Thank you to Guest Blogger, Sarah Tedesco of Donorsearch, for pulling together these terrific ideas!
Your current donors, volunteers, and advocates are amazing. They turn out for fundraising events, contribute to your annual fund, and share their stories about your organization to their friends and families. They’re all you could ask for!
But it’s time to take on your most ambitious project yet, and you aren’t sure your current donation levels can support it.
It’s time to bring some new donors on board — and major donors, at that.
We’re here to help you with four reliable strategies to find prospects that will turn into your most engaged major donors yet, from the highest potential ROI to the lowest:
These strategies take you within your current donor database as well as outside of your existing donor pool.
Ready to find awesome major gifts prospects? Let’s get started!
The best place to look for new major donors is your own donor database. You already know that your existing supporters care about your nonprofit and its mission. That’s a lot more than you can say about prospects who might never have considered your organization before.
While you can get lucky with outside prospects, your chances of finding someone committed enough to your mission to contribute a major gift are much higher if you look for individuals who have already demonstrated that commitment in some way.
Just because an individual donor, volunteer, or stakeholder hasn’t made a major donation before doesn’t mean they can’t or wouldn’t.
To find major donor prospects among your current constituents, look within your donor database for these indications, curated by DonorSearch, that a donor has the ability and inclination to give more:
It’s easy to slip into thinking that if your donors had more to give, they would already be contributing it. You might be thinking about how hard your current donors are already working to support your nonprofit. Why push them too hard and risk driving them away?
The trick to mitigating these concerns is to maintain as robust donor profiles as possible. The more you know about your donors, the better targeted your major gift solicitations can be. You greatly increase your chances of receiving a “yes” if you know who, how, and when to ask.
Sometimes, finding major gift prospects inside and outside your organization isn’t the hard part — reaching out to them is.
Your most viable prospects likely find themselves on plenty of prospect lists. They’re probably used to ignoring generic solicitations from organizations they don’t have a close connection with.
To ensure that you make the most of your prospect search by approaching the candidates most likely to answer, you need more than a generic email. You need a personal solicitation from someone known to the prospect.
Take your prospect list, whether the individuals on the list came from within or without your organization, and narrow it down to the prospects with an identifiable connection to one of your nonprofit board or staff members, volunteers, or current donors (especially major donors). LinkedIn is a great resource for this kind of research.
Here are some of the connections to look out for:
To know who to approach with your prospect list, your nonprofit needs to have a reliable way of mapping these relationships. The right nonprofit software solution, like those that made Double the Donation’s list of the best nonprofit software, can make this process much easier.
All you have to do is ensure that your donor and prospect profiles are as accurate and comprehensive as possible, and the best software solutions can pull any reports you need.
For example, you discover through prospect research the university that a potential major donor attended. You filter your constituent database for the name of that university, and voila! A list of donors, volunteers, and staff members who also attended.
You can now look for other connections between your prospect and other alma mater of that university to choose the best person to reach out.
Also open your prospect search up to referrals! Just because someone didn’t make it on your prospect list doesn’t mean they wouldn’t contribute a major gift. Make sure your current constituents, especially your board members and executive officers, know that they can recommend someone at any time.
Major gifts come in many shapes and sizes. One of the best ways to expand your search for your next major gifts is to consider corporate philanthropy!
Let’s say you’re looking for a major gift for a university fundraising initiative to fund a new scholarship for low-income students. A university’s main donor pool is alumni, who don’t always have the means on their own to contribute a major gift. But an alumnus with a connection to a charitable company has other means. Their employer could sponsor the scholarship or match their employees’ donations to your campaign!
Corporate philanthropy comes in many forms, all of which have the ability to turn a normal-sized gift into a more sizable one, especially for smaller nonprofits:
You should look within your current donor list for employees of charitable companies, especially if those donors have taken advantage of their employer’s corporate philanthropy program in the past.
But you can also approach corporate philanthropy from the company’s side. Because partnering with charitable causes generates positive publicity, many companies post information about and pictures of their charitable activities on their websites and social media profiles.
Look for local businesses and larger corporations with a history of working with nonprofits similar to yours in size, mission, and geographic location. Then reach out to them, and encourage anyone you know who works there to also do so on your behalf!
Be sure to include in your letter or phone calls your mission, some statistics about your past campaigns, and a sense of urgency conveyed by a strong call to action.
If you’ve exhausted leads from your existing donor list, it’s time to get a little more creative.
Searching for major gift prospects outside your organization can take a lot of your time for little return. But if you take the time to investigate the right information, you vastly increase your chances of finding not just wealthy individuals but also philanthropically inclined individuals.
Public databases can give you insight into these wealth markers and philanthropic indicators:
You can access these public databases from anywhere with an internet connection. You can also check out more specialized databases at your local library!
While these resources can point you to donors who have demonstrated their ability and propensity to give major gifts, you’re not the only nonprofit that knows it.
There’s a good chance your solicitation could get lost. Make sure you only reach out to the donors who have demonstrated interest in causes and organizations similar to yours to increase your chance of success.
Supporting your organization is hard work. Sometimes, you need to give your current donor pool a break by bringing in some new, high-impact major donors. With these strategies, you’ll be sure to find the perfect major donors for your nonprofit!
Sarah Tedesco is the Executive Vice President of DonorSearch, a prospect research and wealth screening company that focuses on proven philanthropy. Sarah is responsible for managing the production and customer support department concerning client contract fulfillment, increasing retention rate and customer satisfaction. She collaborates with other team members on a variety of issues including sales, marketing and product development ideas.
Maria Semple is the Founder and CEO of The Prospect Finder LLC. Maria consults to small businesses and nonprofit organizations on email marketing, social media and prospecting strategies. Her book, "Magnify Your Business" was published in October 2015. She is also a Certified Solution Provider with Constant Contact.