Chapter 5 Prospecting and Donor Research

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

—Ben Franklin


Prospecting and donor research are absolutely critical to a nonprofit’s long-term fundraising success. It’s about more than just collecting data; it’s about creating fundraising intelligence. To raise money, you need to be able to identify fundraising prospects, track your activities, and gather information on donors and prospects that will help you connect and develop relationships. Without intelligence, you will be operating in the dark, and at some point you’ll need to turn the lights on but won’t be able to. This is where prospecting and research tools will help.

Fundraising research helps you identify and prioritize donor prospects and provides helpful information to frontline fundraisers for their interactions with foundations, corporations, and major donors. Ultimately, it enables you to build a clear picture of your top prospects and craft appropriate strategies to maximize results. Your budget and organizational capacity will determine how deep you go, but every nonprofit trying to raise money needs to research prospects, and in particular you should focus on your top 5 to 10 percent, but of course that means you need to be able to identify them.

Having a system in place for donor research will lead to larger pools of funding prospects and increased fundraising revenue. Advances in technology and information storage have been a game-changer for ...

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