3 Strategies to Choose a Research Tool

austria-sign-2-1489248Whether I’m teaching the Introduction to Prospect Profiles course at the Prospect Research Institute or talking to an Aspire Research Group client, I get asked the impossible question: “What’s the difference among research tools and which one should I buy?”

Information technology has been good to the prospect research profession and that means we have a wild array of tools from which to choose. And equally wild can be the price ranges! This makes it tough to assess the value of each and if they will meet your needs.

My crystal ball is in the repair shop so I can’t predict the perfect suite of tools for you, but I can give you three strategies to approach your decision-making challenge.

Strategy 1: Linkage – Ability – Inclination (“LAI”)

In prospect research it boils down to three key categories of information you want a tool to help you with:

  • Linkage: How can we connect to this prospect through peers? How is our organization linked to this prospect?
  • Ability: Does this prospect have enough wealth to make a large gift or increase her/his giving?
  • Inclination: Is this prospect philanthropically inclined? Is s/he willing to give her money to nonprofit organizations and institutions?

You already know about LAI, right? But have you considered narrowing down your research tool choices by those three categories? If you had to number them in order of priority in your fundraising efforts and/or weakness in your ability to research, how would those categories shake down?

Whether you need a tool to help you with all three LAI categories or just one can help you narrow the field considerably.

Strategy 2: The Five Profile Building Blocks

Once you know how the LAI categories rank in importance, you can begin to dig into exactly what types of information you want to find in a particular category.

This is where the five building blocks of the profile come in handy. No matter how your profile template is organized, there are five major categories of information a fundraising profile might have. Check out the Anatomy of a Profile illustration below to see if you agree.


  • Linkage would fall under the Institutional Information Is the prospect an alum, donor, or volunteer? Is s/he serving on the same company board as your trustee? Vendors you evaluate might include ProspectVisual, RelationshipScience, and WealthX, among others.
  • Ability can be found in the Occupation and Assets What kind of wealth is being earned and how is acquired wealth being held? You might evaluate vendors who aggregate sources such as iWave PRO, Lexis Nexis, DonorScape, DonorSearch, ResearchPoint and WealthEngine, as well as specific vendors for ability such as LinkedIn or J3DonorWatch.
  • Philanthropic Inclination is in the Biographical and Community Involvement Did her child die of the disease you are on a mission to eradicate? Does he make gifts to other organizations or organizations like yours? You might evaluate the same vendors above who aggregate sources, as well as specific vendors such as Foundation Center Online, Guidestar, NOZA, and NewsBank.

Examining your needs in more granular detail through the profile building blocks will identify whether a potential product can give you the information you need most. For example, if you have a lot of public company insider prospects you may need a subscription tool that can make your research faster and better. On the other hand, if you are a lawyers’ association, you might shell out for the current AM Law 100 from The American Lawyer to make better estimates of capacity.

Strategy 3: Free Trials and Peer Review

Even after you know exactly what you want in a tool you will want to evaluate its usability. Taking advantage of free trials and asking your peers for their candid comments is a great way to test the user-interface of a product and what information you will really get from its sources. One of my favorite places at conferences is the exhibit hall so I can learn about new products and tools on the spot.

You might have questions such as:

  • Will it integrate with my donor database?
  • Can I print a reasonable looking profile right from the tool?
  • Can I look at the “raw” search results or will it only show me results matched with its proprietary filter or algorithm?

And, of course, you always have to consider what kind of learning curve users will likely have. Is it easy to figure out? Is there live and DIY training available? What is customer service like?

The Process of Choosing Never Really Ends

Choosing the right product or suite of products doesn’t happen just once and then you are finished forever. Instead, it’s more like eating. Sure, you have your favorite recipes, but you go to restaurants or cook new dishes. Sometimes the new meal – or the new research tool – becomes a new favorite.

Information technology is an ever-growing field globally, not just in fundraising research. We can’t hope to keep up with every tool that enters the market, but we can be strategic about evaluating whether a tool is likely to be a good investment.

