3 Prospect Research Trends to Watch
Logically, year-end giving is a big nonprofit focus. Many nonprofits even receive more than 40 percent of their annual cash in the last 30 to 60 days of the year. Year-end giving should warrant a large portion of an organization’s attention.
But now it’s the new year—in fact, it’s a month into the new year. It’s time to focus on what’s to come in 2016.
Part of that focus can encompass projecting where you believe your prospect research efforts will need to concentrate.
Although we can’t claim to predict the future, we can propose some theories about the future of prospect research. This article is meant to emphasize forward thinking and its uses for your nonprofit’s prospect research, not concrete rules on what the future holds.
Here are three prospect research trends to consider.
Take these three possibilities and see how they practically play into the research you already are doing. For instance, if you mostly use prospect research to screen candidates for the grateful-patient program at your hospital, you might have a different use for the trends than someone invested in alumni giving.
1. Increased Investigation Into Political Giving
2016 is a presidential election year. Whether you are involved vocally in politics, prefer to steer clear of them entirely or fall somewhere in between, they are going to be a big topic of conversation across the country.
With a major election year comes increased political giving.
And political giving just happens to be one of the most enlightening types of data a prospect researcher has at his or her disposal. Thanks to the publicly accessible database from the Federal Election Committee (FEC), nonprofits can research prospects’ political giving histories.
Analysis of political giving is one of the rare indicators of both:
- A capacity to give: Your nonprofit can check how large a prospect’s political donations have been and gain a better understanding of the prospect’s financial ability to give.
- A willingness to give: Regardless of someone’s political beliefs, when that person makes a political contribution, the individual is demonstrating a propensity to donate to causes he or she cares about. That openness to action can translate to the prospect giving to your organization if your mission aligns with his or her philanthropic interests.
These two factors combine to make political donors quality prospects for charitable giving. In fact, when someone donates more than $2,500 in FEC and charitable giving, that prospect is 14 times more likely to give than another candidate.
2. Increased Analysis of Social Media Presence
Social media is here and it is not going anywhere anytime soon. That being said, it can be very useful for prospect researchers if used correctly.
Two types of data commonly included in prospect profiles following a screening include:
- Business affiliations
- Personal connections
When you have both those pieces of information, your team has additional tools to personalize donor cultivation and customize the solicitation process. For instance, you might discover that a major-giving candidate is an associate of one of your board members. You can then include that board member in the process to help develop your organization’s relationship with the donor.
With the added assistance of social media, your organization can greatly expand the scope of its understanding of your prospects’ personal and professional relationships.
Consider how much the added knowledge of your prospects’ social media networks can help with a fundraising method like crowdfunding. To be successful, a crowdfunding campaign needs to spread organically across your participant’s networks.
For crowdfunding campaigns, you have to start somewhere, so it’s quite common to begin by having a select group of loyal supporters as your initial fundraisers. If you screen that group, you can better help them get information about your campaign in front of the appropriate parties.
When you boil prospect research down to its core, the process is about learning as much as you can about your donors and prospects. Social media research can be one of those tools for learning.
3. Increased Emphasis on Identifying Planned-Giving Prospects
Planned giving can be specialized and confusing, which can prevent some nonprofits from taking advantage of its bounty of opportunities. Although, in recent years more and more organizations have been jumping into the planned-giving game, and more and more charitable donations have come from bequests.
Due to the increased popularity, there’s also an increased need to find planned-giving prospects.
That’s where prospect research comes in.
Planned-giving prospects share some markers with major donors, but they also have their differences.
When identifying planned-giving prospects, you’ll be looking for a combination of:
- Factors that demonstrate a connection to your cause: past giving to your organization, conviction in your mission, affected by your organization’s work, etc.
- Data that points to a statistical likelihood of allocating a planned gift: appreciated property, no children, older in age, etc.
Every planned-giving prospect won’t share identical attributes, but the more you research, the more you’ll find commonalities among your pool of planned givers.
The specifics of your planned-giving pool will differ from those of another organization. Begin your screenings by looking for the average traits of these donors, and customize your search the more knowledgeable you become.
Look forward to 2016 with these trends in mind. Whether you screen in-house, bring in consultants, hire a screening company or some combination thereof, make sure that prospect research is on the agenda for next year’s fundraising.
Bill Tedesco is a well-known entrepreneur in the field of philanthropy with more than 15 years of experience leading companies serving the fundraising profession.
Bill has personally conducted original research to identify markers of philanthropy and has developed modeling and analytical products that use those markers to accurately predict future giving.
Since 2007, Bill has been the founder, CEO and managing partner of DonorSearch.