By chris

[Guest Post] Fundraising Compliance and the Impact on Giving

This blog focuses on the world of prospect research and various related fundraising topics. To diversify our subject matter, we like to feature the work of our friends and colleagues in the community. Join me in welcoming James Gilmer of Harbor Compliance and please enjoy this post on fundraising compliance.

Fundraising Compliance and the Impact on Giving

Fundraising and active donor engagement are critical to your nonprofit’s success. Many nonprofit leaders believe that simply being recognized as tax-exempt under IRC Section 501(c)(3) allows their charity to fundraise freely. However, fundraising (or “charitable solicitation”) is highly regulated at the state level. Failure to comply with the rules and requirements of state authorities can lead to steep financial penalties, loss of personal liability of the officers and directors, and a loss of credibility with your donors. Proper registration and compliance directly impacts your ability to fundraise for major gifts. Consider this the “other side” of prospect research. While you are determining their giving capacity, donors will research your organization before they give. If you are not registered, or noncompliant, you risk losing a big opportunity. This post will serve as an introduction to fundraising registration and demonstrate its potential impact on current and future gifts to your organization.

What is Charitable Solicitation Registration?

Charitable solicitation registration, also known as “fundraising registration,” registers your charity with the state (usually the Attorney General’s Office), and allows your charity to solicit funds in that state. Currently, forty states and the District of Columbia generally require nonprofits to register, and to renew the registration annually or biennially. By registering, you keep the state informed of your operations, financial information, leadership, and fundraising activities. The purpose is to protect the citizens of that state from unregulated or illegitimate organizations. Each state has differing application requirements and filing fees. You can expect to submit information on the organization’s leadership, activities, and financials, as well as any corporate records. You can also expect to appoint a registered agent, and obtain a Certificate of Authority in several states. You will then file annually or biennially in most states in order to keep your registration active. Review your state’s registration and renewal requirements using this Fundraising Compliance Guide.

Why Register, and How Compliance Impacts Giving

Currently, forty-four states have laws surrounding charitable solicitation. Of those states, forty and the District of Columbia have a registration requirement. With few exceptions, your charity must register before it solicits funds, regardless of whether funds are actually received. That’s right, before you even ask for a donation. The IRS also wants to know. On your IRS 990 return, you disclose all the states in which you fundraise and in which you have registered. Most importantly, don’t believe for a second that while you are researching prospective donors, that they are not researching you, too. It’s a fact that donors who have made major gifts in the past are more likely to give again. Experienced donors and foundations use the state’s registry of charities to search for your nonprofit before they give, especially if they have never given to you before. If your organization is not registered, or is noncompliant, you lose credibility with those donors, and potentially lose the sale as well. By staying compliant, you demonstrate your organization’s credibility and reassure donors that they are making the right choice.

When Does My Organization Need to Register?

According to state requirements, your nonprofit should generally register before it asks for donations, including online. In reality, many nonprofit leaders are unaware of having to register for charitable solicitation. If you have already been sending solicitations, or receiving contributions from a state, consider registering there as early as possible. State law is one motivator, but your organization’s bottom line is another one. Given what you now know about donor behavior, are you losing out on gifts because your nonprofit is not fully compliant? Are your donors demanding, either directly or indirectly, that you register? For many organizations, the value of compliance, through added contributions and avoidance of state penalties, outweighs the cost of registration. By the way, if your organization fundraises online with a “Donate Now” button or on crowdfunding platforms, you are technically soliciting funds in every state. This means your nonprofit must comply with applicable registration requirements nationwide.

Staying Compliant

Once you have registered and become compliant, the last thing you want to do is fall out of good standing with state charitable solicitation authorities. Even if your charity operates and solicits donations in just a few states, tracking due dates and filing registration renewals on time is important, as one lapse can lead to penalties and fines. For larger organizations, tracking nationwide renewals can be a huge drain on staff time and organizational resources. If your nonprofit is using substantial resources managing registrations, remember that there are service companies, attorneys, and other professionals who specialize in this work, reduce the time you spend, and help you stay the course. The reward for all your hard work is two-fold. First, by registering your nonprofit, you help stay in compliance with state and IRS requirements. You’ll also avoid state fines and penalties that may arise if your nonprofit is found to be noncompliant. Even greater, your nonprofit will have the freedom to solicit funds in any state where you are registered, and will give your donors the complete confidence to support your mission.     Author Bio: James Gilmer is a compliance specialist for Harbor Compliance, which establishes 501(c) nonprofits and helps them stay compliant. Harbor Compliance assists charities in every state and several countries abroad. James serves on the Board for two nonprofits in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