More Resources



Click here to get your copy of the Profile Search Tool Comparison Chart. Be smart. Choose well.





PRRgraphicProspect Research Review offers in-depth, comprehensive, and unbiased reviews of your favorite tools. Learn more>>>

The Devil’s in the Data! When should you get an audit?

binary-503598_1280Guest post by Darrel Spacone

Stop and think about the health of the data in your donor database.  When was the last time any cleaning or maintenance was done? Is it part of a normal routine?

We all run into situations on an almost daily basis that scream “Dirty Data”, “Duplicate Data”, “Useless Data”, etc.  But what are you doing about it? Do you know what to do or how to do it?  There are always issues with data that will creep up over and over again until they are addressed.

Your donor database is highly complicated and detailed. Over the course of time, how many staff and volunteers, with different skill sets, have been allowed to edit your data in some way and contribute to the less than stellar shape that it is in?

Most organizations face the same issues, but how they deal with or ignore them separates them. An audit is the starting point to finding out exactly what and how much is amiss, addressing it, and then making maintenance and cleaning part of your normal routine.

In my career I have had direct experience with wearing many hats and having heavy workloads thrust upon me as a nonprofit employee. Sometimes there is little or no time to navigate the data trail, finding and fixing common, glaring issues.

You know or suspect you have problems, but how and when can you tackle it?

If you don’t have someone on staff with the expertise to clean up your donor database, consider hiring a consultant to provide you with an audit. An audit will identify what you are doing right, what is going wrong, and what steps you need to take to get back on track.

So, when should you get an audit?  NOW of course!

Following are some of the benefits of an audit:

  • Mailings: An audit will expose missing titles, names, addresses, addressees, salutations.  Are you mailing to or soliciting minors? What about your service area or state? Do you target solicitations to certain counties? Is the county field populated?
  • Duplicate records: Do you have the same person with multiple records?  Are they necessary?  Are you mailing to spouses or other household members separately? Should you?
  • Duplicate addresses: Every time you add a new, preferred address, are you checking the address tab?
  • Merged records: Duplicate information can be copied over during this process.
  • Security: Are you lazy when it comes to security?  Does everyone have the same access regardless of their job function and capabilities?  Often this is the single largest problem and causes the most damage.
  • Deceased constituents: Are you mailing to or soliciting dead people? Have you overlooked the surviving spouse?
  • Record archiving: How long do you solicit a prospect? How long has the record been in the system without any activity?  Do you know how to keep your history, but remove from your mailings?

Data underpins all of your development efforts from gift acknowledgement, invitations, prospect identification, stewardship and beyond. When your data becomes a tangled web, your ability to fundraise suffers. Donors are not thanked and renewed. Major gift opportunities are lost forever. When you add up the losses incurred from bad data, the return on investment in your data skyrockets.

The Devil’s in the data! Make it Good.

darrel.spaconeAbout Darrel Spacone, bCRE
Darrel Spacone is the Chief Information Officer at Donor-Data-Done, LLC, a Blackbaud Certified Raiser’s Edge Consulting firm. With thirteen years of experience with Raiser’s Edge, he has helped healthcare, arts, child welfare and social services organizations identify problems and fix their donor databases. He provides audits and solutions, so that you can focus on your day-to-day tasks without missing a beat, saving you time and money while you are raising money.
Connect with Darrel:

More Resources You Might Like

Let’s Talk Research Life, Not Your Job

Many of the important decisions about your life are made when you are not in the room.

Don’t believe me? Tell me, were you there when…

  • Your spouse decided whether or not to keep dating you early on?
  • The sellers decided to accept your bid on the house?
  • Your mortgage company decided to risk a loan on you?
  • Your boss decided to hire you over other candidates?

Who is going to be in the room when you go for a pay raise or a promotion? Who decides whether your department has enough in the budget to send you to an industry conference?

The recent APRA Prospect Development conference in New Orleans demonstrated with gusto that our field is alive and thriving. Many in our profession have become a driving force for success in their fundraising departments. How did those individuals get to the place where the decision makers felt really good about fundraising research?

