3. Do you have access to this person, either through an influential member of your board or current major donor?
Have you ever invited the prospect to an event? Did she/he attend? Does anyone on the board have a personal or professional relationship with him/her? Where does or did the prospect go to school? Where do the children, if any, attend school? Has the prospect ever responded to a personal letter from your chief executive?
Setting up parameters for suggested major-gift prospects will make it easier for you to weed out wish suspects and form a list of real prospects.
1. Be upfront, and emphasize that the best prospects are the volunteers’ contacts. Access is so important, so they need to think about individuals they can introduce you to.
2. Focus their attention by providing a list of current and lapsed donors for their review.
3. Create separate prospect and suspect lists. Keeping two lists will allow you to include their suggestions, while you focus attention on the best names. Research both prospects and suspects.
4. Volunteers will suggest all the major corporate and philanthropic foundations as good prospects. Try to anticipate the major foundations and know which list your type of organization as their area of focus.
One final thought. Bringing new money to the table is key to a fundraiser’s success. Once you have developed a suspect list, create a structured sequence of cultivation steps over a 12 to 18 month timetable that introduces the organization, inspires the prospect to become involved and make a small contribution, and lays the groundwork for a substantial gift request. If you cast a net wide enough, every now and then, you may catch a Bill Gates.
Robert Hoak is the senior managing director at Changing Our World Inc., a New York City-based consultancy for nonprofit organizations. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This article reprinted with permission of onPhilanthropy (http://www.onphilanthropy.com) Copyright Changing Our World 1999-2005.