1) Identify more major gift prospectsWhile 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 universitySome 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 relationshipWhereas 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 aboutWhile 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 relationshipsPeople 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.