Category Archives: Donors

How to Make the Most of Your Donor Prospect Research
How to Make the Most of Your Donor Prospect Research

Donor prospect research is no easy task, and takes a lot of time and effort. Selecting the right donor(s) are important, as their contributions are a direct reflection of your organization’s mission and goals. Prospect research is a great opportunity to learn more about potential or existing donors’ personal backgrounds, history of giving, indicators of wealth, their philanthropic motivations, and so on. You’re able to get a better gauge on a donor’s ability to give, and if they align with your nonprofits objectives and values. 

What is the best way to find prospects?

There are three main ways you can conduct your prospect research:

  • DIY. If you feel like you can find the right prospects using your own search methods, then go for it! This method won’t cost you any money, although it is a long and tedious process. Especially if you’re a one man show or doing research with a small team, there’s only so much information you can sift through between all the social networks and government and private databases. 
  • Use a consultant (hint hint, us)! Consultants have the knowledge and resources to find you the best prospects. They can also help train your staff on prospect research, develop research strategies, and build relationships in prospect relations.
  • Hire a prospecting company. If you’re looking to be almost completely hands off, then hiring a prospecting company is the way to go. They’ll be able to handle everything from start to finish, so you have more time to focus on other tasks. 

How do you know which prospects to screen? 

Each prospect will be unique in its appeal to you. But the first factor to consider is how large their past donations have been, as it’s a good indicator for what they could donate in the future. If the donation amounts don’t seem to align with your organization, give it a pass. Also, look to see if there are any personal or business contacts at the organization you can reach out to. A little networking never hurts anyone, and it’s a great way to start building a relationship with your prospects. You’ll also want to look out for consistency. How often is the organization donating? Is the amount they give consistent based on the nonprofits size? 

How do you utilize the research? 

Once you have the research, there are a few steps you want to take in ensuring you’re utilizing it properly. 

  1. Create an organized, centralized place for your research. Whether it’s Google Docs, spreadsheets, a project management app, etc, make sure you’re conducting research in a way that is organized and easy to reference. 
  2. Dissect the research. What factors are most important for your nonprofit when considering donors? Maybe it’s the amount they’re willing to donate, or their organization’s mission statement and values. 
  3. Make a plan to reach out. Once you have a prospects data, how do you plan to reach out? What does your timeline look like, and what methods of communication might work best for each donor?

Does your nonprofit need help with donor prospect research? RBW Strategy has you covered! Using a proven approach for success, we can help by performing detailed research to determine potential foundation, government and/or corporate funding prospects. Visit our services page to learn more!


Guest post by Ayda Sanver, MBA, CFRE  – Ayda Sanver Consulting, LLC –

Nonprofit organizational staff that don’t take time to engage in cultivating their top 20-30 repeat, loyal donors are losing a missed opportunity of gargantuan proportions.

So, what exactly is proper donor cultivation?  It’s a series of tasks, or “moves,” designed to keep the donor informed and engaged with the organization year round.

I like how my friends and fundraising experts Jim Shapiro and Steven Screen of phrase the process:

Ask – Thank – Report – Repeat

One can think of this as a continuous “feedback loop.”  Let’s break this down a bit-

  1. The right person makes the right ask at the right time for the right and clearly stated purpose that is of interest to the donor – you need to know your donor very well prior to this ask.
  2. The donor is thanked promptly and in several ways over time – a phone call from a board member, a handwritten note, and so on.
  3. The donor is sent information on how their gift was used. This is the “report back” that is often omitted and can be critical to securing future gifts. The reporting back could occur through an in-person meeting, a site visit to your program, or a mailing (or e-mail) with photos of the gift in action, to name a few.
  4. Steps 1-3 are repeated throughout the year – I would add that you seek feedback from the donor and take their “pulse” about how they are feeling as they become more familiar and engaged with the organization.

In addition, this is not a cookie-cutter process, but a process that is tailored to the personality and giving style of each donor. It takes thoughtful planning and research and getting to know each donor intimately. Many fundraising software programs today have functionality to record notes from visits or phone calls and to set reminders for tasks like thanking and reporting. So, don’t let another day go by without simply picking up the phone and saying “thank you” to a loyal donor. You simply cannot afford not to!