4 Reasons Your Organization Should Perform Prospect Research

The term research scares some people. It evokes images of all-nighters in the library in college and annotated bibliographies. You can’t really blame those who fear it.

Here’s the thing, there’s one kind of research we should all welcome, especially nonprofit professionals…prospect research.

Nonprofits do all they can to maximize funding, from curating an excellent web presence for online fundraising to carefully writing and choosing the materials to go into a direct mail campaign, organizations are always looking for an added edge.

Nonprofits, meet prospect research. DonorSearch_1

Prospect research takes the guesswork out of fundraising. It puts valuable information in the hands of the fundraisers who need it. A lawyer would not go into court without case files, a doctor would not go into the operating room without reviewing a patient’s medical records, and a fundraiser should not go into an ask without proper knowledge of the prospect.

Here are four reasons to get going and begin prospect research today!

#1: Targeting Major Gift Prospects

They say a penny saved is a penny earned. Well, the same goes for time. And in the case of this discussion, development staff’s time. During fundraising campaigns nonprofits need to optimize staff time.

Time is a limited and diminishing resource, so fundraisers need to focus their efforts on the prospects most likely to convert to donors, and, even more specifically, major donors.

To efficiently target those major gift prospects, nonprofits perform prospect screenings. The screenings will look at past charitable donations and giving capacities to help isolate those high quality donors.

The extra information provided by prospect research will also be a huge help in determining the ideal amount to ask for.

#2: Discover Major Gift Prospects Among Your Annual Fund Donors

DonorSearch_2Many of your major gift prospects are hiding in your list of annual fund donors. Prospect screenings will hunt through those donors and highlight the qualified major gift prospects.

Annual Fund donors are clearly already established as loyal and committed to your cause. With prospect research, you can root out who of those loyal donors can give a major gift.

For instance, through the research you could discover that one of your annual fund donors has given a large donation to another nonprofit. That tells you that you have a dedicated donor with major giving capabilities in your midst. Your staff can then adjust their ask policies with said supporter accordingly.

#3: Find New Prospects

Nonprofit fundraising is a careful balance of acquisition and retention. Although organizations aim for high retention rates,donor acquisition is still a crucial factor in the growing success of any nonprofit.

Prospect research can help any organization find new prospects. Whether highlighting significant relationships current donors have with prospects or culling through the supporters of similar organizations, the research will do much of the heavy lifting when it comes to compiling a list of new prospects.

#4: Update Your Donor Data

DonorSearch_3The better your donor data is, the better your fundraising efforts are. It is absolutely vital that organizations keep up-to-date and accurate donor data in their databases.

This is easier said than done, but luckily prospect research can help. Screenings will often fill in gaps in donor information.

Inaccurate donor data leads to missed opportunities. For instance, knowing the employer of a donor could be the difference between receiving a matching gift and never even thinking to ask for one in the first place.

Nonprofits should know as much as they can about prospects, and that starts with basic information. The four reasons listed above are just four of the many. Don’t let your organization fall behind its fundraising goals because of a fixable problem. Learn all you can, while you can.

Guest Post provided by Sarah Tedesco of Donor Search. Sarah is the Executive Vice President at DonorSearch, 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 client retention, and customer satisfaction. She collaborates with other team members on a variety of issues including sales, marketing and product development ideas.

Which Fundraising Event Is Best for Your Nonprofit?

So, you’ve decided to host a fundraising event. But how do you decide which fundraising event is the best for your organization?

Software Advice, a company that helps nonprofits find and compare fundraising software, tackles that question and more in their new report. Nonprofit market researcher Janna Finch interviewed industry experts and analyzed survey responses from almost 100 event-planning professionals to identify events with the highest return on investment (ROI), and explored how software can help with ease of planning.

She found that fun runs and walks are the best major event for nonprofits of all sizes. Her conclusion was based on the fact that fun runs and walks are both the easiest to plan and deliver a high return on investment.To jump start your event, check out DoJiggy’s walkathon software and free guide to hosting a walkathon.

Other key findings Fun Run Winnersfrom the report are explored in a Q&A with Janna here:

What are some ways nonprofits can evaluate what fundraising event is the best for their organization?
Budget and staff/volunteer resources are, for obvious reasons, the biggest factors that determine which events a nonprofit can execute on.

An event planner’s experience is also an important consideration when choosing an event. Experienced planners can anticipate and preempt issues that a novice can’t, as well as coordinate more efficiently and understand what it takes to make an event a worthwhile experience for both the nonprofit and attendees. So, a nonprofit that doesn’t have someone on board with event planning experience should cut its teeth on a fun run or walk, a non-sports competition like a bake-off, or an a-thon event like a bowl-a-thon, because planners in our sample say those are the easiest to plan.

How can softw
are improve fundraising event coordination & organization?
As we found in our study, all major events are relatively difficult for small nonprofits to plan and it’s harder for them to earn a reasonable ROI than it is for their larger counterparts. But fundraising software can make a difference by stretching small nonprofit’s limited resources.Fundraising ROI

For example, many online fundraising and event management applications allow event attendees to register, pay event fees and make donations themselves. By letting attendees enter the details and software to tally the reporting results —rather than paying staff or volunteers—administrative tasks and details can be managed by as little as one person, even for larger events with hundreds of attendees.

