Prospect research is a valuable tool that many nonprofits use to learn more about their donors, their prospects, and their giving patterns.
- It helps fundraisers determine who to invite to a fundraising event.
- It allows nonprofits to discover hidden connections between donors and potential major gift contributors.
- It helps nonprofits fill in the blanks with their existing, and perhaps incomplete, donor data.
But one of the main ways that prospect research serves nonprofits is with donor solicitation. Whether you’re asking for donations via email, on the phone, or in person, prospect research can help give you the edge when making those appeals.
Here are five ways prospect research can help with donor solicitation.
A sneak peek of what we’ll be covering in this article:
- Fill in the blanks.
- Segment your asks.
- Know how much to ask.
- Determine other giving opportunities.
- Find major gift donors and planned giving donors.
1. Fill in the blanks
It’s going to be tricky to ask for a donation if you don’t have a prospect’s phone number, email address, or home address.
Prospect research can help you flesh out a donor’s profile so that you have an accurate idea of how to get in touch with them.
Let’s say that Donna Donor submitted her email address at your last gala as part of a raffle that night. But an email appeal doesn’t seem to be the best way to ask Donna to give to your organization.
She might have the potential to be a major gift donor and would need an in-person meeting if you really want to make an impression.
Prospect research can help you learn more about Donna Donor so you can better determine the appropriate ways to ask her for future contributions.
Besides, it’s a good idea to have accurate donor data anyway. When you send out invites to fundraisers, volunteer opportunities, or other events, you’ll want to make sure that you’re sending out those invitations to the right addresses.
You also want to make sure that you:
- Address a donor by their correct name.
- Have the right address on the envelope.
- Include relevant information that is appropriate for that particular donor (i.e., an acknowledgement of a previous donation)
Takeaway: Use prospect research to fill in the blanks on your donor data when sending out those event invitations and when you go to make your donation appeals.
2. Segment your asks
Not every donor is going to respond in the same way to an email or a direct mail appeal.
- Some people prefer the ease of donating online.
- Others like giving over the phone.
- Still others prefer more traditional methods, like sending checks by mail or giving in person.
Each donor is different, and prospect research can help you determine how to communicate with those individuals.
Once you’ve filled in the blanks on your donor data, you’re in a better position to segment your supporters into different groups depending on their giving preference.
If you notice that some of your donors regularly respond to the email appeals you send out, continue sending them those email appeals.
You might notice, on the other hand, that some donors have never responded to an email appeal but donate every year when you send out your annual appeal in the mail.
You’ll know that you can take them off your email appeal list and make sure they receive the annual appeal and other campaign information in the mail.
Takeaway: Use prospect research to learn more about which communication channels donors prefer and segment your donation appeals accordingly.
3. Know how much to ask
Not every donor is going to give the same amount on a regular basis. Some may prefer donating $10 a month while others might be able to give $5,000 in one annual check.
Knowing how much donors have given in the past to your organization, other organizations, and political campaigns can give you a pretty solid indication of how much to ask in your future appeals.
Donors are always going to have the final say when it comes to actually making a donation. But having information about their past giving patterns puts you in a great position to make suggested giving amounts that are appropriate.
Additionally, knowing how much a supporter has given to your organization in the past allows you to thank them for that donation before making your appeal for another contribution.
Being thankful is one of the most important facets of donor solicitation. Before asking for another donation, make sure that you’re saying thank you for those previous contributions!
Keeping good records will help ensure that you’re not asking for another donation too soon.
With the help of prospect research, you can better determine how much to ask for next time you:
- Make an in-person appeal.
- Send out an email.
- Stamp a direct mail letter.
- And more!
Takeaway: Use prospect research to determine the best giving amount for all of your donors!
4. Determine other giving opportunities
Prospect research reveals two things:
- A donor’s capacity to give.
- That same donor’s willingness to give.
These two indicators can give you an idea of how much to ask during a donation appeal (mentioned above), but what happens if a donor says no?
It happens! A fundraiser might go into an in-person meeting, confident that she has the right amount to ask for. But for whatever reason, the prospect expresses disinterest or ambivalence toward donating.
Prospect research can tell you more info about a donor’s philanthropic interests and charitable passions. Combined with the exemplary records you should be keeping in your CRM, you can determine other giving opportunities for the prospect.
For example, let’s say that Prospect A is hesitant to give the amount that you’ve suggested. However, your records indicate that he has been a regular volunteer and has attended every fundraising event over the past five years.
Prospect A is clearly interested in working with your organization in a more tangible way!
Instead of asking for money, ask for time. Encourage him to:
- Take the lead with your next volunteer day.
- Be a speaker at your next fundraising event.
- Join your board of directors.
- Help with your next capital campaign or large fundraising initiative.
You can determine which opportunity would be the best fit based on past involvement with your nonprofit and other charitable organizations.
Takeaway: Prospect research helps your nonprofit determine alternative giving opportunities for hesitant prospects.
5. Find major gift donors and planned giving donors
Have you heard of the 80/20 split? What about the 90/10 split?
I promise we aren’t taking a trip back to math class — these numbers are just related to major gifts and fundraising!
These splits represent the breakdown of major giving in your organization. It essentially means that 80% of your nonprofit’s fundraising revenue will come from the top 20% of your donors.
Due to economic factors and trends in philanthropy, there are some splits out there that are as divisive as 95/5.
With numbers like that, your nonprofit can’t afford to ignore your major gift donors and your planned giving donors.
Luckily, prospect research can help you find these sometimes elusive supporters by looking at the wealth markers and philanthropic indicators mentioned early:
- Past giving to your organization.
- Previous donations to other nonprofits.
- Political contributions.
- Stock and real estate ownership.
- Business relationships.
- Philanthropic involvement.
- And more!
Let prospect research guide you toward the largest donors in your donor pool!
Takeaway: Make sure you are actively looking at who your major gift donors and planned giving donors might be with the help of prospect research.
Prospect research has many benefits, but one of the most notable is that it helps nonprofit organizations with donor solicitation.
With the help of prospect research, you will be able to:
- Fill in the blanks with regard to your donor data.
- Know which communication methods are most effective.
- Estimate how much money to include in your next ask.
- Determine other giving opportunities for prospects.
- Find major gift donors and planned giving donors.
What about your organization? How else does prospect research fit into your solicitation strategies? What donor info have you found with prospect screenings?