“Research is creating new knowledge.”– Neil Armstrong
When the first man to walk on the Moon said this about research, he was likely referring to research in a scientific scope, but this perspective can be easily applied across almost every industry. Finding and then piecing together information to create a larger, more informed picture is a constant in our personal and professional lives. You may be asking yourself, “how on Earth does research relate to my organization’s existing -- and potential! -- donors?”
An increasingly important fundraising tool for nonprofit organizations is prospect research, a fact-finding process used to help determine a potential donor’s giving history and capacity for giving. Is prospect research likely to be the cornerstone of your fundraising efforts? No, BUT it is a helpful tool in the cultivation of ever-important relationships fundamental to successful fundraising. Other benefits of prospect research include:
- providing a quick overview of publicly available information about the prospective donor
- indicating the donor’s giving habits and types of organizations he or she supports
- revealing relationships the donor may have with others in the community which could help in the solicitation process
- fostering relationship-building with existing and potential donors
- helping identify potential gift ranges, and
- discovering potential donors that share your mission, vision and values.
Recently, our firm worked with an executive director who was very nervous about asking an existing donor for a major gift. This was the largest request she had ever made, and critical funding was on the line. With dedicated time and helpful resources, LCG’s prospect researcher was able to piece together a profile on the potential donor that included major gift history to other organizations. Knowing this information before making the gift request made the executive director feel at ease because it reinforced that the donor had capacity and the proposed gift amount was appropriate.
By familiarizing yourself with a donor’s philanthropic footprint, you are helping develop an informed picture of their charitable giving history and determining whether his or her philanthropic proclivities complement your mission. The key is investing in prospect research. By investing time to get to know your donors, you will better impress how your organization’s mission personally connects to their values. Helping make this connection between you and your donors could mean all the difference between a modest one-time gift and the formation of a truly altruistic partnership with endless possibilities.