Maybe you feel a bit like Dorothy when she first approached the Wizard of Oz – a little intimidated by leadership. But let me take you behind the curtain…

The Influencers

In social media we hear a lot of talk about finding the influencer – the person with the biggest following and the highest engagement.  In your office, many of the same rules apply. Influencers are those who interact with a lot of people and have direct control or influence over decision making.

Make a list of how many people you interact with. How many of them directly control or influence decisions that are important to you?

You might be surprised who turns up on your list. What about the president’s assistant? She might interact with a large number of people, including you. Does the president listen to her when she has an opinion?

The Plan Man

Now that you have the list of people you interact with in your organization, pull out a fresh sheet of paper and make a list of all of the people who influence the decision that is most important to you. Maybe that’s training and using analytics tools, attending a conference, or implementing a new process.

Take your two lists and identify a few people that are on both lists – not too many – that you could develop a better relationship with. Treat them the same way you know how to treat donors. Create a cultivation plan that builds rapport, engages the person on relevant topics of interest, and gives the person more of what s/he wants. Ask good questions. What is her biggest pain point? Help her somehow.

You might also find that by developing a deeper relationship with a few key people, you meet more of the decision makers in your office.

Now that you have your cultivation plans, decide what three words you want people to think of when they think of you or your department. Think it through carefully. Now use those words when you talk about yourself and your work. I don’t mean to go bragging on yourself, but in regular conversation consciously use those words.

Not only will people begin using those very same words to describe you and your work, but you will begin more closely aligning your behaviors with those descriptors.

For more than 15 years , my three words have been:
Integrity | Accountability | Growth

And, yes, I need to be reminded to use them more!

Relationship Time

At conferences like APRA’s Prospect Development conference, the visionary ideas presented, the cross-pollination of ideas and sentiments with colleagues, and the new skills learned can be transformational.

But this year, my biggest takeaway was how important it is to choose time spent on relationships very thoughtfully.

We all know in life that not everyone will like us. But making decisions about who to spend our precious time with is never easy. If there are people in your life who energize you, who excite your curiosity by being different, who bring out the best in you (add your own criteria), then invest in them. If there are people who don’t do all those good things for you (or you for them), then gently step away.

When you deliberately examine your social networks both inside and outside the office, strategically choose the people to invest your relationship energy with, and understand and promote your own core values, you will succeed. Paths will illuminate. Opportunities will arise you couldn’t have dreamed up.

Your Job or Your Research Life?

It’s up to you to define success in all aspects of your life. For me, research infuses almost every part of my life. Methodically approaching any kind of problem – treating it like a research project – has been my modus operandi since I was a child. Back when it felt like I could learn about anything just by reading books in the library. Nothing is too difficult if you have a method, an approach.

If you want more out of your research job, consider tweaking the phrase to research career – or even research life!

More Resources

Takeaways from other APRA peeps:


Carla Harris has been inspiring my career for years! Maybe she will inspire you too.


Speaking of methodology, check out Marianne Pelletier’s resource: What Analytics Can Do for Your Fund-Raising Shop



What’s in your Wealth Screening?

Wealth screenings have been around for over a decade now and we all pretty much know how helpful a screening is to prioritize donors, but what’s inside a screening? Usually the answer is a long list of names of sources, but DonorSearch has turned that into an engaging visual description of why those sources are important. I hope you enjoy the InfoGraphic below as much as I did!

Sweating it out in New Orleans with APRA

APRApd2015ButtonsThe APRA International Prospect Development conference is about to begin with the Analytics Symposium,  Researcher’s Boot Camp and pre-conference workshops starting tomorrow.

And WHEW! is it ever hot out! (this coming from a Floridian who loves summer)

I’ve been reading hints on Twitter about the cool (and cooling) swag the APRA chapters have on offer at the chapters table. I will be scooping up my conference treasure, but I have some conference doubloons of my own! Check out the photo for a picture of the pins I have to give away – but only to those who can catch me and ask about #gogirlresearch!

HINT: Take a peek at who is presenting on 7/25 at 8:30am!

