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By chris

Prospect Research for Greek Organizations

Many young people have a stereotyped vision of college that not only includes, but mandates, fraternities and sororities. While some colleges thrive without prominent Greek scenes, fraternities and sororities add personality and school spirit to school identities. They are organizations aimed at helping young people to develop into intelligent, rational, involved citizens. Greek organizations need to fundraise to keep providing students with vibrant, enriching social experiences. Thanks to prospect research, fundraising is made a little easier.

Why Greek organizations need prospect research

Membership fees only go so far. Fraternities and sororities have houses to maintain, events to host, and various other expenses. Like other nonprofits, budgets need to be balanced in order for these organizations to run at full capacity. Greek organizations are social communities, but they’re also complicated enterprises with many moving parts. While donations of all sizes can help, major gifts provide significant sums that can help fundraising campaigns succeed. Finding new major gift prospects is tough work, but it gets easier when you have prospect research to reveal the philanthropic and wealth indicators that matter. Download our free white paper on Major Giving: Prospects and Approaches.

How prospect research is different for Greek organizations

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By chris

Volunteers OR Donors? Try Again.

DonorSearch’s blog is dedicated to covering prospect research, wealth screening, and other fundraising-related topics, yet our readers and customers often ask if there is any link between volunteerism and donor behavior. So we reached out to Tessa Srebro at VolunteerMatch to share her thoughts about the topic.

True or false?

Volunteers donate their time because they are unable or unwilling to donate money. Sometimes? True. Most of the time? False. According to research, two thirds of volunteers donate money to the same organizations they volunteer for. Also, volunteers tend to donate much more than non-volunteers.

Surprised?

It’s actually pretty simple. When someone volunteers for your organization, they are likely to feel closely connected to your organization and your mission. This is especially true if you regularly:
  • Show volunteers the impact their work has on the organization and its mission.
  • Keep volunteers in the loop about what’s going on throughout the organization.
  • Involve volunteers in organizational planning by encouraging feedback.
I know that I feel personally invested in the organization I volunteer for. I get excited about the organization’s successes, and I advocate vocally for the mission. And when I was asked to donate as part of a seasonal fundraising campaign – you bet I pulled out my credit card. I knew I was already making an impact, and I saw a chance to make that impact even bigger.

But (yes, there is a but)…

How would a volunteer feel if they received a generic thank you letter for their donation that didn’t acknowledge the other ways in which they contribute? Probably not so great. How would a donor feel if they started volunteering, and received no acknowledgement of their history with your organization? Again, probably not so great. This is one of reasons why separating your supporters into volunteers or donors is a mistake. Does your volunteer manager know when one of their volunteers makes a donation? They should. Make sure these communication procedures are in place. The ultimate goal is, of course, to make your all your supporters – volunteers, donors, and those who are both – feel like the amazing part of your organization that they are. About the author: Tessa Srebro, Content Marketing Associate at VolunteerMatch, holds a Masters in Nonprofit Leadership. She loves helping nonprofits use technology to magnify their impact. Find her on Twitter @tsrebro. Guest Post: Want to contribute to DonorSearch’s blog? Email us with your guest post ideas!

By donorsearch

How does prospect research vary by nonprofit cause?

The first little pig needed straw. The second little pig required sticks. The third little pig sought bricks. And that big bad wolf? He needed enough breath to blow all those houses down. Depending on who you are, what you need to succeed varies. No two types of nonprofits seek the same prospects. An education-based nonprofit won’t build its fundraising campaign from the same prospects as a healthcare organization, which will differ in prospects from fraternities and sororities. Like a home, you build your life out of the materials at hand, and you hammer away at your work until something stands upright that you can be proud of. While the various types of nonprofits use prospect research to unearth similar information, they’re doing so for different types of donors and for a wide range of causes. We’ll talk about eight different nonprofits that use prospect research:
  1. K-12 Education Organizations
  2. Higher Education Institutions
  3. Healthcare Organizations
  4. Greek Organizations
  5. Arts and Cultural Nonprofits
  6. Community Foundations
  7. Faith-Based Organizations
  8. Advocacy Groups, Social Service Organizations, and Environmental Groups
jQuery(window).on("hashchange", function () { window.scrollTo(window.scrollX, window.scrollY - 200); }); Keep reading as look deeper at these types of organizations and how they can use prospect research to their advantage.

