perception of the charity.

Donation history and visible assets will also help in this process. Prospect research won’t give you the exact dollar amount to go by, but it can offer a very useful range.

  1. Find out the best way to ask for contributions.

phonesAlong with forming an idea for how much to expect from particular demographics, prospect research can inform the best way to phrase your donation request. Check to see if asking over the phone works better than through direct mail.

Of course, not every fundraiser can be adapted to every single individual, especially when reaching out to thousands of prospective donors. However, sometimes the medium can make all the difference.

Keeping updated biographical information will also help with this, especially if personal phone calls are made. Knowing the interests of a particular individual can help conversations feel more personal. If nothing else, having accurate information in front of you can help to avoid unnecessary confusion.

  1. Fortify your donor pool with a network.

In the process of getting to know your donor pool better, you will likely notice that many of these individuals have connections with one another. Prospect research can reveal some beneficial links, such as discovering that one person participates in charity work with a related nonprofit. This may lead to some form of collaboration, or it may not. The important thing is that charity focuses on improving humanity, which makes finding these personal ties invaluable.

  1. Maximize the campaign quiet phase.

Some fundraisers operate in two phases, a “quiet” one followed by a public one. Key contributors would be the ones to ask to participate in the quiet phase, which occurs in the days and months before the public phase. Donations are raised to establish a capital foundation before opening up the fundraiser to the public.

  1. Tailor fundraising events to donors.

By finding out the best way to ask for contributions, you can also maximize the efficacy of fundraising events. Perhaps a good portion of your donor base enjoys live music. If this is the case, hold an outdoor concert to raise money for your charity and invite that group of contributors. Follow this up by hosting another event that appeals to other sections of your donor base. This requires extra work, to be sure, but it can just as easily result in extra support.


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