How to Optimize Your Nonprofit's Prospect Pipeline
If you serve on the board of a charity or are involved with a nonprofit organization, you've probably heard of the prospect pipeline. It's the framework and process that fundraisers go through when they work to find and nurture the people who ultimately become first-time or repeat donors.
Since donations often become the lifeblood of nonprofits, it's crucial to ensure your prospect pipeline functions well.
Ensure You Have Parties Spread Throughout the Pipeline
There are various methods to use to increase the chances of getting major donations. When focusing on the pipeline, people usually turn their attention to a seven-step process. One of the ways to check to see if the pipeline works as it should for your nonprofit is to determine whether there are people from your donor list spread throughout it.
This is because each step in the process represents a donor's position and has associated responsibilities for the fundraiser to carry out. For example, the research phase involves checking to see which potential donors have the financial capacity to donate, plus enough interest in the organization to strongly consider doing so. It also helps if the individual has a connection to the charity, such as knowing one of its board members or managers.
The ask phase of the pipeline comes later, and it's when you explicitly seek support from someone on your donor list. You'll find that donors spend more time in parts of the pipeline than others, especially as you engage in cultivation. That's okay and expected, but it's essential that you don't have too many potential contributors staying in a certain phase instead of making progress.
If that becomes a problem, it could be because people at your organization aren't providing the donors with the information they need to feel confident about giving. Perhaps the people tasked with researching donors have too large of a pool to work from and need to narrow the results. In any case, it's essential to figure out what's preventing the spread of people throughout your pipeline and spend time fixing the issue.
You might also realize there are fewer donors in the latter stages of the pipeline than the earlier ones. That's a good thing, because it means your organization is successfully determining the likelihood of people to give substantial financial gifts and engaging with them appropriately.
Carry Out a Detailed Pipeline Health Check
Many nonprofit workers responsible for fundraising find themselves wondering why they've noticed a general downward trend in the number or size of gifts given. There's no universal answer for why those things happen, but the problem could be an unhealthy pipeline. Get to the root cause by doing a pipeline assessment.
The most user-friendly ones ask questions that need a yes or no answer. Then, after going through them all, you add up the number of affirmative or negative responses to the prompts.
If the results of the prospect pipeline evaluation leave you feeling discouraged, don't panic. One of the best ways to get help is to look for targeted resources that can make you improve.
Spend Time Identifying the Most Likely Donors
Many charities ultimately have unoptimized pipelines, because they research all the potential donors who have ever interacted with the cause. It may seem like that's the best method, because it means you don't overlook anyone who might be interested in giving. However, you'll inevitably find it's too time-intensive to maintain that technique, especially considering how you need to spend adequate time addressing all the people in your prospect pipeline.
Get more specific by finding the prospective major gift givers in your donor list. First, create a report that shows the biggest cumulative donors over the past year. If you only look at parties who donated large amounts one time, you might overlook some of the people who are most eager to give. Consider that many of the Democratic candidates in the 2020 presidential race got the majority of their funds through small-dollar donations.
After looking into your records, it may become apparent that a substantial segment of people donate modest amounts regularly. In that case, you've probably found some of your most loyal donors—perhaps without even trying.
Ask the Nonprofit's Board Members to Introduce Potential Donors They Know
Once it becomes evident that your prospect pipeline is a little stagnant, that's a signal to start trying to branch out. One of the most straightforward ways to do that is to explore the prospects within your board's network. Sometimes, board members may balk if you encourage them to reach out to the people they know. That's because they feel awkward about asking their friends and acquaintances for money.
When that happens, see if the board members are at least open to introducing someone they know to an individual who handles fundraising at the organization. In that case, a person who's more comfortable with talking about fundraising navigates the steps of urging the board member's friend to give.
Maximize the Potential of Your Donor List
The suggestions here should help you feel empowered to secure the donations that help your nonprofit thrive. Remember that you'll likely need to optimize your prospect pipeline regularly, but prioritizing it is worth the effort.