K-12 Education Organizations

Unless they’re prodigy pop stars or the lucky inheritors of a family fortune, young adults tend not to have the funds to give major gifts. This leaves their parents as the prime major gift prospects. Each year, new students arrive, old ones leave, and parents come and go with their children. It’s important for schools to screen their lists of parents at certain times throughout the year in order to identify who to pursue with their limited fundraising resources. Good screening times include:
  • the beginning of the school year
  • the end of the year around graduation
  • in between semesters
It’s important to space out screening prospects so as not to overwhelm your fundraising team with too much information at once. Most parents remain involved with schools for multiple years, so time is on your side, but you want to make the most of it.

Higher Education Institutions

As with K-12 schools, parents are a primary focus, but they’re not the only focus. Alumni networks are filled with wealthy folks eager to support their alma maters. Many colleges and universities use telefunds to reach out to their alumni networks, and telefunds are most efficient when they organize prospects according to certain criteria, such as a specific calling pool for major gift prospects. This allows schools to keep track of their most important donors and call them at the right times of the year with specific ask strategies. If you’re interested in learning more expert advice on how colleges and universities can raise funds, check out our university fundraising guide. Keep in mind that reaching out to current students and recent graduates may not be fruitful, especially in terms of landing major gifts, but it’s important to plant the philanthropy seed early. That way, when these people do make big bucks they remember to give back to the place that set them on the right path. Learn more about prospect research for education-based organizations.

Healthcare Organizations

People get sick, people feel better, and people are constantly coming and going from hospitals. This leaves healthcare organizations with little time to discover who among the masses is a major gift prospect. Hospitals can bulk screen patients daily, weekly, or monthly, according to their schedules. It’s important to stay on top of the constant influxes and departures of patients, as cultivating relationships takes time. You don’t want to miss out on your chance to begin dialogues with the people most likely to give large donations. Many nonprofit hospitals run grateful patient programs, which consist of teams of doctors, fundraisers, and other staff who use prospect research to pursue donations from the major gift prospects either staying in or recently departed from their hospitals. Grateful patient programs work best with daily patient screenings, as you don’t want to miss out on a single opportunity to pursue a donation

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By chris

Milwaukee Film, Social Media, and Donor Engagement

DonorSearch’s blog is dedicated to covering prospect screening and other fundraising-related topics but sometimes we like to highlight interesting examples of donor engagement. So we reached out to Sarah Bernstein of Philanthrodata and Jessica Bursi of Milwaukee Film to give us insight into how Milwaukee Film engages with their donors through social media. Last year, during Thanksgiving week, Milwaukee Film embarked on a Twitter campaign to steward their donors, sponsors, and volunteers. But it was their approach to this stewardship which got my attention. Full disclosure: I am not (yet) a donor to Milwaukee Film. I follow them on Twitter because I was a film major in college, and a Milwaukeean. However, this Twitter campaign excited me as a prospect researcher. Milwaukee Film is the nonprofit organizer of the annual Milwaukee Film Festival, but their mission statement shows that they are driven by a deep love for our city, and the people in it:
Film can entertain, educate, and empower. It can bring change on levels both intimate and epic. And it’s at its best as a communal viewing experience, with the best possible sound and projection. As a nonprofit cultural institution, Milwaukee Film has made it our mission to communicate all of this to the city that we love, in a way that is both true and unique to Milwaukee.
As a prospect researcher, I was struck by the way Milwaukee Film’s Thanksgiving tweets showed remarkable insight into their donors and what makes them tick. So I highlighted some of their tweets on my blog. However, as time went on, and discussion about social media ethics heated up in the prospect research community, I wanted to know more. I was particularly interested in knowing more about how Milwaukee Film gained their knowledge about their donors and how they used social media to engage with prospects and build a fundraising constituency. I was especially interested because they are a small local grassroots organization, without the level of staffing in prospect development and social media that universities typically have. So I contacted their development director, Jessica Bursi, and we had a lively conversation. The transcript below follows that conversation and some questions which I had later.

Sarah: Last Thanksgiving, Milwaukee Film undertook a remarkably donor-centric stewardship campaign on Twitter. How did that come about?

