By donorsearch

Four Ways Universities or Colleges Use Prospect Research

Extravagant dorms attract new students, superior educational opportunities keep upperclassmen satisfied, and guest speakers provide students with unique experiences as only a place of higher learning can deliver. None of that can be accomplished without funding. Every college or university needs to fundraise to have enough money to give students the best educational experience possible. Fundraising is hard work. The business of convincing prospects to donate is a long game of building relationships and convincing people that their money will do a lot to improve your school. To be successful at fundraising, in general, colleges and universities need the tools that make fundraising easier, such as prospect research. There are many ways that prospect research makes fundraising easier for higher education institutions. We’re here to share four of the best strategies.  

1) Identify more major gift prospects

While prospect research can aid a bevy of fundraising efforts, the primary goal is to help fundraisers identify more major gift prospects. Small donations matter, especially when you consider that most major gift donors will begin by giving lesser amounts, but it is the big gifts that consistently lead to fundraising success. More often, a few major gifts are what lead to a fundraising campaign reaching its goal, as opposed to a large amount of smaller gifts carrying the load. Major gift prospects can be identified by a number of data points that you can find through prospect research.  

Past giving to your college or university

Some parents or alumni may have already donated to your school. When donors give consistently, they stand out as exceptional candidates to be converted into major gift donors. They care about your school and already give on a regular basis. Receiving bigger gifts may merely be a matter of time. Don’t rush the process, but always be on the lookout for when and how to approach loyal donors to give more. Many of your alumni aren’t current donors, and that’s okay. It’s never too late to get them started. Also, prospect research helps colleges and universities to identify which prospects have given to other nonprofits. Donations to other organizations are great indicators of a prospect’s desire to give philanthropically. Individuals who donate between $5k – $10k are five times more likely than the average person to donate elsewhere. Your prospects might not give to you yet, but they give to the causes they care about, and you can be the next cause to deserve a big donation.  

Current state of the alumni relationship

Whereas museums have members, and hospitals have patients, higher education institutions have years’ worth of alumni to reach out to for donations. No matter where people live, they permanently retain their bond to your school. However, different alumni are better to approach at various times. Your school has dedicated prospects, which could be approached at any time, and timely prospects, who are better to speak with at particular times. Dedicated prospects show signs of commitment to your school. Maybe the alumnus regularly attends public events on campus, goes to alumni events, or his/her child elected to go to your school and has continued a legacy. Prospect research can help to unearth records that demonstrate who remains actively engaged with your school and may want to give back in a big way. Timely prospects include the current class of graduates and alumni classes with reunions that year. Whenever a particular occasion pops up to reach out to a certain group of alumni, your fundraisers should take advantage. Some people might not typically consider giving to your school, but a big event, such as a 25th graduation anniversary, can provide the focus necessary to sway prospects.  

Causes that prospects care about

While unrestricted funds are typically preferred, sometimes the way to land prospects is by asking them to give restricted funds to specific campus initiatives. Alumni are a diverse bunch. They’re athletes, artists, and business professionals. They graduated with varying degrees and after having participated in a broad range of extracurricular activities. Play to their interests when requesting donations. A former swimmer might want to give a major gift to the swim team, but not to the school as a whole. A creative writing major might like to donate to the department on behalf of a particular professor. Gifts to Greek life are another popular way for donors to give a major gift to the cause they care about most on campus. Use prospect research to help identify alumni with strong ties to specific communities within your school and who exhibit the indicators of people willing and wanting to donate in a big way.  

 2) Develop more personal relationships

People can tell when they’re receiving automated messages. While your fundraisers don’t have the time to handwrite letters or personally craft individual emails for every prospect, altering a few sentences to make communications more personal can do wonders. To craft more personal communications, schools need to learn more about their donor pools. Thanks to prospect research, you’ll learn tons about donors, including:
  • Real estate ownership — Wealth markers help university fundraisers understand a prospect’s capacity to give. Real estate is one such wealth marker, and all signs of wealth can be analyzed to determine ask amounts that are tailored to individuals.
  • Business affiliations — Knowing where parents and alumni work, as well as the specific jobs they do, can help fundraisers. Knowing what people do for a living is an easy way to start a conversation and to know right off the bat what people think about on a daily basis, so you know how to approach them.
  • Personal information — Congratulations! You’ve found a major gift prospect. What’s the problem now? You can’t reach her because you have the wrong phone number and an outdated email address? Don’t waste time or miss out on good prospects because your donor database is filled with old information. Prospect research can provide updated contact information to make staying in touch with donors a breeze.
Parents and alumni want to feel like you know them. Impersonal fundraising appeals won’t resonate with most people. Take the time to learn about your prospects and reach out to them with appeals that let them know that you know who they are and that they mean more to you than just another donation.  