By chris

[Guest Post] Major Gift Study Shows Prospect Research Matters

This blog focuses on the world of prospect research and various related fundraising topics. Today, we’re happy to welcome a contribution from Amy Eisenstein, ACFRE, regarding the recent report, Mastering Major Gifts. Please enjoy!  

Major Gift Study Shows Prospect Research Matters

Did you ever stop to ask yourself, “Does prospect research really matter? And, is it worth the cost?” A new study of more than 660 small and mid-sized nonprofit organizations says YES! Dr. Adrian Sargeant and Amy Eisenstein, ACFRE, set out to answer the question: Can small and mid-sized organizations (with budgets of $10 million or less) really raise major gifts? And if so, how? Answers are revealed in the results of a new research project – click here to download the free report. One of the key findings was the importance of your major gifts pipeline, and who is in it.  To put it another way, having too many first time, prospective donors can be harmful (in the short term) to your bottom line.

New Donors Cost Money

To be more exact, for every additional new, prospective donor in a major gift pipeline, it was costing an organization, on average, $300. In other words, new donor acquisition is an investment. And, if you’re going to be making the investment, you want to do so carefully and with the right prospects. That’s where donor research comes in.

Cultivating Existing Donors Matters

The study also showed that every additional subsequent donor in a major gifts pipeline (i.e., working with your existing major gift donors) resulted in an additional $2,200 in major gifts. The average prospect list for survey participants was around 20 people, so picking the right 20 is an important task.  Prospect research will help you determine exactly which individuals belong in your pipeline at any given time. Prospect research helps inform your decisions about who goes into your major gifts pipeline, which could mean the difference between securing major gifts or not. We’d like to thank DonorSearch for being a valuable partner to the nonprofit sector in conducting this important research. How have you used prospect research to fill your pipeline and secure major gifts? Let us know how. If you’re interested in learning more about major gifts, we suggest that you read DonorSearch’s Guide to Major Gifts. Amy Eisenstein, ACFRE, has been a development professional and fundraising consultant for more than 15 years. Recognized as a leading expert in her field, she’s helped small and large nonprofits alike raise millions of dollars through major gift and capital campaigns, board development, annual fund campaigns, direct mail, and planned gift solicitations. Amy’s primary mission is to make nonprofit development simple. She helps you clear away the complexity and raise funds much more effectively.   

By chris

[Guest Post] The Shocking Truth about Major Gifts: It’s Not About the Money

This blog focuses on the world of prospect research and various related fundraising topics. To diversify our subject matter, we like to feature the work of our friends and colleagues in the community. Join me in welcoming Claire Axelrad of Clairification and please enjoy her post on major gifts.

The Shocking Truth about Major Gifts: It’s Not about Money

Everyone wants to develop a major gifts program. Or to strengthen their existing major gifts program. Why? Because they want to raise more money. If you approach major gifts development solely from this perspective you’ll ultimately fail. You might raise more money for a little while. But over the long-term you’ll lose more support than you gain. Because it’s not just about money.

Successful, lifelong major donor relationships are about two things:

(1) Impact

(2) Gratitude

The heart of effective fundraising is about uncovering people who share the values your organization enacts; then making a match that enables these people to do something about which they’re passionate. Yes, they end up giving you money to accomplish this end. But it’s not about money. It’s about the impact this money will make. It’s about feeding a hungry family. Saving a grove of trees. Helping an abused woman and child find refuge. Curing a disease. Righting a wrong. Once the gift is made, your job is to show your donor the impact their gift made. To demonstrate gratitude for that impact. To show them again so they’re reminded of the benefits of their investment. To thank them again so they feel truly appreciated. Then, when you think your donor is filled to the brim with the joy of giving, and is ready to re-enact their passion, you show them a way they can do it all over again. Let’s take a closer look at what it takes to build a rich, rewarding relationship with donors you hope to move towards increasing levels of commitment with your charity.