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By donorsearch

5 Best Practices for Grateful Patient Programs

Ice cream is a great thing, but it’s even better when mixed with your favorite toppings. In life, great things can always be improved, and you should never settle for anything less than the next determined progression towards your desired perfection. Of course, perfection is impossible, but just like plain vanilla ice cream turns into a fun sundae thanks to the addition of whipped cream and jimmies, you can improve your Grateful Patient Program by implementing best practices that can help the program to turn a corner. From how frequently to implement prospect research to solicitation plans to how to use major gift officers, we’ll show you how to go from starting a Grateful Patient Program to making it as effective as possible in order to yield a program so efficient that you’ll swear you can taste the goodness.

1) Conduct prospect research through our Daily Patient Screening service

Prospect research is the spotlight that shines upon the prospects who can deliver big gifts to your organization. Not everyone can be a major gift donor, and prospect research ensures that you focus valuable fundraising resources on your most generous donors. When you conduct prospect research with DonorSearch, you receive in-depth data on your list of patients, including:
  • Past philanthropy (both to your organization and other nonprofits)
  • Insights into the causes and organizations that the donor supports
  • Political giving
  • Ask amounts based on philanthropy and wealth
  • Corporate and nonprofit involvement
  • Real estate ownership
  • SEC insider stock transactions
Having all of this data is one thing, having it organized is another, and being able to interpret the information in a timely manner is yet another thing entirely. DonorSearch provides three scoring systems to make it easy to identify major gift prospects at a glance. The scores include our proprietary DS rating, along with a quality score, and a RFM score.

2) Entrust major gift officers

With the major gift prospects identified from your screened list, it’s time to assign them to specific gift officers. Gift officers will save you from having to punt on prospects by solving the tough questions, such as:
  • Why does this prospect do very little philanthropic giving despite a large capacity to give?
  • Has the prospect been incorrectly approached about donating?
  • Has the prospect not found the proper cause to support?
  • Has the prospect not been convinced of the value of a donation?
Patients can be split up according to what works best for your organization, but it’s good to prioritize certain types of donors to the gift officers who handle those people best. Types of donors include patients who are current major donors, patients who could do much more philanthropy than they presently do, and wealthy patients who have yet to give. Fundraising is a long game, but gift officers armed with prospect research can make it a whole lot easier.

3) Gain the support of hospital leadership

Grateful Patient Programs can’t succeed, or begin in the first place, without the support of several hospital departments. You need to get everyone on board with the mission of your Grateful Patient Program, as your program will struggle to succeed without the proper leadership and support. Present the potential revenue increase to hospital executive leadership. However, a pitch focused on money may not do the trick, and it may be necessary to enlist the support of board members to convince the executive leadership and other hospital administrators of the importance of such a program. If departments are concerned about how they’ll be affected by a Grateful Patient Program then focus on how you’ll work hard to make the implementation of the program as smooth and as positive of an experience as possible. Make sure to connect with the people who support your efforts, as they can help to convince the doubters to get on board. Once you have the executive leadership on board, it will be easier to gather support from other hospital departments. A major concern among doctors in regards to Grateful Patient Programs is gift officers visiting patients. You’ll want to address those concerns early and often, as a Grateful Patient Program will struggle to succeed with reluctant doctors. Select a group of supportive doctors and nurses to serve as program ambassadors. These people will address the concerns of more hesitant personnel and ensure that fundraising efforts have minimal impact upon the medical staff.

4) Implement a solicitation plan

From letters to emails to phone calls to in-person visits, it requires a team effort to convince a prospect to commit to a big donation. So strap on your boots and get to work, because, while statistics can be used to skew the odds in your favor, fundraising can be an unpredictable pursuit that should be tailored to the individual prospect. You’re competing against many other nonprofits, both hospitals and other organizations, for the limited funds that any donor is willing to give. You need to be timely, precise, and enthusiastic about all of your donation pitches. To stay on top of who you’ve solicited and who you have yet to contact, you should:
  • Track proposals in your donor database — Each prospect should have an individualized proposal that includes: ask amount, anticipated gift date, and the purpose for the gift. Update the proposal at each stage of the solicitation process: research, qualification, cultivation, solicitation, and stewardship.
  • File contact reports — Report all phone calls, visits, and correspondences of any kind with the prospect. You want to know what you’ve done in order to determine the best next steps.
  • Conduct frequent prospect management meetings — Meet with fundraisers and other hospital staff involved with the Grateful Patient Program to ensure that operations are running smoothly and prospects are moving through the solicitation pipeline. New prospects and requests for more prospect research can be presented at this time.
Typically, actual solicitation does not begin until the patient leaves the hospital, but donors vary and it’s up to you to decide when it’s best to begin the asking process. There’s a vast array of fundraising strategies to employ, but always keep in mind that solicitation plans are really just guidelines, and every donor requires an individualized game plan.