3) Manage your fundraising budget

Prospect research is affordable, and typically provides more than a return on your investment. If you don’t leave money in the budget for prospect research then you’re probably leaving money on the table. What’s more, university major gift officers need prospect research to perform their work as efficiently and effectively as possible. You don’t want major gift officers wasting time and resources on prospects who can’t or won’t give major gifts. Prospect research not only allows fundraisers to quickly identify major gift prospects, but it allows them to approach more of them in less time and with personal pitches that can leave memorable impressions. Reduce your research time, get detailed donor information fast (and info that’s easy to use!), and gain new insights into your prospect pool while receiving a great value for your money spent.  

4) Equip fundraisers with powerful tools


By donorsearch

Planned Giving: Identifying Prospects

Planned giving prospects demonstrate significantly different wealth and philanthropy characteristics from major gift prospects. Traditional wealth markers, such as value of real estate, are not accurate indicators of planned giving. The philanthropic activities, such as significant political giving and prior major gifts, that are strong predictors of future major gift philanthropy, are also not accurate indicators of planned giving. The key factors in identifying planned giving prospects are loyalty to the nonprofit, as evidenced by the number and frequency (not the dollar amount) of gifts, and the age of the prospects. This article will not differentiate between gifts given before death and gifts given at death. There is currently no methodology to predict what type of planned giving program will most appeal to any specific donor. The information in this article is applicable to all types of planned giving, including bequests, trusts and other planned giving vehicles.

Planned Giving: A Significant and Growing Source of Revenue

According to Giving USA, in 2011 giving by bequest increased by 12.2% to $24.41 billion over 2010. The Council for Aid to Education (CAE)’s Voluntary Support of Education (VSE) survey shows that the 10 biggest higher education fundraisers received 10.5-31.1% of their gifts from planned giving from 2005 to 2010. Because age is a significant factor in identifying planned giving prospects, aging trends can help predict future giving trends. As of 2010, only one state (Florida) had over 17% of its population over the age of 65, and 26 other states reported that 13.1-17% of their population was over 65, according to the US Census Bureau. By 2030, the same study predicted that all but four states would have 17+% of its citizens aged 65 or older.

Key Trends in Planned Giving

Often, planned giving involves two factors: a desire to support an organization, cause or mission, and an unwillingness or inability to provide a significant gift in the present. Much of that unwillingness to donate today is driven by fear, uncertainty, and doubt about financial security. According to a 2011 survey by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), 57.4% of older Americans are somewhat to much less confident that their income will remain steady, while only 5.6% predicted their income would increase. For planned giving, which asks donors to promise a future gift that will cost them nothing now, this is good news. Donors can support nonprofits in the future without jeopardizing their present financial circumstances. A second significant trend, a 2009 survey by the Hartford Financial Services Group, shows that 76% of Americans ages 50+ support charitable causes, compared to 60% for Americans ages 49 and younger. As Baby Boomers age, Giving USA expects non-bequest giving to flatten, while bequest giving increases. View more prospect research statistics.

Wealth and Planned Giving

While wealth is not the most significant predictor of planned giving, the likelihood of a planned gift rises with the size of an estate. According to IRS data as reported in Giving USA 2012, 4-5% of all Americans leave a charitable bequest in their will, but that percentage is significantly higher for those that leave larger estates: In fact, for estates large enough to file estate tax returns and their giving histories, charitable bequests far exceed lifetime giving. According to David Joulfaian, a U.S. Dept. of the Treasury economist/researcher, a study of 11 years of IRS data concluded that charitable bequests exceeded donors’ total lifetime charitable giving by 2.74 times. Development officers who’ve seen large bequests given by donors whose lifetime donations were much smaller will not be surprised by that statistic. Development officers will also not be surprised to learn that giving by bequests has risen much faster than the general level of giving. According to Giving USA 2012, total estimated charitable giving by individuals rose by 4.0% from 2010 to 2011, while giving by bequests rose by 12.2% during the same period. One more significant fact: 78% of planned giving donors gave 15 or more gifts to the nonprofits named in their wills during their lifetimes, according to a survey by and the CAE VSE survey. Learn more about the limits of wealth screening.