Fundraiser Alert: Politics Is Central To Identity For Many Wealthy Americans

direction-654123_1280Guest Post by Joe Clements

For many of America’s wealthy, politics is a central part of their identity.

A recent study by Pew Research revealed that 60 percent of wealthy American’s give money to political campaigns and causes. A 2011 University of Chicago study further showed radically disproportionate political participation levels among the wealthy. Whereas only 26 percent of Americans follow politics “most of the time,” 84 percent of the wealthy attend to politics daily.

Evidence also suggests that America’s wealthy are politically polarized. Pew Research shows that 44 percent of highly engaged Democrats and 51 percent of highly engaged Republicans view the other party as a “threat to the nation.”

Maybe you remember grandma’s advice not to discuss politics at the dinner table? Well, today’s politically engaged classes don’t really have to worry about such “mixed company”. About a third of partisans report that they prefer to live in close proximity to and befriend people who share their political view.

For many of your donors, politics is a part of their identity and daily lives. In fact, you are competing directly for their dollars with presidents and governors.

If your research only includes information about wealth, then you are not flagging some of the most intense passion points of your prospects. Worse, your development officers may be inadvertently stepping on political landmines they never knew existed.

Fortunately, if you know a prospect’s federal and state level donor history and some basics from her voting record, you can convert even the most intense ideologues into lifelong donors. Below are a few tips for approaching politically engaged prospects.

  • Send like-minded fundraisers to develop the prospect. If you’ve got a Koch brother to prospect, make sure a conservative leaning development officer is assigned the file. The same goes for introductions. Ask for introductions to new prospects from politically like-minded current supporters.
  • Try to avoid using political “dog whistle” words like “fairness,” “social justice” or “personal responsibility.” You want to avoid accidentally suggesting ideological purpose to your organization.
  • Highlight ideologically appropriate aspects of your organization. Left leaning donors tend to be interested in environment and social programs, whereas right leaners gravitate to business and economics issues.

You’ll find additional benefits from political persuasion research. For example, in voter records we often find useful information not only about political participation but also vacation home address, family members in the prospect’s household and leads on whether the prospect has children in college or the military.

The good news is that most of the data you need to determine political identity is public record – from political contribution records to voter files. Researchers can find political information manually or use a tool like CivicBridge that analyzes a prospect’s political and civic engagement.

When it comes to a prospect’s political passions, a few moments of research can mean the difference between losing a prospect because of a political faux pas during the ask and winning a major contribution because the development officer connected on an issue important to the prospect.

About the Author

Joe Clements is a Florida-based political data analyst and founder of Strategic Digital Services (SDS) and CivicBridge. CivicBridge is a platform for helping researchers evaluate the civic engagement of prospects and connect those prospects with their relevant public records.  Connect with Joe via email at Joe@chooseSDS.com

More Resources You Might Like

How To Keep From Being Automated Out Of A Job

robot clockLet’s not be shortsighted. Information technology has improved rapidly and many of the tasks that fall under the prospect research umbrella are automated. They are. Wealth screenings have replaced me as the first course of action in a small organization. They have. No use crying over it. And it’s not going to stop there. So how do we stay relevant in our field?

Find >> Analyze >> Synthesize

We researchers like to use the word analysis to justify our role, but we need to do even more than that. According to Merriam Webster, analysis is an explanation of the nature and meaning of something. But synthesis is something that is made by combining different things such as ideas.

Yes, we need to analyze information to point out the pieces that are relevant to fundraising – whether that is in a profile, trends in our relationship management system, or statistical analysis of our database.

But what if we could learn to take it a step further and routinely synthesize the information, churning out insights that our development officers can act on? It would be another step towards job security, that’s what!

What might that look like?

Charlie is a good prospect for a legacy gift. He has announced he will be retiring in five years. When he retires he will receive a lump sum payment of all of his restricted stock units in the company’s deferred compensation plan, which is currently valued at around $45 million. He has been a top executive for fifteen years and is not likely to be relying upon that sum for retirement and may be interested in ways to offset tax liabilities.

