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You might be an accidental prospect researcher if…

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Kathleen Rogers

Kathleen Rogers

Kathleen Rogers

You’re in the midst of a capital campaign and are meeting with a long-time annual donor tomorrow for lunch and plan to ask for $10,000.

You’re not sure if this is too high or too low. You do some quick research of publicly-available information culled from thousands of annual reports and other sources to view a  snapshot of your donor’s past giving to other local, national and international organizations.

In less than 20 minutes, between cups of coffee, you find several $100,000 annual gifts and a $1 million cumulative gift to another local charity.

At lunch the next day, you connect on the need and ask for her help: Can she make a major contribution of $125,000 to the capital campaign? Your donor says “yes.”

You might be an accidental prospect researcher.

As nonprofits gear up for a major new fundraising campaign, it is essential to use fundraising intelligence to reach out to current donors to ask for increased levels of giving, and to attract new donors with a history of giving to similar types of charitable organizations.

Why does giving history matter? Because it’s one of the most significant predictors of future giving.

Philanthropy data helps nonprofits of all sizes raise more money — and spend less in doing it.

Individuals and their estates account for 83 percent of giving to charity. In 2009, individuals gave $251 billion, including cash donations and bequests, to U.S.-based nonprofits, according to the most recent Giving USA report.

Understanding who to ask, and how much to ask for, is critical to the success of your nonprofit.

Understanding prospect research

Prospect research helps you gain essential information before a strategic and appropriate solicitation can be made.

All information is from public records and is applicable to fundraising. Successful nonprofits use prospect research in all stages of the fundraising process: identification, cultivation, solicitation and stewardship.

They do this for three main reasons:

1. So they know whom to ask and how much to ask for
2. To raise more money
3. To support critical mission and services

Getting started

Philanthropy data is critical to a strategic solicitation with a major-gift prospect.

Nonprofits that research individual, corporate and foundation giving history can focus on the best prospects for their organization, raise more money, and advance their mission.

Just getting started with prospect research? Focus on identifying current donors and new prospects with an affinity to your cause and a capacity to invest major charitable funds.

You don’t have to be a full-time prospect researcher to take advantages of the many resources available to you.

Join the Association of Professional Prospect Researchers for Advancement (APRA) and download the full APRA Statement of Ethics here.


Kathleen Rogers works with nonprofit prospect researchers, development directors, major-giving officers and fundraising consultants to support fundraising campaigns with Blackbaud’s NOZA Philanthropy Data. 

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