Understanding the Differences Between Planned Gifts and Major Gifts

The methodologies that effectively identify planned giving and major gift prospects vary, with six of the eight methodologies DonorSearch routinely uses differing significantly between the two groups of prospects: Screening methodologies that are effective at finding major gift (and, by extension, capital campaign and annual giving) prospects cannot accurately identify planned giving prospects. Married couples, for example, are much more likely to give major gifts than single adults. However, there is no evidence to show that widows, widowers, and adults who are divorced or never married are more or less likely to include planned giving in their estate planning. Learn more about major gift prospects.

Planned Giving and Major Gift Markers

The markers that identify planned giving and major gift prospects also show significant variations:

DonorSearch Planned Giving Prospect Identification (PGPID)

Because the engagement strategy for planned giving prospects can be lengthy, and development office resources must be used as efficiently as possible, identifying the strongest planned giving prospects is critical. DonorSearch has developed a specialized prospect research tool, Planned Giving Prospect Identification (PGPID), to more accurately find planned giving prospects. In a project for a major university, PGPID identified 2,259 planned giving prospects based on loyalty, which was 9.5% of the total file which included 23,827 records. Using a proprietary process that classified every record with a rating of A (most promising) through G, the results made a planned giving program much more manageable for the university: Loyalty ratings can be overlaid with location (by state), age, wealth, known philanthropy or other factors, for further analysis and action. Planned giving is a significant and growing source of gifts for nonprofits of all types. Identifying and cultivating planned giving prospects efficiently can ensure future income for nonprofits of all sizes. If you’re new to planned giving or want to learn more about how planned giving can boost your fundraising then contact DonorSearch for a free demo today.  

By donorsearch

Four Strategies to Find New Donors in Your City or State

The Earth has 196,940,000 square miles of total surface area, and, unless you have a teleportation device, your fundraising team can’t cover it all. The most convenient place to look for new donors is on your street, around the corner, and other places within your city or state. As with those who desire fresh vegetables, it’s best to stay local to get what you want. Unlike fresh vegetables, money won’t conveniently spring up from the ground. You need to be proactive to get new donors. Proactive as in don’t just jump through hoops. Jump through rings of fire to land where new donors live. And don’t merely take the long road. Dare to trek across frozen tundras in order to find greener pastures. Don’t think that finding new donors will always be difficult, but do realize that donor acquisition takes both decisive action and a dedication to reaching for new opportunities. To get your nonprofit started, here are four strategies to find new donors in your area:

1) Leverage the Connections of Your Board Members

Board members have connections to other philanthropically inclined and wealthy individuals. Ask your donating board members for the names of people who might be interested in your organization. This is a way to gather prospects without putting in hours of work or paying for an outside entity to conduct research. One strategy is to ask board members for donor suggestions during your next board meeting. Put your board members on the spot and ask them to suggest five connections who might be interested in your mission. Many nonprofits view acquiring new donors as reaching out to strangers, but obtaining more donors could be as simple as having a conversation with someone you already know.

2) Ask Loyal Donors to Point You Towards New Donors

Consistent donors may know other people who might be interested in your nonprofit, and all you have to do is ask for names. In addition to requesting names, you can ask loyal donors for referrals, which can work in two ways:
  1. New prospects contact you — Loyal donors tell their friends about your nonprofit through word of mouth and encourage new prospects to get in touch with you. After the prospects call, you can conduct the relevant prospect research to see if they’re high-quality major gift prospects.
  2. Loyal donors provide introductions to new prospects — You can’t always trust new prospects to contact you, so you’ll usually need to be the proactive one. However, you can receive an assist from your loyal donors. Ask for introductions to the new people who might be interested in your nonprofit. Personal introductions can help to ensure that new prospects will be receptive to opening dialogues, and your initial connections will be more intimate thanks to your mutual friends.
As you can see, it’s essential to take advantage of who you already know in order to meet new major gift prospects.

3) Look at the Annual Reports of Similar Nonprofits

Look for other nonprofits with similar causes. People are interested in particular nonprofits for a reason, and if your cause relates to a mission that donors already support then you stand a chance of convincing donors to also give to your nonprofit. Individuals who have made a gift of $5k-$10k are 5 times more likely than the average person to donate to another nonprofit. That donors that have given to other nonprofits are better than completely new donors, and you stand the best chance with donors who support missions such as yours. When you employ prospect research tools, such as DonorSearch’s Gift Search tool, it’s easy to find donor lists. Gift Search allows you to:
  • View the causes and organizations that donors support
  • Filter donations by state, year, amount, and other criteria
  • Access annual reports where donations are named


Four Ways Universities or Colleges Use Prospect Research
Planned Giving: Identifying Prospects
Four Strategies to Find New Donors in Your City or State