5) Track and measure your program

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By donorsearch

The 1 free prospect research tool every nonprofit needs

// DonorSearch’s blog is dedicated to covering prospect research, wealth screening, and other fundraising-related topics. Yet, our readers and customers often ask if there are any free prospect research resources we recommend. So, we reached out to Chris Dawson at University Hospitals of Cleveland to share his thoughts on alternative prospect research resources. For your reading ease, we’ve divided this insightful contribution into three parts:
  1. The Library — A Top Prospect Research Tool
  2. Case in Point — The Cleveland Public Library System
  3. Don’t Forget About The Foundation Center
Click on any of the links above to skip ahead to a particular section. Enjoy!  Prospect research nowadays is getting to be more of a science than a fine art, because of all the amazing electronic resources available to researchers. Depending on the tools used, a good researcher sitting at their computer, probably in a cubical or back office somewhere, is able to pull in pretty much all the information they need to provide for their gift officers. Many of these new tools save a great amount of time, a great amount of labor, and can access a wider array of information than probably a researcher could do on their own without them. And they’re also quite expensive. Price is the name of the game in the research database world today, as research teams grapple with which product will best serve their needs. Other development shops, who may only have a single researcher or no researcher at all, may be sitting glumly on the sidelines, wondering how they’ll ever be able to get access to these tools. Certainly money can be found in the budget for periodic wealth screenings by companies like DonorSearch (and those are great tools for finding out a lot about the donors in your database), and maybe a single subscription to a research product could be justified, but is it enough in today’s highly competitive environment? However, I’m here to say do not despair. Because there are many tools that can help researchers and non-researchers alike perform some basic prospect research, and these tools are in many cases, completely free. Wait, that sounds too good to be true… after all, some products cost tens of thousands of dollars! And yes, they do. But there are also some research products, not specifically “prospect research products” that are actually free. And to access them, one only needs to return to the early, prehistoric days of prospect research.

That means returning to the library.

The Library — A Top Prospect Research Tool

Yes, there was once a day, not too terribly long ago, when it was impossible to sit at your desk in your tiny cubical (well, maybe not your tiny cubical, but mine is) and access all the research tools you need. Back in those dark ages of the 1990s and earlier, you weren’t in your office, because most of your time you were in the library, doing all the digging through microfilm and microfiche, hardbound foundation directories, and later, CD-ROMs. Fortunately, library research has gotten a lot easier (and in the case of some old hardbound newspapers and magazines, far less dusty!). And for those folks in a smaller shop, or in a development shop that just doesn’t have the budget to get the fancy and expensive research tools, a return to the library can be extremely helpful. In many cases, these resources may not be able to completely replace the amazing tools on the market, but what’s available at your local library and other local resources may be enough to give you the important information that will help you learn more about your organization’s prospects. Now some free resources are readily available on your desktop… after all, a key component of research is looking for real estate records and many county websites have that information available over the internet. And you’ll find that some of your libraries also have resources available to you online, though some will require you to come in. But even if you work in a shop that has a nice big budget (these exist, right?) and can afford all sorts of fancy tools, you should still check out your local library, and nearby college libraries. Because with your library card, you can access amazing things… and you’ll find that it’s all free.

Case in Point — The Cleveland Public Library System

Here in Cleveland, the public library system has some wonderful tools online.

