The Importance of Focusing on Your Best Prospects
How many of us sit down each day at work to a cup of coffee and review endless lists of potential prospect names? These names could be potential fundraising prospects — or not. You gather prospect information from a variety of sources and get very excited about their potential. Your new problem is the simple fact that you have no idea what to do next and how to maximize the utilization of data. It is not about using a shotgun with the hope of hitting a target. It is all about focusing a rifle to seek the best group of donor prospects and determining winning strategies to secure the maximum charitable gift from them.
According to Benefactor, it is crucial that nonprofits place measured emphasis on every stage of the major gift process. From identification to cultivation, to solicitation to stewardship, each phase hinges on a nonprofit’s ability to connect with their donors and draw them to donate. That ability should be rooted in a researched knowledge of donors. Effective prospect identification can make or break a campaign. When you look at prospects, break them down by philanthropic indicators, such as past giving to nonprofits and past giving to your nonprofit, plus wealth-related indicators, like real estate and stock ownership. See if your prospects have an affinity for your organization.
Bloomerang provides the importance of prospect research for fundraising success by sharing DonorSearch’s research analyzing information from over 400 nonprofits, which include 2 million individuals who gave over $5 billion. This research identified the top five markers that best predict future philanthropy. In order of backwards importance, these markers are real estate ownership, political giving, participation as a foundation trustee, giving to other nonprofits and passion for your nonprofit. You should study each component individually and collectively to determine to best way to engage with your prospects.
According to Gail Perry, the key to success for any fundraiser is finding the right donors who can make a significant donation to your organization. Of all factors analyzed, past giving to a nonprofit is the strongest predictor of future philanthropy. A second indicator is past giving to other nonprofits. The other key factors are involvement in a nonprofit as a director, political giving, real estate ownership and business affiliations. These business connections may lead to larger gifts plus different types of gifts, such as challenge and matching grants.
While the DonorSearch data has been previously mentioned, various elements via DonorSearch information need to be examined. For example, too many nonprofits do not place enough emphasis on donor retention. To quantify previous giving, use an RFM score. This score serves as an internal analysis of the relationship you have with each of your prospects. An RFM score factors recency of giving (how recent did the individual make a charitable contribution), frequency of giving (how often has the individual donated) and monetary contribution (how much has an individual given).
You can rate an individual donor based upon ranking them on these three dimensions. Your organization should consider investing in prospect screening. This exercise will greatly help you determine who your best prospects are and what next steps you need to take to create proper strategies going forward.
According to Classy, major gifts are an important part of any nonprofit organization. Successful major gift fundraising often relies on an effective moves management program — the system of processes and procedures used to nurture donor relationships and move them toward major gifts. The first part of this process is determining your strongest prospects, which are those most likely to give a large gift.
Your ideal donors will share the three attributes. These are affinity (how connected they are to your organization), ability (those prospects capable of making a large gift) and access (whether you have access to this individual). You then prioritize these prospective donors and rank them into separate groups based upon those that can give first, ones not quite ready to donate and others that you can reach later.
Your “A” prospects will have all three attributes, “B” prospects will have two attributes and “C” prospects will have one attribute. You need to qualify your prospects in order to identify who are most likely to become large donors to your organization. These individuals will need deeper institutional involvement.
It is very important that you determine from the sea of your potential prospects, those key prospects that demand your attention and focus. Using software screening tools, you need to be able to create a master prospect list. Through the analysis of your prospect list by looking at various variables, rank orders this list by priority.
Create strategies for your best prospects. Make sure these prospects have the ability to make a significant gift, have linkage with the institution through relationships with staff, volunteers, board, etc., plus inclination — the willingness and interest to make a significant gift. You must have donors that feel their investment in your organization is sound. Happy donors continue to give and eventually make larger gifts in areas of interest to them that meet your organization's needs. It is imperative that you focus on your best prospects first to assure comprehensive success later.
F. Duke Haddad, EdD, CFRE, is currently associate director of development, director of capital campaigns and director of corporate development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis, Indiana. In addition, he is also president of Duke Haddad and Associates, LLC, and freelance instructor for Nonprofit Web Advisor.
He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the past 13 years.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis on education administration, master’s degree from Marshall University with an emphasis in public administration and a bachelor’s degree from West Virginia University in business administration, with an emphasis in marketing/management. He has also done post graduate work at the University of Louisville.