By chris

Donor Stewardship Expert Advice Featuring Bill!

Looking for donor stewardship strategies? NonProfitEasy has put together a list of stewardship advice featuring Bill Tedesco, CEO of DonorSearch, among 28 other nonprofit experts. Bill emphasizes the importance of engaging donors of all levels, advising that: “Prospect research can help your front-line fundraisers identify which donors have the capacity to give a major gift and a history of past philanthropy. This will enable your development team to ensure that those major donors receive excellent stewardship to keep them engaged for years to come!”

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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

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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

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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.


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

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

How to Prepare for Prospect Screening

Pirates seeking buried treasure don’t want to open up the long-sought chest and discover baby booties. You’re not a pirate, but you want your search to end in gold. Gold being an extensive, accurate list of high quality prospects. Know how to unearth precise prospect data, so that, when you stick your shovel in the ground, you strike prospect gold. All journeys begin well before the big discovery, and preparation can play an equally crucial role in both obtaining and implementing the results of your search.

Clean Up Data

Try to sail a ship with a leak in the hull or dig a hole with a broken shovel. Operations work best when all the parts are in proper working condition. Proper prospect research begins with accurate donor data. It’s no good to submit a list of donors with outdated addresses, phone numbers, and giving histories. You’ll receive results, but they may not be as accurate and as detailed as possible. Submitting clean data makes the rest of the treasure hunt clear sailing. Make sure to clean up your donor database ahead of time to ensure you receive the most accurate results to pinpoint the best prospects.

Provide Data Ahead of Time

Not only does clean data help you, but it aids your prospect research company. At DonorSearch, our data is an industry-best 90% accurate, but no data set is perfect. From philanthropic histories to wealth markers to personal interests, no one knows your donors as well as you. Submitting donor data before your screening takes place will increase screening accuracy and add additional detail to your donor profiles. For example, if you supply a history of past gifts then those donations can be linked to specific instances in DonorSearch’s database. Without prior information, some gifts might get left out or go unaccounted for. When you provide donor information you receive search results with higher quality assurance. However, regardless of the information you submit, DonorSearch provides comprehensive prospect profiles. The information you supply merely helps to improve the results.

Try a Test File

Hoisting a sail requires the crew knowing how to attach the sail to the mast, adjusting the heading for the wind, and trimming both the jib sheets and the mainsail. Details matter, and you want to know how to use your prospect research in order to implement it correctly. DonorSearch screens 200 records for free, so you can get an idea of the service we provide. Submitting a test file is great way to try us out with minimal risk. It will help you to get familiarized with a our suite of tools, research categories, and work processes. Test files also include a free walk-through, where a dedicated sales representative will explain your results over the phone and give you the opportunity to ask any questions. You’ll get familiarized with DonorSearch’s formatting, the data we screen for, the additional services we provide, how our scoring system works, and much more.

Review Your Screening Results for Accuracy

Once your results are in hand, how do you verify their accuracy? DonorSearch includes a quality score for each prospect that indicates the confidence level of a name matching to donor records. It is a threshold indicator, and anything above 17 equates to a high level of confidence. DS rating and RFM total are other DonorSearch ratings systems that ensure profile accuracy. Manual review is not necessary to receive accurate results, but, for quality assurance, DonorSearch employs in-house prospect researchers to spend hours manually reviewing your top prospects, and we’ll do your first 100 for free. This assessment process both eliminates extra time your staff would spend reviewing screening results and raises the typical 70% profile accuracy to results that are an industry-best 90-95% accurate. Manual reviews provide an additional layer of accuracy and analysis to your search results, so you receive the most detailed profiles. Additional manual reviews beyond the first 100 can be discussed with a DonorSearch sales representative. There is gold in your donor lists, and it’s easier to find with accurate prospect research. If you’re new to prospect research or want to learn how to do more then schedule a demo with DonorSearch today.

By donorsearch

What Determines the Cost of Prospect Screening Services?

// We all want to understand why we’re paying for what we’re paying for. From an exquisite steak to concert tickets to mortgages, any time we make an investment, we want to know what we’re investing our hard earned money in. And we deserve to know.

Even though we can’t solve all the world’s mysteries of cost, we can help in one area: prospect research costs. 

Let’s unravel the mystery of the factors that determine the cost of prospect research.