For example, a searchable database of articles from the local newspaper here, all the way back to 1845. I rarely have to search back that far (though I have gone digging back to the 1800s for some family-owned companies and old-money families here in town), but I use this resource every single day, and I’ve been using it for obituaries, wedding announcements, and for finding other biographical information. To say it’s invaluable is an understatement, especially when I’m dealing with older prospects who held their CEO jobs in the pre-internet days. Even with younger prospects, I still find information about:
  • What they may be doing for an occupation
  • Education background
  • Family history
  • Charitable giving
But there are also databases to access other newspapers across the country. And it’s free. I just need a library card. How hard is that? I’ve also found a number of business databases online that help me perform a good bit of corporate research, including some business research products that I know DO cost tens of thousands of dollars for a subscription, but are completely free online. Do I use them? Yes, all the time. I can jump into resources like: This means my research will be that much better… and the resources are free. In fact, having them available via the library has allowed me to reduce our research budget by cancelling a few subscriptions here and there for similar products. This has allowed me to use the budget we have to make sure we can subscribe to the products we can’t get elsewhere, like DonorSearch! And it’s not just Cleveland. I randomly checked out a number of libraries across the country, and was pleasantly surprised to see that most of them offered a variety of research products to allow patrons to do:
  • News searches
  • Business searches
  • Other research
And don’t forget, it’s not just public libraries; many colleges also will let local residents use their services. This tends to be more common in state institutions that are dependent on taxes and state support (they don’t like to annoy the taxpayers who support them), but even a number of private colleges will let community members register for library cards or use their research workstations. Granted, they may have more esoteric databases to explore, but you’d be surprised; many of them have:
  • Lexis/Nexis
  • Some big business research products
  • Genealogical research databases
  • News databases
  • Others that would be beneficial to a prospect researcher.

Don’t Forget About The Foundation Center

Nonprofit folks living in the New York, Atlanta, San Francisco, Washington DC and Cleveland regions can visit their local Foundation Center to take advantage of all the free resources they have to offer. But there are also Foundation Center resources all over the country, through the Funding Information Network. These 470 partners are public and school libraries, community foundations, and other centers.

So while you may not be able to become wholly dependent on your library for your research databases, you should never overlook what they have to offer in terms of prospect and donor research that’s free.

In fact, even if you work in a shop that has been fortunate to be able to afford a number of the big research products on the market, check out your local library; there may be something they have that can help you provide additional information for your research. I know here in Cleveland I once did a presentation on research and showed the attendees all the databases that they could access for free via the library. You would have thought I gave them winning lottery tickets! Though in a way, perhaps I did! Libraries aren’t just for borrowing DVDs… they could become your new satellite office… though you may also be surprised at how many of their resources you can access from your own desk. All you need is a library card. Now quit reading this, and go check out your local library’s resources! And if you’re looking for more free prospect screening, schedule a demo by clicking below!  About the Author: Chris Dawson is the Senior Prospect Researcher at University Hospitals of Cleveland.

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By donorsearch

Fundraising with a Grateful Patient Program

Your healthcare organization has limited resources, and it’s important to use them efficiently. There are only so many doctors with so much time to spread out among all of your patients in order to provide the best possible experiences. When patients receive exemplary care, they’re more apt to give back to your organization. Healthcare organizations with Grateful Patient Programs have chosen to raise funds from a select group of willing donors. All donors matter, but Grateful Patient Programs focus on the prospects who can give gifts large enough to purchase new equipment, update facilities, and cover other pricey expenses. Organizations must be strategic about identifying major donors, as time is of the essence, and gifts that can make big differences for healthcare organizations could slip through their fingers if they’re not efficient about finding willing, generous donors with the most to give.

Daily Patient Screening

Grateful Patient Programs are a unique form of fundraising in that patients are always coming and going. You have constant influxes of new patients and discharges, and it can be hard to identify them all as either potential donors or not. Prospect research efficiently identifies the major gift prospects among your patients. This saves your gift officers time, so they can devote more effort to soliciting donors. The Daily Patient Screening service is DonorSearch’s solution to this problem. DonorSearch’s screening service identifies the best prospective donors while they are still in your facility or while their positive experiences remain fresh on their minds after discharge. DonorSearch will return in-depth wealth and philanthropic information about each donor, so you can pinpoint your strongest prospects at the best times to start relationships. The Daily Patient Screening service is optimal for Grateful Patient Programs, but DonorSearch will work according to the scheduling needs of your organization. With prospect research in hand, your staff can dedicate extra attention and service to the patients from which you stand to benefit the most. Learn more Grateful Patient Program best practices.

Who Should Not Be Targeted

While prospect research reveals major gift donors, you can save both time and money by knowing which patients not to submit for prospect screenings. These are patients whose circumstances clearly dictate that they do not have the means to give a significant gift:
  • Patients on Medicaid
  • Self-paying patients
  • Pediatric patients (under 18)
  • Young adults
  • Patients who have opted out of fundraising communications per HIPAA guidelines

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