The Right Way to Approach Major Donor Development

First, you must understand your goals:

  • Find an impact to bring donors joy.

  • Authentically demonstrate how your donor makes a difference.

  • Always think from your donor’s perspective.

  • Reach out proactively to help donors joyfully enact their passions.

Find an Impact to Bring Donors Joy Passionate philanthropy is a joyful experience. Giving, according to research, lights up pleasure centers of the brain and releases endorphins that give you joy.  When you show your donors what they can do to be the change they want to see, you’re also making a gift. To do so thoughtfully, you must first become adept at sussing out what your donors cherish.  Then figure out what your organization does that aligns with their values and passions. This can be accomplished through a planned cultivation and stewardship program often known as ‘moves management.’ Authentically Demonstrate How Your Donor Makes a Difference Donors give because they want to make a difference. And they want to be appreciated for caring enough to put their money where their mouth is. You have to mean it; no fake thank-you’s. You can’t be thinking raising money is a ‘necessary evil.’ This is why I want you to channel an attitude of gratitude at all times.  Think. Really think. What is it about your donor that you’re grateful for?  Then you can tell your donor and come across as genuine. And your donor will feel happy and fulfilled. They’ll know they made a good decision to invest with you. Always Think From Your Donor’s Perspective Before you do anything, ask yourself “What will the donor think?  What will the donor feel?” This often means tailoring your approach to align with your donor’s preference. It means giving your donor options. Not insisting they make unrestricted gifts or gifts to programs other than those where their passions lie. This means thinking about how you would feel if the cultivation or solicitation plan you’ve prepared for your prospective donor-investor were directed towards you. Reach Out Proactively If you just sit by the phone waiting for your donor to call not much will happen. Donors need to be wooed and shown that the deepening of their relationship with you will bring them joy. In every interaction, remember to treat your donor with consideration and respect. Don’t make them feel you only care about their money rather than their opinions, feelings and advice. Now that you understand your goals, you need to develop a cultivation and stewardship plan to attain them.

It Takes a Village

Your donor needs to be stewarded continually, every time they interact with your organization. It’s not just about what the development department does. It’s how they’re treated by the receptionist. The gift processor. The volunteer coordinator. The program staff. Even the recipients of philanthropy (e.g., students, alumni, families of clients, and more).  Everyone has a role in creating positive, productive relationships with your donors.

You have to be in the groove all the time.

If you merely act friendly and grateful when you’re in front of donors, but then get snarky and cynical when they’re out of sight, you’ll never be able to create authentic relationships. Because you’ll be in two places – two frames of mind – at the same time. You’ve got to be focused and very clear about your feelings. Otherwise you’re just enacting transactions; not building transformational relationships. Create a culture where folks:
  • Model the joy of giving. Encourage staff and volunteers to (1) connect with the ‘why’ of their affiliation with your organization, and then (2) give accordingly.
  • Listen to each other. Spend time learning what program staff do and also teaching them about fundraising. Share success stories. You can’t learn about the work going on that may connect with prospective donors if you don’t do this. You can’t inspire each other if you don’t do this.
  • Listen to your constituents. Regularly engage with folks. Ask them for feedback and advice. You can’t learn what floats people’s boats if you don’t listen.
  • Keep everyone – staff, volunteers and donors – in the loop. Connect the dots for each other. Development staff should make it a regular practice to let other staff and volunteers know how the great job they did resulted in an act of philanthropy to continue your mission. Make it clear that philanthropy happens because of needs being successfully addressed by your organization; not because of development staff. Make all of your staff and volunteers – your entire village – the heroes.
  • Treat everyone like a major donor. Instill a ‘customer’-centered culture where everyone is treated with consideration, honor and gratitude. You don’t always know who your current and potential major donors are.
  • Make stewardship a priority. A donor-centered culture flows naturally from a customer-centered culture. When you’re used to thinking your job is to learn what your constituents desire and to make your constituents happy, it’s easy to extend this to donors.
When you think major gifts fundraising is just about asking for money, you miss the whole point. It’s not about the money. It’s about the transformative power of that money. What it can accomplish. How it can create an outsized impact to make the world a better place. So don’t concentrate all your energies on the solicitation. You may get the gift, but one-time gifts are here today, gone tomorrow. Plan ahead to continue building authentic relationships with your supporters. Impact. Gratitude. Authenticity. That’s the right approach to transform a one-time transaction into something longer lasting.  

