8 Prospect Research Lessons From Year-End Giving Season
Lesson No. 2: Clean up your donor database.
When year-end giving season rolls around, your organization typically will have quite a large influx of new donors. If your database is not in tip-top shape before the rush of giving, it’s only going to continue to get more and more unmanageable.
That’s where a database cleaning comes in!
And the fact of the matter is a database cleaning is helpful anytime of year.
Generally speaking, your database cleaning should have at least four areas of focus:
- Deciding which donors are inactive and removing them from your files: Two years is typically the magic number as far as inactivity goes. Removing those donors (excluding certain exceptions like board members or former staff) frees up your fundraisers to refocus their energy on the donors who are interested in being contacted.
- Removing duplicate files: Even more of a space hog than inactive donor files are duplicate files. If your nonprofit, like many organizations, has relied on more than one person to enter donor information into the system, there’s a good chance you have some overlap.
- Correcting and updating donor information: When your database is full of only active and deduplicated donor files, it’s pertinent that those files are accurate. Donors change phone numbers and addresses all the time. Some even change names. It’s critical that your nonprofit makes updating that information a priority.
- Segmenting according to average donation amount: Once you have all your donor records in front of you, take your average gift size and treat it like a dividing line. Group donors according to where they fall in comparison to that amount, and put strategies in place for improving your nonprofit-donor relationship with each group.
But how does prospect research factor in?
Prospect research will be a huge help with correcting and updating donor information and segmenting according to average donation amount.
In regards to making corrections and updates to your pre-existing donor files, a prospect screening can clear up those gaps.
And in regards to segmentation, if you effectively use the information you gather during a screening, you’ll have no issue choosing how best to segment your donors.
In addition to average gift size, you can segment according to:
- Communication channel of choice
- Interests in the work you do
- Frequency of donations
- Age group
- And more!
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to segmentation. Group your donors according to your goals.
Chances are, your year-end segments are going to differ from your segments throughout the rest of the year.
The bottom line: Data cleaning is a time-consuming but worthwhile endeavor any time of year. Prospect research can help expedite the process.
Lesson No. 3: Get to know your event attendees better.
During year-end giving season, it’s likely that you hosted a late fall or early winter event to push your fundraising to new heights.
You’re sure to do the same at another point this year; prospect research can come in handy.
No matter the event, there is an opportunity to capitalize on the potential that prospect research affords you.
Screen specifically for events with three improvements in mind:
- Selecting the perfect guest list: Don’t waste the time of your supporters or your fundraisers by creating a guest list without a strategy in mind. Prospect research will tell you your supporters’ preferences and giving levels. Then, you can make an educated decision about whether or not they would benefit from participating in your fundraiser.
- Making the most of your fundraisers’ limited time: At a crowded event, it is unrealistic to expect your team to have meaningful conversations with every person in attendance. With prospect research, you get a clearer picture of your RSVPs, which means your fundraisers will know who they need to focus on.
- Knowing what to do afterwards: Rather than blindly throwing follow-up darts at the wall, let your screening guide how you communicate with donors after they have attended your event. If you want to convert an attendee to a donor, you have to have a great strategy in place to do so. Let prospect research help.
The bottom line: You can use prospect research to make one, two or all three of these improvements. The path you choose to take will be determined by when your next fundraising event is.
Bonus! For some event inspiration, check out this list!
Lesson No. 4: Plan for a stronger year.
After an experience as involved as year-end fundraising season, it’s important to step back and reflect on the progress made during the past year while setting goals for the next year.
First, you’ll want to take the various fundraising success metrics that you have been tracking into account.
Evaluate how you’ve done with:
Once you essentially have generated a yearly report card for your fundraising, use the details you gathered from your prospect research to put a new plan in place.
As you look ahead to next year, you could even sign up to attend a conference to learn more about taking full advantage of prospect research and better-informed fundraising.
The bottom line: Think about what you can do to improve going forward. Maybe that means your newly discovered donor information helps you personalize communications or seek upgrade opportunities for qualified prospects.
Lesson No. 5: Mix traditional and newer means of fundraising.
One of the biggest days of the year-end giving season is #GivingTuesday. The day owes at least a portion of its ever-growing popularity to the fact that it capitalizes on modern fundraising. There’s even a hashtag in its name!
Following the fundraising holiday’s lead, your organization should be looking into how it can incorporate newer means of fundraising into its established system of practices—prospect research included.
Prospect research is a fairly established fundraising tool, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be adapted to work alongside hyper-current advancements.
Consider mobile fundraising, for example. Over the past year, mobile-giving donations have increased by 205 percent. It now is clearly an area your organization can zero in on and make the most of.
So how does prospect research fit in?
Well, with the help of mobile giving, you’re likely to bring in a sizable amount of new donors. And, those new donors should be screened.
Don’t write off your new, mobile givers as one-time donors. Pull their data from your CRM and run a screening. See who would be a good candidate for various other opportunities such as:
- Major giving
- Monthly giving
- And more
The bottom line: Make sure prospect research remains in the mix, even when you add in new fundraising technologies and techniques.
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.