How to Research Prospective Donors to Your Nonprofit
Find out as much as possible about a prospective contributor to your nonprofit organization before you send a fundraising letter, submit a proposal, or visit a corporate giving director. Do you have anything in common on a personal level?
Maybe the foundation director you’re meeting recently published an article. If you read it, you have a conversation topic to break the ice. This advice holds true even when your approach is a direct mail or e-mail appeal: You want to know as much as you can about the people whose names are on the lists you borrow or purchase.
More important, you want to find out as much as you can about your potential donor’s giving behavior. Does this person give small amounts of money to a wide array of organizations or generous gifts to a few selected agencies? Does the foundation like to be the only contributor to a given project, or does it prefer to support an activity along with others? Does the corporate giving program prefer a low-key style, or does it like to have the company’s involvement highlighted?
You can turn to many sources for this information; just be sure to make research a habit. For instance, you can do any of the following:
Refer to the Foundation Center library and its published and online resources ().
Look up the foundation at the Council on Foundations to see whether it has recently issued a report or has been featured in an article.
For personal information about individuals, conduct an Internet search, or check Who’s Who directories, local newspapers, and college alumni associations.
Follow business and social news along with obituaries to keep track of people’s families, professional developments, and affiliations.
Pay close attention to contributor lists when you attend events at other nonprofit organizations.