You are not just analyzing and preparing the pieces of information in that profile, you are doing that PLUS putting the different pieces together to create a new idea: he is a good legacy gift prospect.








Janice is a good prospect to leverage for peer giving. She is past president of the local Chamber of Commerce and has the most relationships with others in your prospect pool. She has a high wealth rating and served as co-chair for the campaign of Local Organization.

Applying external data to evaluate the prospects in your development officer’s pipeline is not enough anymore. Not if you are capable of pulling those external pieces together into a recommended action that will move her entire pipeline forward.






We should run an additional analysis to identify women major gift prospects. In this table are the prospects that have the highest predictive value for making a major gift to our campaign, but only one percent of them are women. Sixty-five percent of our active donors are women and as of 2009 women controlled 39% of U.S. wealth with predictions of that number increasing.

Sometimes the method of analysis is technically accurate and perfectly defective. It takes a curious mind and some sincere synthesis to process information in both micro and macro environments and make a recommendation.







Practice, Practice, Practice … and Be Bold!

It’s likely that no-one has ever explicitly taught you to synthesize the information and provide recommendations. You may have even been made to feel foolish or been chided for providing recommendations in the past.

Be Bold! Oil your feathers and let the water roll off of them! You won’t get better at this skill if you don’t practice. And when your insights and recommendations are shot down (and they will be at least once because development officers don’t always share what they know with us), shake off the embarrassment and write down what you learned.

When you recognize that you, I mean you the individual, are a really amazing person, then you can also recognize that you may or may not be good at providing insights and recommendations. That’s okay. You weren’t good at cursive either, until you practiced. (Do children still learn cursive in school?).

So forget your fear of failure and start practicing the art and science of providing insights and recommendations. Synthesize that data baby!

More Articles You Might Like

Fundraising + Science = ?

test tube2Did you have a chance to read the Chronicle of Philanthropy in April? The one titled “Science Unlocks the Secrets of Giving”? Because it was … provocative!

I am a prospect research professional. I love data! Poring over the latest wealth study and pulling out bullet points and formulas to use in researching prospects brings me joy! So why did the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s coverage in April make me uncomfortable?

First, I’d like to say that being uncomfortable is not altogether a bad thing. Pushing outside the comfort zone can yield growth and innovation. And I really hope that happens when it comes to applying science to fundraising. But something isn’t lined up properly.

What Using Science in Philanthropy Means 

As I argued in my Innovate or Die article, fundraising must change in response to the economic, cultural and other shifts occurring. What the Chronicle of Philanthropy articles were suggesting was that fundraising should be using the human research and fundraising-specific research studies to craft fundraising strategies and programs.

Human research? Yes really! Such as neuroscientific research delving into what is happening in the brain when someone gives. Research into “how the body’s hormones can affect the reward-giving dopamine levels in our brains that create feelings of generosity and trust”.

There was also a short story on how an organization gave up on an experimental fundraising strategy that involved direct mail with a do-not-solicit-option for the donor that promised not to solicit ever again if a gift was made. The organization was uncomfortable with having no way to build a relationship with the 46% who had made a gift under the do-not-solicit-option … even though they were raising more money from those gifts than with the traditional approach.

I understand the discomfort, but I don’t understand mailing to all those people who will never give again anyway. (Don’t be over-optimistic here; how many of your donors have permanently lapsed after the first gift? Do you even know? And do you continue to mail to them for years, hoping?)

Changing Perspective, Not Changing Values

 A slight shift in our perspective on donors can better align our organization with reality. We can maintain the same mission and values, but when we recognize that our donors are not “our donors”, but “people who have a made a gift to our organization” we have room to see things differently.

The science might be saying that we are raising more dollars by not stewarding people who don’t want to be stewarded, but from a new perspective we can translate that into … we will respect the wishes of people not to be contacted and we will honor those who do want to be contacted by spending more of our resources building relationships with them.

The science says we will and are raising more money with a specific strategy. Our shift in perspective allows us to say we will and are raising more money using the same integrity and values we have espoused all along – the donor’s right to make choices.

