When you’re a nonprofit looking to strengthen your fundraising efforts, the entire process can seem overwhelming. After all, boosting fundraising campaigns typically takes a lot of effort. That’s why it’s important to break down the process into smaller pieces and focus first on your donor data.
By leveraging your donor data, you can uncover a wider pool of potential donors and identify new opportunities for increasing donations from your existing base of support. There are several working parts of donor research you should take into consideration when preparing to fundraise, but once you do, you’ll be ready to reach out and make informed asks.
In order to successfully navigate your donor data, try out these tactics:
- Segment your donor list
- Perform prospect research
- Keep clean donor profiles
- Communicate wisely
- Take advantage of business connections
1. Segment Your Donor List
In order to leverage your donor data effectively, it’s important to segment your donor lists. By doing this, you’ll ensure that you correctly target the right donors with the right asks. There are multiple ways organizations can perfect their prospect research profiles, but in general, you can organize your donor data by:
- Donor Type: Have they made a major gift in the past? Do they donate to your nonprofit regularly? It’s helpful to organize donors by the type of gifts they have previously given.
- Demographics: Organize donors by location, age, or any other demographic groups that are helpful to you.
- Networking Capabilities: Help boost your networking strategy and learn what companies your donors work for, where they went to school, etc.
Segmenting your donor list while performing prospect research is helpful because it offers a breakdown of the various types of donors who could potentially give to your cause, as well as those who already have. With this information, you can make more informed asks and target the appropriate individuals. We’ll talk more about prospect research in the next section.
2. Perform Prospect Research
In order to maximize your fundraising efforts, you’ll want to perform prospect research. Prospect research is a technique used to learn more about potential donors’ personal backgrounds, giving histories, wealth indicators, and philanthropic motivations. The Comprehensive DonorSearch Guide to Prospect Research offers a breakdown of what this entails. All of this is used to determine a prospect’s ability to give and whether they’re an appropriate donor for the organization.
Your data collected from prospect research will generally be split into wealth markers and philanthropic indicators. Wealth markers are an indication of an individual’s capacity to give and can be determined by wealth screening, while philanthropic indicators offer information about the individual’s past contributions and whether they’ll be a good fit with your mission.
Wealth screening is great in that it helps your nonprofit find donors who can make major gifts, but it’s also important to evaluate philanthropic indicators so that you understand the likelihood of them donating to your organization.
When researching prospects, there are several specific pieces of information you should collect, such as:
- Past Giving to Your Nonprofit: If someone has donated to your nonprofit in the past, that is one of the most accurate indicators of their willingness to donate in the future.
- Donations to Other Nonprofits: If an individual has donated to other nonprofits, especially to missions similar or adjacent to your own, that indicates that are willing to donate in general.
- General Nonprofit Involvement: This demonstrates that a prospect understands the importance of philanthropy. Look at activities such as volunteer history and see if they’re board members, for example.
- Personal Information: In addition to basic information, you can learn about hobbies, interests, and habits from social media profiles. This information can be used to identify prospects based on their philanthropic interests and inform the solicitation process later.
- Real Estate Ownership: This helps determine wealth and can indicate the likelihood of future giving. Those who own real estate of a higher value are more likely to give than the average individual.
- Business Affiliations: Collecting data on an individual’s career helps determine their possible financial situation, as well as information about their field and interests.
- Political GIving: Individuals who donate large sums of money to political campaigns likely have the ability to donate a major gift and have proven their commitment to supporting causes they believe in.
Prospect research is clearly a necessary step in leveraging donor data to help with your fundraising. There are many pieces of data that go into the research, but with the right tools, you can streamline this process. If you’re looking for the best tools to perform prospect research, check out this helpful list.
3. Keep Clean Donor Profiles
If you want to learn as much as possible about your donors to make successful fundraising asks, you need to maintain clean donor profiles across the board. When you collect massive amounts of data but don’t keep them organized, it’ll be harder to sift through everything, and as a result, harder to reach your goals.
Since your donor profiles keep everything you need to know about your donors in one place, including their giving history, contact information, and biographical data, there are a few steps you should take to clean it up:
- Verify Information: Make sure you verify, update, or cross-check donor data after it’s logged.
- Use a Platform that can Track Errors: Use a donor database platform that can keep track of errors, such as duplicate information and incorrect data, and correct your records right away.
- Use a Platform that can Handle the Number of Donors You’re Tracking: In order to build a profile for each individual donor, it’s important to invest in a donor database that has the capacity to support the number of profiles you need.
When you keep your data clean, you pave the way for accurate outreach and less room for error. Be sure that you invest in the right donor database, especially one that can integrate with prospect research tools. For instance, as one of the more flexible database platforms, Salesforce prospect research tools can dramatically streamline your ability to keep clean profiles and screen for new donation opportunities all at once.
4. Communicate Wisely
Just as it’s important to segment your donor data, it’s also important to segment your communication methods. With different generations come different preferred methods of communicating. For example:
- Younger Generations: The younger generation prefers social media and text messages.
- Middle Generations: Those in the middle will check social media, but also respond well to email marketing.
- Older Generations: Those who are in the older generations generally respond better to direct mail and phone calls.
Take advantage of these trends and target your potential donors in the most effective way possible.
For example, with social media, be sure to meet your supporters on the platforms they’re using. By expanding your social media presence to include multiple platforms, you’re widening your audience and gaining more exposure. Use different types of media to inspire your supporters as well, such as video content about your mission or photos of the individuals and groups your organization has helped.
In terms of direct mail, be sure to tell your story, make the letter easy to digest or skim, and personalize each letter.
When in doubt about the best ways to contact your supporters, directly ask them how they want you to keep in touch. From there, you’ll be on your way to creating engaging content and boosting your fundraising.
5. Take Advantage of Business Connections
This last strategy is sometimes overlooked when putting together donor data, but it’s a key element to keep in mind. When performing prospect research, look out for business connections that your supporters and potential donors have. This serves a few purposes:
- Matching Gifts: Many companies offer to match their employees’ gifts to charity. If your donors work for a company, it’s very possible that their company will match their gift. Donors are further motivated to contribute if they know their gift will be matched, which increases their impact on the nonprofit.
- Sponsorships: Donors who are higher up in their companies are great individuals to approach about sponsorships or partnerships, especially when you’re planning a large fundraising event.
- Finding Additional Prospects: Another great purpose business connections serve is reaching out to additional prospects. Individuals are more likely to respond to fundraising asks from people they know, so have your current donors reach out to prospects you’ve identified that are in their network.
Matching gifts, sponsorships, and additional prospects can all combine to help maximize your fundraising efforts. For example, Double the Donation has developed a matching gifts database that allows donors to search or their employer on a nonprofit’s website to determine if they will match their gift. There are many ways to encourage donors to support your organization, and trying these tactics will help lay a solid foundation for what’s to come.
Researching donors can seem taxing, but there are many amazing strategies that you can incorporate into your fundraising efforts to maximize the result. If you perform prospect research, organize your donor lists, communicate effectively, and consider business connections, you’ll be ready to head out there and make those asks!
About the Author
Sarah Tedesco is the Executive Vice President for DonorSearch, a company focused on prospect research and wealth screening in the area of philanthropy.