Claire Axelrad , J.D., CFRE was named Outstanding Fundraising Professional of the Year by the Association of Fundraising Professionals and brings 30 years frontline development and marketing experience to her work as principal of Clairification. A sought-after coach and consultant, Claire is a member of the Rogare Fundraising Think Tank Relationship Fundraising Advisory Panel and writes monthly columns for Nonprofit Pro and Maximize Social Business. Clairification was named “Best Fundraising Blog of 2013” by FundRaising Success Magazine. A member of the California State Bar and a graduate of Princeton University, Claire currently resides in San Francisco California.

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By chris

[Guest Post] Isn’t it all a bit distasteful?

This blog focuses on the world of prospect research and various related fundraising topics. To diversify our subject matter, we like to feature the work of our friends and colleagues in the community. Join me in welcoming Susie Hills of Graham-Pelton and please enjoy her post on wealth screening. I recently asked someone who was leading a charity whether they had wealth screened their database. They responded with discomfort and said, “Isn’t it rather distasteful to find out how rich someone is?” Their view was that we should treat everyone in the same way, and those who are richer will automatically give more. I couldn’t have disagreed more strongly. We spend years recruiting supporters, volunteers, and donors. We keep their records on our databases, and we use that data in more or less sophisticated ways depending on the resources and skills we have in our organisations. Whatever form our data is in, it represents a bank of time, energy, investment, and commitment from our side and from those whose names we keep. It may be a ‘mass’ of data but each record represents a personal relationship with our cause. It still surprises me that a charity I worked for and gave to for years and persuaded my friends and family to support never realised the depth of my loyalty to them and the complexity of my relationship with them. When I finally stopped giving to them (due to the two-dimensional transactional nature of their communications) they never really contacted me in a personal way to explore why – I was not an individual supporter rather a name on a list, part of normal donor attrition. I would have been a lifelong donor and a legacy pledger had they simply kept great records on my relationship with them and tailored their approaches to me. We owe it to ourselves, our donors, our volunteers and our beneficiaries to use our data in really smart ways? To be highly efficient, effective, personal and responsive in our fundraising? This is what is expected of us. The people whose names inhabit our databases – people like us – are used to being communicated with in very sophisticated, tailored ways. When we go online, the ad that appears is for a retailer we bought from last week. When we visit a website, the content is tailored to the clicks we made yesterday. Our supermarket sends us vouchers for things we regularly buy or might want to buy based on what they know about us.  We can even tailor our news feed to give us the news we want and are interested in. Our world is becoming increasingly a highly bespoke world and this makes us increasingly intolerant of ‘cold calls’ and ‘blanket mailings’. In fact when it comes to charities approaching us in these ways, some of us are becoming infuriated and some parts of the media are stoking this fury. I am sure all fundraisers would agree that we should use our data to tailor our approaches so that they most closely match the interests and wishes of our supporters. Surely, we should similarly design asks that also match their ability to give. When we wealth screen our databases, we are simply accessing publicly held information on an individual’s wealth, roles, and interests. Isn’t it only responsible and thoughtful to know if one of our supporters has given a big donation to a similar cause?  Or to be aware they are a trustee of a grant making trust you are applying to? Wouldn’t a very wealthy supporter prefer that you approached them personally for a meaningful and impactful major gift, rather than send them a letter asking for £50 or £100 a few times a year? If we want to build long-term, meaningful relationships with our supporters then knowledge of their philanthropic interests and ability to give is vital.

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By chris

[Guest Post] The Top 3 Biggest Donor Management Mistakes

This blog focuses on the world of prospect research and various related fundraising topics. To diversify our subject matter, we like to feature the work of our friends and colleagues in the community. Join me in welcoming Timi Paccioretti of Little Green Light and please enjoy her post on donor management.