Sure, neuroscientific research studies can be a little bit difficult to decipher and boil down to actionable bullet points. Yes, fundraising research can be in opposition to long-standing traditions and beliefs about donors.

It can make us uncomfortable.

We have to question our resistance. We have to change the angle from which we view the situation. Why would we not want to respect the wishes of someone who has made a gift to us? Even when it is a wish not to be contacted.

Research is suggesting, nigh, demanding that we do our fundraising differently. Innovate or Die!

But we must do ‘different’ with a balanced approach. We must shift our perspective so that we can make decisions that accept reality and yet still align with our mission, values and the trust the public has for our organizations. The trust they have in us.

More Resources:

Female Fundraisers Talk About Wealthy Women Philanthropists

World Map VectorI’ve selected three recent articles written by female fundraisers about wealthy women philanthropists. Enjoy!

Understanding High Net Worth Women’s Philanthropy

By Marge King, InfoRich Group

Lately, I have been seeing a lot of research studies on the topics of how women save money, invest money, and spend money-studies done by Fidelity Investments, U.S. Trust, and similar financial services organizations, on a regular basis.

It doesn’t take the proverbial rocket scientist to understand why the financial industry is spending money on studies analyzing women’s money habits.  A significant number of women-often the financial decision makers in their families-now contribute to the economy with their earnings. >>>Keep Reading

What Women Donors Want

By Adrienne A. Rulnick, Ed.D., Grenzebach Glier + Associates

Fundraisers need to broaden their “toolkits” in thinking about what motivates and incentivizes women donors. Recently, a fundraiser from my undergraduate alma mater called me in the lead up to our quinquennial reunion celebration at the recommendation, she told me, of two classmates who were also friends.  They wanted me to complete the funding for a scholarship that they had seeded in honor of our reunion. Although the ask represented a stretch gift for me, I immediately agreed. >>>Keep Reading

Rating Girls

By Preeti Gill, Sole Searcher Blog

Did my headline grab your attention? Good. Here’s my contribution to the prospect development community’s great capacity ratings debate. This post isn’t about how to rate prospects. Nope, not going there. This post is about who gets the rating inside your database, once you’ve crunched the financials on an individual, couple or household. The one who gets the rating then gets pulled into your prospect pipeline for closer consideration. >>>Keep Reading

More Articles You Might Like

The Prospect Research Institute has been creating resource collections you might like:

5 Benefits to Make the Case for Prospect Research at Your Organization

Guest Post by Sarah Tedesco

bulbpencilSMThink of your nonprofit like a light bulb and money as the filament. You’ve got plenty of conducting wire to glow for a long time, but are you shining as bright as possible? Is your light reaching as far as it could or are you casting shadows upon donors just out of reach?

Prospect research provides philanthropic and wealth data that helps you to spot the major gift prospects who will donate the additional funds that you need.

Below are five ways to convince the head honchos of your organization to make a strategic investment in prospect research.

Benefit #1 – Receive more information about existing major donors

Does your prospect have a good poker face? Does he enjoy bubble baths with a glass of red wine? Is he an ancient Greek pottery aficionado? Prospect research won’t answer those questions, but it will deliver the sort of information that you need to improve your major gift fundraising.

Prospect research provides:

  • Philanthropic histories – Know who your donors have given to and how much.
  • Wealth markers – Discover what your donors invest in, such as stocks, real estate, etc.
  • Group analysis of long donor lists – Receive comprehensive reports that summarize donor lists according to where they donate, how much, and more.
  • Business relationships – Discover your donors’ employers to discover if they work for companies that offer matching gift programs.
  • And more! – Different prospect research companies and consultants can deliver different types of information in different ways, so be sure to conduct research before you commit to a company or private researcher.

The fundraising experience becomes more personalized when you know more about donors. Your loyal donors are your most important donors, and remaining abreast of who they are and how to best continue to solicit donations ensures that your relationships will last.

Benefit #2 – Fundraise more efficiently!

