The fundraising community is crowded. For every prospect, there are umpteen nonprofits jockeying for donations. It’s a competitive landscape. If you want to guarantee that your organization can make a lasting impression on the prospects you encounter, you need to get to know them as soon as you can and continue to learn more about them.

The good thing is, just like in all other aspects of life, people who give philanthropically follow patterns. From those patterns, your organization can determine a prospect’s willingness and ability to give to your cause. To see those patterns, you have to research for specific types of data and extrapolate the trends. It’s a fundraising method also known as prospect research.

Dive into your investigation with the four pieces of must-know information below.

  1. What is this prospect’s contact information?

Let’s start with the simple and obvious option. If you want to make any headway with your fundraising, you need basic contact information on all of your donors. Period. No exceptions.

These basic details include:

  • Name
  • Email
  • Phone number
  • Birthday
  • Address

You are going to build entire prospect profiles from this information. Skimping on the data at this stage is like forgetting to lay the foundation for a building. As a side note, once you have this data, it is important to keep it up-to-date and ensure its accuracy. Fundraising with out-of-date and inaccurate details is as difficult as fundraising with no data at all.

Outside of these five data types, there are a few others that we can call a step up from basic. For example, well-rounded prospect profiles include employer information. There’s a wealth of fundraising promise that comes along with knowing a prospect’s employer and professional relationships.

A donor could work for a company that has a generous corporate social responsibility arm with workplace giving incentives. If that’s the case, there are usually great opportunities for additional funding to be earned. Don’t miss out!

  1. Has the prospect given to your organization in the past?

When you have the basic details down, it’s time to get to the fun stuff, the first of which is past giving to your organization. Past giving is the best indicator of future giving. Past giving to your particular organization is an even stronger tie.

To best gauge past giving, analyze the prospect’s RFM score. Which stands for:

  • Recency of giving
  • Frequency of giving
  • Monetary contribution

Essentially, you’re looking to see when the prospect last donated, how often (s)he has given historically, and how much has been given.

The RFM score can help identify all sorts of donor prospects. Consider major giving prospects, for instance. Major gifts are given by donors with strong bonds to your organization and the financial capacity to give large gifts. Both of those traits are exemplified in the RFM score.

Keep in mind:

Past giving indicates a bond, but prospects can be connected to your organization in other ways, too. Consider your various fundraisers. If a supporter volunteers for all of your fundraisers, that individual is a good prospect. A history of your organization doesn’t have to be exclusive to giving.

The reason we’ve highlighted past giving, in particular, is because it is the clearest sign of a future gift. The link might not be as apparent in other cases, but it is definitely present.

  1. Has the prospect given to a political campaign or political cause?

I know what you’re thinking. My organization doesn’t have any political affiliations. How can this be predictive? The short answer — political giving has a strong correlation to philanthropic giving.

Look at the facts. Individuals who have donated $2,500+ to political campaigns are 14 times as likely to make a charitable gift as your average prospect is. Yes, you read correctly. It says 14 times as likely.

That’s the statistic, but the explanation is just as logical. Political giving tells a nonprofit two things:

  • The prospect has the funds to give.
  • The prospect is willing to donate to causes (s)he cares about.

The research shows that these candidates are more than prospects; they’re high-quality prospects. As an added bonus, if your organization does have an advocacy or lobbying arm, you might fight candidates whose political interests align with your work.

  1. Does this prospect have any traditional wealth markers?

A donor’s ability to give is determined by wealth markers. The fact that a prospect has the funds to donate doesn’t automatically mean that prospect will give to your organization. That being said, it is still worthwhile research.

As you begin to investigate, there is two wealth marker go-to’s to begin with:

  • Real estate ownership
  • Stock ownership

Careful with stock ownership though, you’ll only be able to uncover ownership in public companies! The search won’t reveal anything about ownership in private companies, so the statistic can be misleading if you don’t analyze it with a discerning eye.

Investigating wealth markers is an important component of identifying major gift prospects, but it is just one piece of the puzzle.

Having a complete picture of your donors and prospects gives you the ability to personalize your solicitation strategies as much as possible. Personalized solicitation strategies will boost your acquisition rate. And from there, you’ll see your fundraising numbers climb.

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