The Top 3 Biggest Donor Management Mistakes

Small shop development offices are notoriously short-handed and over-worked. When you’re tasked with everything from writing copy for your newsletter to organizing a $10M capital campaign, it’s not surprising that finding time to manage your donor database is hard to come by. However, a well-maintained and utilized donor database is at the heart of every successful development operation. So, finding the time to invest in its upkeep can reap huge rewards in the advancement of your organization’s mission. By tackling these three donor management mistakes, you’ll be well on your way to having a strong, strategic development program at your nonprofit.

#1: Underestimating the key role a donor management system plays in the advancement of your organization’s mission

A recent report from Software Advice, a company that hosts reviews of fundraising software, found that 52% of nonprofit organizations are using Excel or Google Docs rather than a dedicated donor management system to run their development efforts. Unfortunately, these methods not only make it difficult to uncover trends in giving patterns, which are instrumental in developing strategic, more successful fundraising appeals, but they can also be extremely time-consuming in terms of manually entering and maintaining data. According to the same report, the adoption of a donor management system has excellent benefits for small nonprofits, especially those with limited staff, where automating even one task—such as sending acknowledgment letters to donors—can free up hours of time to focus on crucial projects and more strategic processes. An overwhelming 99% of those surveyed said their use of fundraising software has positively impacted the number of donations their organizations collect—and 98% said it has had a positive impact on their overall record keeping, reporting, and workflow efficiency.

#2: Expecting your accounting system to be an effective donor management system

When a donor management system is chosen based primarily for its ability to reconcile donations with an accounting system, nonprofits are neglecting one very important development need: cultivating relationships with their organization’s supporters. If the focus of your data management processes is keeping track of donations for tax purposes, you’re missing out on capturing information you need to build strong, lasting relationships with your donors. And strong relationships are the key to retaining donors! Nonprofit finance expert, Carolyn Sechler, CPA, encourages streamlining your organization’s accounting system and keeping it free from the transactional details stored in your donor management system. Some of the reasons include avoiding a slowdown in the performance of your accounting system, reducing redundancy and workload, and eliminating possible data entry errors or conflicts. Sechler also recommends clearly distinguishing your accounting tasks from your CRM tasks and creating a simple workflow to easily manage information between your donor management system and your accounting software.

#3: Maintaining your data on a one-time or occasional basis

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By chris

6 Steps to a Successful CRM Strategy

In an effort to bring our readers the best information available on prospect research and its surrounding topics, we like to sometimes highlight posts from outsides blogs that provide valuable insights and information regarding the nonprofit sector. Today we’re featuring one of those posts. 6 Steps to a Successful CRM Strategy initially appeared on Andar/360’s blog. You can check out the original version here!  This article was written by Real Bedard, President of Helix Ltd

6 Steps to a Successful CRM Strategy

1: Collect Information

Names, addresses, employer, cell numbers, email addresses, communication preferences, gifts, pledges, payments, formal/nicknames, relationships between accounts, demographics, competitive giving,… the list goes on and on. Information is everywhere and it can all be extremely valuable when getting to know your constituents. To be useful, information needs to be organized and categorized, and put in the right place. Most CRM systems are flexible and can store a variety of information. Get to know where things go. Your organization should have some data standards so everyone stores information in the same place. If you enter it in yourself, it will help you know how to get it out. Information management is NOT something to be delegated.

2: Log Communications

Every single interaction with every constituent should be logged. This includes e-mails, telephone, text messages, face-to-face visits, and all other communication methods. If a conversation mentions or involves a third person, then that third person should also be linked in the communication log. This is by far the simplest and most difficult task in any CRM strategy. It is simple to do but unfortunately, it requires very strong self-discipline. There are many benefits to logging communications. It documents the state of the relationship. It also greatly reduces the risks involved with staff turnover. Anyone on staff will be able to pickup the relationship where it left off. Considering the staff turnover levels in nonprofits, this process delivers benefits far beyond just a CRM strategy, it’s often critical to the survival of the organization.

3: Summarize into Notes

Although communication logs are critical to track what was said and any required follow up, they may be challenging to get a quick overview of a constituent. That’s why professional fundraisers will regularly review their constituent information, including communication logs, interests, social media, and other sources, and write a summary of the constituent into a single concise note. In some cases separate notes can be used to summarize a biography of the constituent, the relationship status, and the strategy going forward.

