By donorsearch

3 Donor Acquisition Tips (Hint: Prospect Research Can Help)

Guest Post by Gretchen Barry, Director of Marketing at NonProfitEasy Imagine you’re having a birthday party. You have spent all month planning. The balloons are inflated. The cake is frosted. The piñata is stuffed. The big day finally arrives and no one comes. You forgot to send out the invitations! Like a party with no guests, a nonprofit without donors won’t succeed. Donor acquisition is a key component of a thriving nonprofit. Organizations rely on the money they have raised in order to carry out their missions. In 2013, $335.17 billion was donated to US-based charitable causes. That is a ton of money, and your organization deserves a piece of it. By implementing an effective donor acquisition strategy, you will be well-funded and well on your way to making a difference for your cause. Follow the tips below to build a strong foundation for the expansion of your community of donors.


Curating an active online presence is a great way to promote your nonprofit to prospects while furthering your organization’s relationships with its current donors. To continue the birthday analogy from earlier, online nonprofit promotion is just like generating buzz around an upcoming party. To better understand internet promotion, let’s breakdown the ways in which an organization can market itself online.
  1. Social Media — When someone follows you on social media, that person typically did so because he wants to know more about your nonprofit. Use your various social media accounts to educate those who are interested in your organization. Make sure you include the important things: your mission, what your organization does, how one can get involved, and how one can donate. Your goal should be to further engage by, for example, getting email addresses.
  2. Search Engine Marketing (SEM) — This option has a few costs attached to it, but it can be well worth the money. By advertising through search engines, like Google, you are raising awareness of your cause and drawing potential donors to your website.
  3. Email — Email campaigns are a great way to keep your organization fresh in the minds of donors by maintaining open lines of communication. Strike a balance between constant contact and aloofness by varying the type of content you send and the frequency with which you send it. Don’t always ask for donations in your emails. Diversify your messages with educational content and updates on the progress your nonprofit has made. When handled correctly, email is a powerful way to acquire donors.


Just like a party guest wants to know the details of the event he’s attending, a donor wants to know the details of how his money is spent. People donate because they want help your cause, then they want to know how they’ve helped. So give the people what they want, results! If you detail how funds are implemented, your supporters will be more comfortable in their decision to donate their hard-earned money. You can make the donation trail transparent using a multitude of methods. Email out the specifics of recent organizational achievements thanks to generous donations. Actively post pictures and write-ups of your organization’s accomplishments on your social media sites. Include a sampling of all your good work on your website. Use direct mail to give donors an update on how their funds have helped.

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By chris

2 Types of Donor Data Your Nonprofit Needs

With the rise of the internet and social media, it’s possible to find information about almost everybody and everything. Whether you’re collecting data on a new renter, a potential employee or a prospective donor, knowing which information to use is important. Fundraisers have an array of tasks, but learning all they can about their donors in order to build and cultivate relationships is among the most vital. From their home address to their financial investments, collecting important data about donors can help nonprofits build rapport, as well as discover their next major gift donors. Different kinds of data can be discovered in a multitude of ways, but two of important sets of data are wealth information and personal information.

Wealth Information:

Knowing a donor’s financial information can be extremely beneficial, specifically when planning upcoming campaigns and fundraisers. This information is often available through wealth screening. Wealth screening helps give your organization a picture of your prospects and their financial situations so that you know how to appropriately solicit them for gifts. Wealth screening can also help you find your next major gift prospect. Important information to look for from wealth screening includes:
  • Giving history: Knowing where a prospect has donated, how much and how frequently can give you an idea of how philanthropic they are and what types of organizations they support, as well as the typical gift amount that they make.
  • Investments: Does the prospect own a yacht? A home? A business? Stocks? Knowing a donor’s investments – how much and where they’re allocated – can help you determine their financial standing, as well as their interests.
  • Business relationships: A particular donor may work for a company that is active in the nonprofit world, and that could be a great opportunity for your organization. If the prospect’s company makes frequent gifts to charitable organizations or makes matching donations, the prospect may be a great gateway into the organization’s philanthropic involvement.

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By donorsearch

9 Rules for Ethical Prospect Research

From social media to blogs to 24/7 news services, there is more information on people available than ever before. You just have to know how to look for it. Some people know how to block their online profiles from public view or limit the exposure of any online content about them. This is less a problem of making friends than it is a conundrum for prospect researchers who are trying to learn as much as they can about potential donors. Should nonprofits seek ways to obtain the purposefully hidden information? What are the limits to any workarounds? The ethics of any topic is a debate that could last forever, but your organization doesn’t have forever to figure out right and wrong ways to raise money. You have a cause to fund, and without detailed donor profiles you can’t make the types of emotional pitches that excite donors about your organization. We’ve compiled nine best practices to help your organization conduct prospect research in a way that’s both effective and respectful of sensitive information.

1) Focus on acceptable data

It’s obvious that you shouldn’t pursue records that are illegal to obtain, but just because certain records are legal doesn’t mean that you should be looking at them. For example, you may be able to obtain criminal records on a prospect, but for what purpose? Prospect research is not about obtaining any and all donor information in the hope that some data point may be the nugget of gold that you’re looking for. All data should follow two rules:
  1. Be appropriate and pertinent to the specific fundraising campaign and prospect.
  2. Protect all personal information at all times.

