Ways to Incorporate Prospect Research into your Organization’s Fundraising

sarahBy Sarah Tedesco, Executive Vice President, DonorSearch

Prospect research is a tool used by nonprofits and fundraising teams who want to learn more about donors’ backgrounds and giving patterns. Not to be confused with wealth screening, prospect research looks at a whole host of data that includes basic information like marital status and addresses to complex data such as previous contributions to other nonprofit organizations and political campaigns as well as business affiliations.

While there are many benefits to conducting a comprehensive prospect research screening, one of the biggest advantages has to do with your nonprofit’s fundraising efforts. Whether you’re hosting a stellar fundraising event or looking to find new major gift donors, prospect research can help!

Check out the top three ways to use prospect research to take your fundraising to the next level.

  1. Discover who your potential major gift donors are

Major gift donors can be a valuable asset to your nonprofit. But sometimes, looking for a major gift prospect isn’t easy. By conducting prospect research screening, your organization can identify the potential major gift donors currently within your current donor database.

Some of the ways to identify a potential major gift prospect include:

  • Looking at the size of past donations. Donors who give large sums of money in a single donation are likely to have the means to become major gift donors down the road.
  • Tracking the frequency of contributions. While an individual who gives $10 a month is not likely to become a major gift donor anytime soon, looking at the frequency of medium to large donations can help you identify who has the potential to be a major gift donor.
  • Examining donations to other organizations and political campaigns. While a donor may not have donated a large amount to your particular organization, it doesn’t mean they’re not giving their money to a similar nonprofit. By performing a prospect research screening and finding out where donors’ dollars are going, you can identify trends in donor contributions. This information can help you establish which causes your donors care about and can help you encourage them to become major gift donors to your nonprofit.

Learn more about identifying your potential major gift donors.

  1. Identify planned giving prospects

Planned giving donors are contributors who leave monetary donations or other assets to nonprofit organizations in a will or trust. Prospect research can help point you in the right direction of donors who have the potential to become planned givers.

Some of the data that can be gleaned from a prospect research screening that can help you identify your planned giving donors include:

  • Frequent donations. Past donors are more likely to become future donors. And like when identifying major gift prospects, using prospect research can help you learn more about donors’ past giving histories. By knowing about previous giving trends, you can make more educated guesses about which of your donors has the potential to become a major gift donor.
  • Being positively affected by your organization’s work. Individuals who have benefitted from services that your nonprofit offers have a much more personal connection to your organization than individuals who simply donate their money or time. Because of this deeper relationship, a person who has benefited from the services of your nonprofit should be considered to be a planned giving prospect. Prospect research can help you determine if these individuals have the capacity to become planned giving donors. This is based on past donations to your organization and other nonprofits like yours.
  • Statistical data. Information like a donor’s age, marital status, and gender can all be indicators of a potential planned giving prospect. Single, older, female donors are more likely to become planned givers, but don’t isolate other demographics. Use statistical data in conjunction with other information to help you determine who your planned giving prospects likely are.
  1. Plan your next event

Fundraising events can be a great way to raise more money for your organization.

While there are a ton of different ways to get donors to come together to support your cause, whichever one you choose can benefit from using prospect research.

Take advantage of prospect research when hosting your next event to:

  • Build your guest list. While it’s impossible to invite every single donor that’s ever contributed to your organization to your next fundraiser. However, using prospect research can help you narrow down the list. That way,  you can invite donors who will continue to support your nonprofit through regular donations and major gift contributions.
  • Determine which donors to focus on. It is a good idea to know which donors will be coming to your fundraising event. As a result, you’ll know which ones you need to spend more time with. Perhaps you invite a donor who has been making regular gifts that have been steadily increasing over time. As a result, By using prospect research to identify who your potential major gift donors are, you can determine who to spend time with at your event.
  • Establish donor connections. Prospect research can help you learn about business affiliations and other connections that your current donors have with potential contributors. For instance, if one of your donors works with an individual who regularly contributes to a nonprofit like yours, you can make connections between the two and reach out to that potential donor. While acquiring a new donor can sometimes be tricky, I admit. However, by combining the power of prospect research and fundraising events, you can make it a little easier.

Learn more about the fundraising and what make good fundraisers and bad fundraisers.


There are numerous other ways to incorporate prospect research into your nonprofit’s fundraising efforts. And these three ways can be effective when paired with other great fundraising ideas. Learn what works best for your organization, and start using prospect research to take your fundraising to the next level!

Sarah Tedesco is the Executive Vice President of DonorSearch. DonorSearch is 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.