4: Use your Information

Collecting information is great but the benefits really kick in when the information is actually used. So, before any interaction with a constituent, it is critical to review your notes in order to understand your current relationship with the constituent. That knowledge will assist you to move the relationship forward instead starting at square one every time. Information can also be used to personalize your automated communications. If you know your constituent’s interests, you can add messages of interest in your newsletter, thank you letter, tax receipt, etc. Your marketing team can analyze your information to maximize returns from your messages.

5: Use Plans, Tasks and Move Management

CRM consists of three pillars: People, Process, and Technology. This is where process comes in. Henry Ford discovered almost exactly 100 years ago that a well defined process (assembly line) can dramatically increase productivity. Much of what an organization does is systematic, highly repetitive and can be documented. But documentation by itself is not very useful. These process steps should be entered into your CRM system so your staff can be guided along the process without missing a step or worse, missing some constituents. Your CRM system can also perform some tasks automatically, on schedule, without human intervention. Move Management is a little more “fuzzy.” This process guides you as you “move” your constituent along the path from non-donor to donor. This process is usually not very well defined and varies greatly from one constituent to another. Prospect codes can track your constituent’s progress along this relationship building continuum.

6: Measure and Improve

Once the above steps are implemented, you can begin to measure your performance. How many constituents are engaged? What communication methods yield the best results? Which donors are increasing their gifts? Which ones are not? What tasks should be improved? What fundraising strategies work best? What donor segments raise the most money? The truth is in the numbers. This is where your organization can strategically plan for the future and have the data to prove it works.

By chris

[Guest Post] How to Utilize Social Insights for Prospect Research

DonorSearch always aims to provide the best content available regarding prospect research and the broader nonprofit space. As such, we welcome guest contributors occasionally to mix things up here at our blog and provide new perspectives. Today, we’re happy to share a post by Solina Powell of EverTrue.

How to Utilize Social Insights for Prospect Research

While some workplaces frown upon employees spending their time on sites like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook, those working in prospect research should be encouraged to invest their time in these platforms. Social media has become an increasingly valuable tool for gathering insights on donors. As donors shift their lives online, small actions such as “liking” a post on Facebook or updating a LinkedIn job title can say a lot about a person’s affinity and capacity. Equipped with social insights, your organization can build stronger relationships with constituents and foster more philanthropic giving. Spend some time collecting social data to help tell a story about your prospects. Here are some key strategies to harness the power of social media for more dynamic prospect research.

LinkedIn: Connect and Contact

Are your fundraisers tired of bounced emails or wasted paper mailings? Is your donor database littered with old AOL emails, home addresses, and job titles? LinkedIn is a great solution. While it is unlikely constituents will update your nonprofit with every career change throughout their lives, chances are they’re updating these personal details on LinkedIn. For any prospect researcher, LinkedIn should be key to maintaining comprehensive donor information on employment, location, contact details, causes they care about, and more. =&0=&

Facebook: Build Deeper Friendships

Leveraging the wealth of information on Facebook will help you develop a more in-depth picture of a donor or potential donor. As your organization posts updates, pictures, and videos to its Facebook page, you should take note of who is engaging with that content. Studies show that there is a positive correlation between social engagement and giving participation, so the more socially engaged a prospect, the more likely they are to give. Who is “liking” or commenting on your content? What content are they engaging most with? Facebook is a valuable tool to help assess a prospect’s relationship with your organization, ultimately allowing your fundraising office to develop more targeted strategies. =&0=&
  • Uncover new and/or engaged prospects by identifying those giving your content a “thumbs up.”
  • Prioritize engaged prospects and learn what events, causes, or initiatives they value to help your fundraisers make more informed asks.
  • Millennials make up the largest proportion (22%) of the 1.44 billion active monthly user Facebook population. Thus, Facebook is a helpful avenue through which to gauge their affinity to your nonprofit by analyzing what they “like” and what they don’t.
Prospect researchers are tasked with the challenging responsibility of understanding people whom they initially know little or nothing about. By adding social data into your suite of tools (while abiding by the APRA Social Media Ethics Statement, of course), you’ll be able to craft better stories about prospects and set up your fundraisers for success.    This is a guest contribution by Solina Powell of EverTrue, a Boston-based company empowering 300+ nonprofits with social donor management software. Check out the

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By chris

[Guest Post] Starting off on the Right Foot: How to Find Great Grant Opportunities for Your Nonprofit

DonorSearch’s blog mostly focuses on prospect research, but we sometimes like to explore other topics in the nonprofit sector. Guest written by Megan Hill, CEO and Founder of Professional Grant Writer, this article shares valuable insights into prospect research for grant writing. 

