What Is Major Donor Prospect Research?

Non Profit Major Donor Prospect Research

When creating a fundraising campaign, it is important to focus on major donor prospect research. A solid campaign requires significant planning to properly meet fundraising goals and a lot of the work is completed before you even speak to a potential donor. 

There are several aspects to consider when conducting major donor prospect research to ensure you start your campaign off on the right foot. If you are just beginning in the fundraising world, here is some guidance to help you complete thorough research. 

Major Donor Prospect Research – A Solid Foundation

Major donor prospect research is vital in laying the framework for a fundraising campaign. It will shape the structure of your campaign, identify potential new donors, and help identify where to place your fundraising focus. 

When you conduct thorough research, you are ensuring that you have a full profile of your donor pool. It will aid you in separating potential major donors away from casual donors. 

Once you have identified major donors through your research, you are then able to pin down the potential planned giving donors from the pool. You can then formulate a plan to increase communication and warm them to your organization. 

Major donor prospect research is also useful in ensuring that your donor data is up to date with contact information and biographical information. 

Major Donor Prospect Research – Metrics

When reviewing this research, there are several key metrics to look for. All donors are not made equal, and each situation should be considered on an individual basis. It is important to have an overarching profile of each potential major donor, and that means obtaining enough data. 

One important way to measure if a donor is likely to give a major gift is by screening for wealth markers. Wealth markers are signs that a person is financially capable of major donations. 

Wealth markers can include business ownership and affiliation, involvement in the stock market, or real estate holdings. Donors that own real estate of 1-2 million dollars are four times more likely to give to non-profits and charities

Previous donations are also an indicator that donors will continue to donate to non-profit causes. The previous giving does not have to be direct to your organization. If a person has a tendency toward altruistic giving, they are likely to give to other causes that are aligned with their values. 

Check for a history of charitable or political donations as an indicator that they may be a potential donor. The vast majority of planned giving donors donated at least 15 individual times to the organization named in their will.

Major Donor Prospect Research – Methods

The first thing you should do when conducting major donor prospect research is analyze your donor data for accuracy. Ensuring that your financial profiles, wealth markers, and contact information are up to date is crucial. It is important to follow this up by validating your results. 

There are several ways to approach this research. Choosing the right method for your non-profit depends on the resources you have available and your fundraising budget. 

It is possible to conduct your own individual research. This can be done by a staff member who has been specifically hired for this role, or you could attempt to manage the information yourself. If the budget is tight, this may be your best option, but there is a learning curve. Ensuring your major donor prospect research is conducted correctly will help you hit your fundraising goal, so make sure to take sufficient time to research. 

Consultants are another option if there is a little more flexibility in your budget. Major donor prospect research consultants often have significant previous experience as major gift officers. They are brought on for this specific duty for a limited period of time. This is worthwhile if you do not have the time to educate yourself or a staff member on how to do major donor prospect research properly. If you are working with a larger organization and have a significant budget, there are prospect companies that can be utilized to help you conduct significant major donor prospect research. These companies are very specialized and are able to take on research of a much larger scope. 

Major Donor Prospect Research – Utilization

Once you have collected donor data, it is time to analyze the metrics. If you have hired a consultant or prospect company, they should be able to help you with this step. 

Use the data to craft a solicitation plan. Identify who you will focus your efforts on, how you will engage and cultivate a relationship with them, how and when you will ask for the donation, and in which ways they will expect to be recognized or thanked. Every effort should be made to work towards a long-term major donor relationship based on the data. Although data from major donor prospect research never truly reveals the full financial picture, it will lead you toward targeting a smaller group of potential donors. You can then focus your intentions on planning events or marketing campaigns that will appeal to them. 

The Bottom Line

Major donor prospect research is essential in crafting and executing a fundraising campaign. It will help you laser target your solicitation to increase the likelihood of receiving donations. Thoroughly conducted major donor prospect research is also one of the building blocks of identifying future planned giving opportunities. Although time-consuming, conducting this fundamental research can significantly improve your fundraising strategy. 

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