We’ll unravel this mystery by answering five key questions:

  1. Who needs prospect research?
  2. How do nonprofits know if prospect research is worth the cost?
  3. What services go into the cost of prospect research services?
  4. What are the additional services?
  5. Why is prospect research worth the cost?

Click on any of the links above to jump to a particular section. Otherwise, scroll through to learn all about the factors that influence the cost of prospect research and to decide if it’s the right fit for you.

And if you need to learn more about prospect research on the whole, make sure you check out Prospect Research — The Ultimate Guide!

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By chris

5 Fool-Proof Steps to Fundraising With Prospect Research

Identifying major gift donors is an important step towards maximizing your organization’s fundraising efforts. In this guide, well cover five ways your can implement prospect research to better allocate your fundraising efforts:
  1. Prepare a strategy for handling prospect research. 
  2. Clean up old prospect data. 
  3. Analyze prospect screening results. 
  4. Go get those checks. 
jQuery(window).on("hashchange", function () { window.scrollTo(window.scrollX, window.scrollY - 190); }); What are you waiting for? Let’s jump right into the first step!

Step #1: Prepare a Strategy for Handling Prospect Research

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By chris

Prospect Research & Matching Gifts: A Great Match

What’s better than a $3,000 donation? A $6,000 donation. Prospect research identifies prospective donors, and matching gifts allow you to double their charitable gifts. When you use prospect research and matching gifts hand-in-hand, you bring in multitudes of new donors who give twice the money.

What Is a Matching Gift?

Many corporations run charitable giving programs that match employee donations to eligible nonprofits. The check that the corporation writes is called a matching gift. For example, Amy from American Eagle Outfitters donates $300 to her daughter’s university. American Eagle matches the gift 1:1 (other companies will match 2:1 or even 3:1), and writes the university a check for $300. This doubles Amy’s gift into a $600 donation. The $300 check from American Eagle is the matching gift.

How Do Matching Gifts Improve Prospect Research?

Over 65% of Fortune 500 companies offer employee matching gift programs, so there are a lot of gifts out there, big and small, that can go twice as far. Major donations take on increased meaning when they can be matched. For example, Amy’s husband, Xavier, works for Bank of America, which matches gifts 1:1. Xavier donates $5,000 to his son’s K-12 school, and Bank of America matches, which doubles the donation to $10,000. $5,000 is a lot of money to leave on the table. For smaller donations, such as $50 gifts, those $50 matching checks add up fast. Prospect research reveals not just where a donor works, but where spouses work. For example, the university’s prospect screening reveals that Amy’s husband gave $5,000 to a K-12 school, so they recognize Xavier as a potential major donor. They also know that he works for Bank of America, which matches gifts, and thus the harmony of prospect research and matching gifts strikes again. Prospect research unearths the donors, and matching gifts get the most out of every eligible donation.

Why Is This Marriage Vital for Fundraising Success?

Annually, some $6-$10 billion in matching gift funds go unclaimed. That’s a lot of cash! Companies experience low participation rates in their matching gift programs, which leads to all this unclaimed money. Remind your donors about matching gifts in order to claim your fair share. If you mention matching gifts in fundraising appeals before a donation is made then response rates go up by an average of 71% and the average donation amount increases by 51%. Just mentioning matching gifts makes people more likely to give and willing to give more, which is likely due to the fact that they know that their money will go further. Not only do matching gifts double donations, but they increase the number of donations and the dollar amounts of those gifts. Finding and informing matching-gift-eligible prospects is crucial to maximizing fundraising, so employ proper prospect research techniques. It’s one thing to find prospects and one thing to know about matching gifts, but it’s fundraising bliss when the two conjoin.    

By donorsearch

3 Ways to Segment Your Donors for Prospect Research

If your nonprofit organization is conducting prospect research, you typically won’t be able to screen everyone due to time and resource constraints. One of the first major decisions you will likely need to make is which donors on your list or within your database to research. This is one of the most important decisions your organization will need to make because it plays a major role in how the results can be implemented into your fundraising activities. Think strategically about why you are performing prospect research and how you will use the results. Here are a few sample questions to ask yourself or your development staff:
  • What information does your organization already have about your donors?
  • Is your organization performing prospect screening before or after a major fundraising event?
  • Will the prospect research be used to help with a specific type of fundraising (i.e., major giving, annual giving, planned giving)?
  • Is your organization trying to identify new donors or learn more about existing donors?

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