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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

5 Common Mistakes Major Gift Officers Make (And How to Avoid Them)

At DonorSearch, we love providing useful fundraising tips for major gift officers through our blog. So we asked our friends at DoJiggy to share some common major gift officer mistakes and how organizations can avoid them.  In the world of fundraising, major gifts can be transformational for an organization. Many nonprofit organizations realize that major gifts often require substantial cultivation but are very high value and crucial for the organization’s cause. This is where major gift officers play a critical role. A major gift officer specializes in cultivating successful relationships with these high-level donors over an extended period of time. However, there are plenty of common mistakes that can harm the success of the relationship your team is trying to cultivate.

Mistake #1: Lack of Preparation

Meeting with a major donor is one of the most important aspects of a gift officer’s job. It gives you the opportunity to let your organization and cause shine and is essential to the long-term success of the relationship. Do not show up to these meetings unprepared, thinking you can just wing it. Unfortunately, this often shows. Major donors’ time is very valuable, and they may take exception if they feel the other party is unprepared. Don’t waste this valuable time! The key here isn’t just to be prepared for your meeting; it’s to tailor the meeting to your client’s needs and wants. Be clear about the purpose of the meeting, and its agenda. Also, make sure to do your research about the donor or prospect prior to the meeting. Anticipate their questions, practice your answers. Make sure you have materials on hand that the donor might ask for, like brochures, videos, or other paraphernalia.

Mistake #2: Making the Meeting All About You

Meetings with donors are a great place to talk about your organization and your cause. But it’s a mistake to make the meeting 100% one-sided. This can very easily make the donor feel like they are being talked at, not talked with. You want to have a conversation with them – which involves give and take. Do talk about your organization, but listen more than you talk. Ask questions, and listen to the answers. Viewpoint questions are an excellent way to get a prospect to open up and for you to learn more about them. Ask about why your cause is important to them, what motivates them to donate, and what they like best (and least). Take notes about what they say. Notes aren’t just useful for later follow-up; it also shows the prospect that you care enough about their opinions and answers to write down what they tell you.

Mistake #3: Lack of Follow Up

Many major gift officers can fall into the trap of not following up appropriately, or worse – not following up at all. If you listen to your donor during the meeting, take the right notes, and ask the right questions, following up is a simple but essential task. You don’t want to be a pest, but following up after a meeting can be as simple and thanking them for their time. If they had any questions that you couldn’t answer on the spot, make sure you follow up with the answers. The follow-up is also a great time to set up your next meeting and keeps the relationship’s momentum going. Some of these tasks can be managed automatically when using donation software. You can automatically generate “thank you” emails, or set a reminder for a follow-up call. You can also gather and store donor information, so you know exactly what was discussed and be better prepared for your next meeting.

Mistake #4: Not Making the “Ask”

As a major gift officer, you can do everything perfectly, but if you don’t ask for the donation, many times you won’t get it. Or if you do get a donation, it may not be the amount that you are looking to obtain. Sometimes newer gift officers are afraid of asking, or worse – afraid of the dreaded “no.” There will be “No’s” and that’s okay, you can’t win 100% of the time. But asking is an important part of the process, and so is your attitude. Prepare for a no, expect a yes. If you go in expecting a no, it shows – and you will end up with a no more often than not. Set up a meeting beforehand, and be transparent about your agenda. Let the donor know that you will be asking so that they can prepare ahead of time. Prepare well beforehand, and know exactly what you are asking for, why you’re asking, and a certain amount. If possible, ask in a way that shows it’s for something specific. “Would you be willing to donate $5,000 to help feed 500 families?” is a lot more effective than “Would you be willing to donate some money to our organization?”

Mistake #5: Not Thanking Them or Giving Proper Recognition

Both acknowledging and thanking your high-level donors is important. It should go without saying that every donor should receive some kind of formal “thank you.” This courtesy is a great way to show how appreciative you are of the donation, and the effect that has on your organization. Give them a concrete example to show how their donation made a difference. Example: if your organization helps to supply clean water, demonstrate how many families now have clean water thanks to their particular donation. This will make your next ask even easier, as they will realize that their funds made a real impact. Recognition takes the “thank you” one step farther and separates out major gift donors from other supporters. It puts them in a different class, and makes them feel special that you are showcasing their generosity

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By chris

Prospect Research for Religious Organizations

Fundraising is not a passive activity. Just like any other nonprofit, religious organizations need to get active and call prospects, host events, and engage donors in order to raise the funds that allow them to operate at full capacity. To boost your church fundraising efforts, we’ll answer:
  1. Why do faith-based organizations need prospect research?
  2. How is prospect screening unique for faith-based organizations?
  3. Who should you focus on?
  4. When should you screen?
  5. Where to do screenings?
  6. What are the benefits of screening?
Keep reading to learn more! jQuery(window).on("hashchange", function () { window.scrollTo(window.scrollX, window.scrollY - 200); });

Why do faith-based organizations need prospect research?

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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 donorsearch

How does prospect research vary by nonprofit cause?

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

K-12 Education Organizations

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

Higher Education Institutions

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

Healthcare Organizations

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

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