While you’re busy hosting events, managing staff, and taking care of other tasks, your most valuable resource is always tick, tick, ticking away… Time.

With prospect research, you can pick out the highest quality major gift prospects on your list and dedicate your time, staff, and resources accordingly. Your fundraising efforts will be focused on the prospects who can deliver the biggest impacts for your organization.

Prospect research methods include:

  • Screening companies – After compiling data from a plethora of databases, screening companies return comprehensive philanthropy and wealth data to help you identify your major gift prospects.
  • Prospect research consultants – Consultants can provide you with a deeper level of research and fundraising insights on specific prospects. They can also help you streamline and coordinate all of your prospect research efforts. It’s important to know what you want from your consultant to achieve the best results.
  • Do it yourself – There is an abundance of search tools out there, and you can teach yourself or get training for yourself or a staff member on how to conduct and manage prospect research.

Benefit #3 – Find and convert new major gift prospects

While modest donations help, major gifts deliver big, immediate impacts for your nonprofit, and finding more major gift donors is the fastest way to increase fundraising. However, when it comes to increasing your number of significant donors, new isn’t always better.

The top indicator of a major gift prospect is previous giving to your nonprofit, but that doesn’t mean that the previous giving is in the $5,000+ range of a major gift. Despite only giving modest amounts, your loyal donors are your most fertile source of new major gift prospects.

Annual donors, no matter how little they give, have a demonstrated, consistent affinity for your organization. Some of these donors can’t give more, but prospect research can reveal which ones can. However, if loyal donors have the capacities to give more, and care so much about your organization, then why don’t they give more?

The explanation may be as simple as that you’ve never asked these prospects to give more, so they’ve never thought to do so. There may be other reasons, and a thorough job of prospect research can help to solve the mystery, so you can turn these annual fund donors into major gift donors.

An old rule of prospect research is that 80% of funds are raised from 20% of the donations, although many organizations claim that it’s more like 90% of funds from 10% of donations, and others find that an even larger portion of their money comes from an even smaller contingency of major donors. You likely have several major donors, but the more the merrier, as these are the people who will provide most of your annual revenue.

Benefit #4 – Clean up your donor databases

Ring. Ring. Ri…

Prospect: Hello?

You: Hi! Is this Mr. Major Donor?

Prospect: I think you have a wrong number.

Fundraising doesn’t have to be like that phone call. You can call the right numbers more often than not, but only if you have up-to-date information.

Prospect research keeps crucial contact information up to date, such as:

  • Phones numbers
  • Email addresses
  • Mailing addresses
  • Spousal information
  • Hobbies and preferred activities
  • And more!

Don’t just take this new information and throw it into a cluttered closet. Embrace the opportunity to clean up your database, so that your donor records are easily searchable and accessible.

Benefit #5 – Identify planned or deferred giving prospects

You know that you can find new major gift prospects among your current donors, and that you shouldn’t overlook even low-level donors, but there’s also a specific type of major gift to be aware of.

Many donors save their biggest donations to be planned or deferred gifts, and, according to a planned giving expert, planned gifts typically come from regular, modest donors.

Prospect research provides the data that reveals potential planned giving donors.

Landing donations, and especially planned gifts, can be a long game, and donors have long-term value that might be patient to reveal itself. Prospect research helps you to find all of these people and delivers comprehensive information that allows you to make more individualized pitches that will better resonate with prospects and land more major gifts, even if they’re gifts that you have to wait a little longer to receive.

These tips should help you make the case at your organization for the importance of investing in prospect research! You’re a nonprofit with a bold heart and an important mission, so increase your fundraising with prospect research in order to focus on what you’re meant to do.

About Sarah Tedesco

TedescoSarahSarah Tedesco is Executive Vice President at DonorSearch, a prospect research and wealth screening company that focuses on proven philanthropy. Sarah is responsible for managing the production and customer support department concerning client contract fulfillment, increasing retention rate and customer satisfaction. She collaborates with other team members on a variety of issues including sales, marketing and product development ideas.

Connect with Sarah: