Nonprofit prospect research

Successful moves management depends upon a strong foundation of research — this is true whether we are considering individuals, strategic partners or grantmaking institutions.

Nonprofit prospect research the foundation of Moves management

Successful moves management depends upon a strong foundation of research — this is true whether we are considering individuals, strategic partners or grantmaking institutions. Research helps you:

  1. Identify new prospective donors who may be interested in your nonprofit mission or program.
  2. Deepen your knowledge about existing prospects and donors to improve your ability to connect with them.
  3. Uncover connectors within your prospect and donor base to influence future fundraising strategies.

At Faircom, we utilize a series of free, subscription and proprietary data sources to build targeted prospect lists and profiles for our nonprofit partners. 

Prospect Identification for New Leads 

Faircom can help to identify new funding leads for your nonprofit. To do so, we follow a Linkage-Ability-Interest or LAI approach.

  • Linkage refers to a pre-existing connection to you in some way. This is important because introductions through a known, shared contact — what we call peer referrals — can be a huge asset in opening the door to a prospect.
  • Ability correlates to the capacity an individual or institution has to give. For individuals, we use formulas based on known assets to estimate net worth, while institutions often have greater transparency in disclosing their assets based on legal obligations.
  • Interest should be an obvious point — is this prospect engaged in causes like yours, especially through their philanthropy? This could be shown by gift or grantmaking history, or through other indicators like Board memberships, volunteer work or personal experience.

Before we get started, we ask for a lot of information from your team, including but not limited to:

  • Strategic planning documents that set your mission and agenda for the next decade.
  • Ethical guidelines that dictate whether or not you will accept gifts from certain industries.
  • A listing of current and former Board members as well as other friends of your organization.
  • A list of current and former donors, ideally including any details for the program funded (if applicable) as well as the gift or grant amount.

After reviewing these documents and an exploratory kick-off conversation with you, we develop a suggested research brief for your review, feedback and approval that will guide the research process. This is a valuable onboarding period that helps us get to know your organization better while also ensuring that our work will reflect your goals.

We set bi-weekly check-in calls throughout the research process, during which time we share our current findings so that you can ask questions and offer feedback that further guides our approach. Our research findings are typically presented in a spreadsheet format with customized fields to allow import into your CRM, or with the following standard fields:

  • Name (of the individual or institution).
  • Prospect type (e.g., individual, foundation, corporation).
  • Contact details (of gatekeeper or program officer, if applicable).
  • Brief biography with relevant charitable/grants history, as well as non-monetary charitable engagement (e.g., Board affiliations).
  • Any applicable linkage to your organization and additional researcher notes.
  • Initial wealth estimate or detail on recent total assets/giving.

We offer prospect research packages at 10, 20 or 30 hours per month, with a minimum investment of two months to ensure several rounds of conversation and feedback. We also work with organizations on an ongoing retainer basis to cover a range of strategy and support services, which can include prospect research.

With this research and a set of new prospects in hand, it is then time to activate a Prospect Qualification agenda.


Increased Potential in Your Current Donors

Research is not limited to examining external or “cold” audiences only — in fact, some of your best prospects could be existing donors to your organization. These contacts have already proven their interest in your mission, and they have the added benefit of already being linked to you as well. The question we ask is, do they have the ability to be giving more?

In some cases, you may have a gut feeling that specific donors — be they individual or institutional — have the potential to dig deeper in support of your work. Often times, those gut feelings are right! The challenge you are facing is that you don’t know how to develop a moves management plan to bring them from A-to-B. In this case, we would suggest identifying a list to target for in-depth donor profiles or a tailored research agenda.

However, you may have a more general feeling that there is hidden potential in your current database without knowing where that potential lies. The good news here is that, again, your gut is probably telling the truth! Before becoming a mid-level or even major gift donor, it is not unlikely for an individual to be giving to an organization for five to ten years. If you don’t know how to identify these donors, Faircom offers a Database Screening, after which we can help you define and implement the strategies to move these donors to higher giving levels.


In-Depth Prospect and Donor Profiles

Once you have qualified a prospect — whether a totally new prospect or an existing donor — the Faircom research team can jump back in to develop in-depth profiles. These profiles can be built in a format to easily import into your CRM, or we can share documents with the following standard fields for individuals:

  • Name and contact details.
  • Gatekeeper details, if applicable.
  • Full profile narrative. 
  • Education/career history. 
  • Family details. 
  • Board engagement. 
  • List of key contacts. 
  • All available gift history.  
  • Refreshed wealth estimate, with breakout by source. 
  • Interesting personal facts. 
  • Full source listing.

Or the following standard fields for institutions:

  • Institution name.
  • Full institution narrative with program highlights. 
  • Board listing.
  • Board cycle.
  • Application/proposal review process.
  • Key program officer/contact name.
  • Key program officer/contact profile, including education/career history, external/Board engagement and personal highlights.
  • Recent grants history, including all grants in your sector and highlights of top grants from other sectors.
  • Average/median grant amount.  
  • Refreshed assets summary and total grantmaking. 
  • Full source listing.

We wait to develop profiles like these until after you have gone through Prospect Qualification because, regardless of the targeting and quality of research findings, some of your leads will not make it to the stage of Prospect & Donor Cultivation. In-depth profiles can take several hours to complete, and that is not time — or money! — well spent on a prospect who is disqualified and never makes it into your cultivation pool.

However, the details uncovered in an in-depth prospect or donor profile are incredibly valuable during the cultivation process. Cultivation is the period of time leading up to a solicitation (when you ask for money).  Prospect and donor cultivation is important for both you and your prospect to get to know each other better — which, among other things:

  • Supports your approach and helps you to define your ask
  • Builds greater loyalty between prospects or donors and your organization.
  • Helps you determine the best timing of your solicitation.

Because successful cultivation depends upon developing a stronger, more meaningful connection to your prospect, it helps to have more information about them on hand. The Faircom research team can build profiles on your donors and prospects, which then become living documents that you add to over time as you learn more through conversations, media or press clippings and other exchanges. 

For example, we may share that Prospect Jane Doe, who lives in Utah, graduated with a degree in architecture from Cornell University. So, you may send Jane a magazine article from Architectural Digest that talks about a new project at Park City’s Kimball Art Center, or you may schedule a lunch for Jane with a Board member who also graduated from Cornell to introduce a program they are spearheading at the organization. These touchpoints are informed by research and are designed to show that you value your prospect for more than their money — that you are also interested in them as people, which leads to a stronger relationship over time. 

Need help with nonprofit prospect research?

At Faircom, we offer in-depth prospect profile development as a standalone service  based on the number of profiles to be completed. We also work with organizations on an ongoing retainer basis to cover a range of strategy and support services, which can include preparation of in-depth profiles on an as-needed basis.

Questions about our services or approach to fundraising?

We can customize a scope of work to respond to your greatest needs — building either a standalone project to fill essential gaps in the short term or looking at a longer-term relationship for ongoing strategy consulting. 

If you aren’t sure where to begin, we are eager to open up a conversation to explore more!