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3 Ways Prospect Research Can Help Your Nonprofit Attract More Major Gifts

Marcella Vitulli

prospect research

Do some jumping jacks to get the blood flowing. Don’t arch your back. Inhale as you lift. Focus on the muscle group you’re working.

Major gift prospects are the heavy weights of the fundraising world. Just like lifting more weight, raising more money requires proper technique. You have to want more, strive for more, and do what it takes to attain more.

When you do prospect research right, it will help you to raise more major gifts in several ways:


1. Identify more major gift prospects

Prospect research makes finding new donors easier. Whether you’re conducting research on your own or with the help of a consultant or company, you’ll find more of the information that helps you to know whether or not a prospect is inclined to give a major gift.

Prospect data that can indicate a propensity to give significant donations includes:

  • Previous giving to your nonprofit and other organizations

  • Nonprofit involvement as a foundation trustee or director

  • Political giving

  • Real estate ownership

Those are just some of the many indicators of a major gift prospect. The more indicators you identify, the better you can determine whether or not a prospect is a potential major donor.

Prospect research is the method that allows you to find those indicators, thus increasing your chances of finding more major donors.


2. Discover more in-depth data 

You can either buy an apple at the grocery store or you can drive out into the countryside and pick one of the freshest apples that you’ll ever eat. While you can get what seems like the same product in an easier way, putting out some extra effort should end in a superior result.

Prospect research is more than merely browsing LinkedIn or stalking Facebook profiles. Prospect research is a multifaceted, dedicated approach to not just finding some apples, but plucking those fresh ones from the countryside.

Let’s say that a prospect screening reveals that a donor owns $2+ million in real estate. Thanks to research, you know that such a level of real estate ownership means that the prospect is 17 times more likely than the average person to give philanthropically.


3. Create a solicitation strategy 

One of the big perks of prospect research is that it can save you loads of time. When you research effectively, you can dedicate more resources to other fundraising phases, such as actually talking to prospects. Without a solicitation plan, you might fail to save any time.

A good solicitation plan outlines:

Knowing who to talk to in the first place will save your organization from wasting resources on prospects who can’t give big donations. A solicitation plan should indicate which prospects, gathered from your prospect research, fundraisers should pursue.

While a solicitation plan isn’t a direct function of prospect research, it is a fundraising action that becomes more essential due to prospect research. When you have valuable information in your hands, it’s important to use it effectively so that all of the hard work you’ve done doesn’t go to waste.

Great CRM software, such as EveryAction, will keep your prospect data organized and easy to access, which helps you to save even more time.

Conducting prospect research to raise more major gifts is like lifting weights to stay healthy. You should do it consistently, properly, and always strive to improve. If you do that, then more major gifts should arrive, and your fundraising campaigns will grow increasingly stronger.



Ryan Woroniecki is the Vice President of Strategic Partnerships at DonorSearch, a prospect research, screening, and analytics company that focus on proven philanthropy.  He has worked with hundreds of non-profits and is a board member of APRA-MD.  When he isn't working he is an avid kickball player.


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Topics: fundraising, guest post, major gifts, prospect research