Starting off on the Right Foot: How to Find Great Grant Opportunities for Your Nonprofit

Grant writing can be an overwhelming undertaking, even if you’re a seasoned grant seeker. One of the most important steps in the process is simply identifying which grantmakers are a good fit for your nonprofit. Each grantmaker – whether a governmental agency or a family foundation – has their own worldview that informs their approach to making grants. Some focus on the environment, with specific goals of preserving endangered species, or cleaning up after oil spills. Others run homeless shelters, fund after school programs, or provide medical services to underserved communities. So, one of the first steps, before you even write a grant, is simply matching your nonprofit’s programs, activities, and goals with certain grantmakers. And the way to do this is through extensive grant prospect research. Most grant prospect research takes place on the Internet. Many grant writers use subscription-based databases like The Foundation Directory Online from the Foundation Center – this is the single most comprehensive database of foundations and corporations and allows a user to search more than 140,000 entries by location, size, subject area, and more. By carefully adjusting these search terms, you’ll find a strong list of potential prospects. From there, these prospects need to be whittled down into the strongest matches. You can do that by clicking on each entry and reading more about the grantmaker. You can also find contact information, grant application guidelines and deadline information, 990s, board information, and see whether they have a website to learn more. It’s important to read through all of this information carefully and thoroughly. It can take a lot of time, but that time investment will pay dividends if you identify the best funders to approach. Writing a grant is time consuming, too, so the more heavy lifting you do at the prospect research phase, the more time you’ll save later on by not sending applications to funders that don’t align with your work. Be on the lookout for information on the funder’s worldview. They may have detailed guidelines buried in their 990, for example, or written out in detail on their website. You can—and should—contact the grantmaker to learn more about what they’re funding and get questions answered before you apply. And by reading up on past grantees, you can gain insight into what they’ve funded in the past and how much money they typically give per grant. All of this informs your approach, and without this careful research, you’re flying blind when it comes to writing the grant. Megan Hill is the CEO and Founder of Professional Grant Writer. She has written grants as both an in-house grant writer and a consultant. A writer by trade, Megan draws on her passion for service and nonprofit work with her skills as a writer. Find Megan on Twitter — @ProGrantWriter.   

By chris

[Guest Post] Events as a Donor Cultivation Tool

Here at DonorSearch’s blog, we strive to include the best content we can regarding prospect research and, more broadly, the nonprofit sector. With that goal in mind, we feature posts by guest authors from time to time to bring in a fresh perspective and new ideas. This guest post was written by Samantha Swaim of Swaim Strategies

Events as a Donor Cultivation Tool

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By chris

[Guest Post] Your Perfect Person is Hiding in the Data

Today we’re featuring the work of Beth Brodovsky, President of Iris Creative Group Inc. We’re always looking to give our readership the best content available and want to ensure that we fill our blog with a diverse range of content. Enjoy!

Your Perfect Person is Hiding in the Data

Who is your audience? Most people answer “everyone.” It’s actually the complete opposite. In fact, you want some people to not understand your message, not connect with your story and not give to your organization. If your goal is to make everyone like you, it’s all but guaranteed that no one will love you.

To Connect, you Need a Target

And you get more points for hitting the bullseye. In fundraising, that amounts to creating a story that is so perfect for some people that they feel you are truly speaking to them. They show up, stick around and give back because they want to be part of something that matters to them – not because you begged them. Knowing your audience is the key to everything.
  • When you know who you are looking for they show up everywhere.
  • You spend your time and money on platforms where you will find them – and where they want to find you.
  • You know what is an opportunity and what is a distraction.

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