Identify New Prospects to Broaden Your Donor Pool
Look at prospects as if they are knocking on your door. You have an opportunity, if properly cultivated, to build long-term successful financial supporters for your organization. Remember the cycle of giving as identification, cultivation, solicitation, stewardship and awareness.
I learned the importance of prospecting early in my career. Through research, I contacted a husband and wife to request a brief visit. I knew they did not give to my organization but gave to similar organizations. I had coffee with the couple and luckily met their daughters, who happened to be at the same coffee shop. That initial visit led to lunches and eventually to a home visit, to which I brought my executive director.
This cultivation step led to visits of our facilities and greater personal engagement. Over time, they gave several hundred thousand dollars, as well as a planned gift to the organization. They also encouraged peers to give. Although I originally thought the husband was the philanthropic decision-maker for the family, I learned very quickly that the wife was actually in that role.
Prospect development is a team sport, and your prospect will financially engage over time, if a variety of individuals in your organization properly moved the prospect. For a prospective relationship to grow and prosper, you must evaluate your giving organizational spirit:
- Does your mission have spirit?
- Does your organization and team invite and encourage support from others?
- Do you have a positive outlook that spreads to others?
- Does your organization communicate through words and deeds — a sense of community?
- If you were the prospect, would you give generously to the organization you represent?
Evaluation of prospects through research is critical to your long-term success. What is hard to determine, except through personal contact over time, is a prospect’s inclination to give to your nonprofit, and for what area of interest matches a personal desire with institutional need. Through research tools, such as donor prospecting, nonprofits should obtain a prospect’s ability and affinity to give to your institution.
Prospects should be segmented and tracked in a robust database. One way to segment your pipeline is by prioritizing prospects’ potential based on their range of gifts. The “high” list would contain the top 25 best prospects, followed by the next 50 in the “medium” group of 50 and an unlimited number of prospects in the “low” segment.
Other ways to create a pool of prospective donors is to utilize internal resources, such as board, staff, volunteers, clients and purchased lists, review your social media, and host fundraising events and activities that connect you to both volunteers and attendees.
In addition, create a committee or charge your board’s development committee with the task of identifying potential prospects. Look for prospects that have time, talent and treasure interest in your area of focus. They should also have philanthropic indicators, such as past giving to your nonprofit, previous giving to similar nonprofits, volunteerism or board service at other nonprofits. Seek wealth indicators to determine potential giving to your nonprofit through identification of real estate ownership, stock ownership, income, political giving, business affiliations and age. Keep potential supporters invested and invite them to constantly engage with you and your organization using interesting engagement tools.
Your goal with each prospect is to determine how best to communicate with them in an ongoing manner. Seek to text information to them. Send emails of introduction and engagement to them. Use board members, current donors, and key organizational leaders to help interface with prospects. Send a letter of introduction, videos, plus internal and external generated information that informs, influences and captures interest.
Consider having your prospects support your nonprofit in non-financial ways prior to making contributions. This way, prospects make small “yes” answers before a big soliciting “yes.” The Fundraising Authority identified a few examples of how your organization can activate prospects. These included:
- Asking them for advice.
- Getting them to volunteer for your organization.
- Having them write a letter on behalf of your organization.
- Getting them to serve on a committee.
Like a magnet, you want the prospect politely pulled in your organizational orbit. As they learn more about the nonprofit on their own terms, they are more likely to give you an indication of when an ask could be made.
Understand that research notes that 80% of all nonprofit contributed revenue is derived from 20% of supporters. It will take months to cultivate a prospect properly. Consider inviting prospects to small, exclusive events, informational luncheons, tours of facilities and meetings with key nonprofit executives. As your prospects get to know you and your organization, let them know the impact of donations.
To succeed in the fundraising business, you must constantly fish for prospects. Every fish will be a different shape and size, but must be treated in a unique way, which makes them feel special, wanted and appreciated. If done correctly, the prospect scenario is just the beginning of a life-long relationship. Never take any relationship for granted.
The fundraising business is complex and dynamic. Internal and external variables are always at play. Always keep your eye on the ball. Remember, fundraising begins with prospects and ends with satisfied donors. Treat them well and you will experience success.
The preceding blog was provided by an individual unaffiliated with NonProfit PRO. The views expressed within do not directly reflect the thoughts or opinions of NonProfit PRO.
Duke Haddad, Ed.D., CFRE, is currently associate director of development, director of capital campaigns and director of corporate development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis. He also serves as president of Duke Haddad and Associates LLC and is a freelance instructor for Nonprofit Web Advisor.
He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO since 2008.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis on education administration plus a dissertation on donor characteristics. He received a master’s degree from Marshall University with an emphasis on public administration plus a thesis on annual fund analysis. He secured a bachelor’s degree (cum laude) with an emphasis on marketing/management. He has done post graduate work at the University of Louisville.
Duke has received the Fundraising Executive of the Year Award, from the Association of Fundraising Professionals Indiana Chapter. He also was given the Outstanding West Virginian Award, Kentucky Colonel Award and Sagamore of the Wabash Award from the governors of West Virginia, Kentucky and Indiana, respectively, for his many career contributions in the field of philanthropy. He has maintained a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) designation for three decades.