Elevate your nonprofit: Prospect Research

Posted on July 10, 2020

by Zachary H

The article is the first in a series of three covering library resources that can be used to elevate your nonprofit organization. To learn more about the resources mentioned, contact grant specialist Zach Huber.

Fundraising is difficult, no matter who you are. I’ve done it both as my job and as a board officer and neither is easy. What helps the most is preparation – know your talking points and your organization’s strengths and highlights. But more importantly, know your prospect. Being able to reach your donor in a meaningful way will ensure you are not wasting both your time and the donor’s trying to solicit donations that won’t align with the donor’s values. But how can you learn about your donor if you haven’t met them? The answer is data.

A good fundraiser must rely on data as fundraising becomes more competitive and expensive. It takes more resources to acquire new donors than it does to retain current ones. Prospect research offers insight into potential donors’ interests and capacity so you can better align your time in developing a fundraising plan and targeting donors who will consider donating to your organization. Prospect research can be time intensive and costly for larger organizations that have the resources. However, basic research can be done quickly and for free at the Toledo Lucas County Public Library (TLCPL).

The library offers two databases that can get you started on basic prospect research: ReferenceUSA and Mergent Intellect. Both databases offer similar information on individuals, however, where ReferenceUSA’s data is be more reliable, Mergent Intellect can offer more detail.

The information you can expect to find in these databases goes beyond simple contact and mailing information and includes estimated household income, estimated home value, lifestyle interests, census tracts, education level, and whether the individual is a known charitable donor or not. All of this can help in identifying donors that you may want to approach to support your organization.

Additionally, ReferenceUSA can be used pull a mailing list, but I will go into more detail on that in article three of this series.

If your nonprofit is not using some type of prospect research in your fundraising, consider trying out a simple search on these databases. It could be the difference between a major gift and “no thank you.”

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