Like anything else in philanthropy, prospecting should start with planning. Create a prospect research plan by assessing your human and infrastructure resources, reviewing how you’re using them, developing goals and outlining steps to reach them.
What are the top three things nonprofits can do to improve their donor prospecting?
* Collect better data
Be sure to collect information about your prospects, both from prospect calls and from meetings with donors and potential donors.
At a bare minimum, collect contact information, business affiliations and information about spouses and children.
The types of information you collect may differ depending on your organization.
While a hospital might look for a donor’s business affiliations and information on the donor’s spouse and children, a private school should go further by collecting information on parents and grandparents of students.
The more affiliations you can find, the easier it is to conduct prospect research.
* Establish electronic and peer screening programs
Electronic screening takes your prospect database records and electronically compares them to publicly-available databases that contain information on things like on stock holdings and charitable giving.
That helps you shine a spotlight on those at the very top of your base, identifying your best prospects out of 10,000.
With peer screening, your board or campaign committee reviews your top prospects and adds information they may know from personal associations. These are pieces of information you’d never find in the public record.
* Pull it all together
Now it’s time to pull it all together at the very high end of major gifts with in-depth research.
The type of information you need will depend on how close you are to making an ask, and how big is that ask going to be.
Fairly light research could include quantifying a prospect’s asset and listing charities they give to.
More in-depth research would uncover who they know, who their neighbors are at their various homes, and analyzing their genealogy to see who made the money in their family and what their share of the inheritance might be.
Dave Chase is president of Chase Solutions Inc., a prospect-research and data-screening company based on Cape Cod, Mass.