What was the most surprising finding for you?
I am actually surprised that respondents from midsize and large nonprofits ranked fun runs and walks as highly as they did—even higher than galas. Galas are the “old standby,” so to learn that event planners for those nonprofits rank them as moderately difficult to plan and see only a moderate ROI is a bit of a shock.

I can only guess as to why this is, but think Katherine Wertheim’s explanation of transformational vs. transactional events is one factor. By default, fun runs and walks are more transformational than transactional and it’s not uncommon to ask for pledges, whereas galas are more transactional. Thus, the opportunity for a high return is higher for fun runs from the get-go and galas are starting with a less “transformed” audience.

Software Advice has also put together this great infographic capturing some of the key findings from the report. We hope this can be a resource for nonprofits considering different kinds of fundraising events.

Crowdfunding for Homeless and Runaway Youth

Helping our homeless and runaway youth is what Ride for New Beginnings is all about, a lively crowdfunding event. Harbor House needs funding for its emergency youth shelter, transitional living program, outreach programs and family crisis intervention services.


This year their bike-a-thon has 2 options, a 3 day or a 5 day ride starting on June 26. Individual crowdfunding participants are required to pay a $100 registration fee, which is a great idea in deferring logistical costs and raising more funds. Each crowdfunding participant has created a fundraising page and are multiplying their fundraising dollars as they tap into their social networks to raise funds for homeless and runaway youth. They’ve included personalized pictures and videos, a personal statement, fundraising thermometer and goal. There is an online control panel for each biker to email friends, update their fundraising webpage, and manage incoming online donations.

“Harbor House is a non-profit agency dedicated to assisting homeless, abused, neglected and abandoned youth, ages 10-21, throughout Central New Jersey. Our mission is to provide a safe haven and caring environment for vulnerable, at-risk youth to enable them to unlock their potential and learn skills that will empower them to build healthier lives, relationships and futures.”

“We understand that it’s not your fault, and the world when you are unprepared is indeed dark, cold and loud. Harbor House, an IRS certified 501©3 non-profit agency, staffed by caring experts, provides you with more than shelter. We freely give you the full, individualized support you need to begin your healthy, happy and ultimately successful life’s journey.”

Crowdfunding Software offers your organization a cutting-edge, responsive website for
your online peer-to-peer fundraising campaign, such as a bike-a-thon or walk-a-thon. Look for crowdfunding software which provides a complete management experience with the ability to customize your website with ease of design for all platforms – desktop, tablets and mobile.

Orphan Care Fundraising Tips

The AIDS Orphan Care vision is to improve the lives of African children orphaned by HIV/AIDS by providing them with the same things we want for our own kids – food, clothing, a warm bed, an education, health care and the knowledge that somebody cares. In Lesotho, Southern Africa, where 1 in 4 adults has HIV, a whole generation of parents have died of HIV/AIDS, leaving more than 100,000 orphans.


“We can let an orphan know that she’s not alone. Let her know that on the other side of the world, someone cares.”

Each year they hold the AIDS Orphan Care Walkathon, sponsored by the International Child Resource Institute. Their crowdfunding website shares some great fundraising tips, inspiring their participants to aim high. Through their example and those offered by other successful crowdfunding campaigns, we share their keys to success:

Believe in Yourself

  • Registering to participate in an orphan fundraising crowdfunding event is the first step in believing in yourself – believe that you can make a difference.
  • Create your personal fundraising page and add photos and videos that mean something to you and reflect your efforts.
  • Tell your audience of why you care on your personal fundraising page and share your mission statement and vision for the future.
  • Aim high and set your fundraising goal accordingly, believing that you can achieve it.
  • Make a donation to yourself online. Your gift will set the tone for others to give, as leading by example holds such power.

Write about It

  • Send a letter in the mail to friends, family, and co-workers who are not online, asking for their support. Explain why the cause is important to you and put your heart in your words.
  • Use the same letter in emails to everyone you know asking them to sponsor you.
  • Post your letter to your social media pages. You may vary each letter if you wish…be genuine, put some thought and time into it and reach people with your writing.

Make a List

Make a list of potential donors. Include everyone you know.

  1. Your family
  2. Your friends
  3. Your work or school
  4. Your church, temple or religious community
  5. Your neighborhood
  6. Businesses you support
  7. Your sports team or gym
  8. Your social media contacts – Facebook, Twitter, etc
  9. Other groups you participate in: Alumnae group, Book group, Dance or yoga class, Computer class, Bowling team, Your children’s play group

Ask in Person

  • Take your pledge form and personal web page address everywhere you go and ask everyone you interact with to sponsor you.
  • If you don’t ask, you are deciding ‘no’ for someone who may want to give.
  • Get permission to make a brief announcement at a staff meeting, church meeting, or in class. Then make it easy for people to donate by being available afterward with your pledge form and webpage address.
  • Hold public meetings at your library, school or town hall explaining the needs of orphans and why you’re involved in fundraising through your crowdfunding event. Post flyers for these meetings and pass them out on the street.

Reach out to local media channels

  • Call your local radio station or visit in person to ask for an interview to announce your event. Ask them for an opportunity to explain what the needs are of orphans and how people can help through your pledge event.
  • Call or visit your local TV station and ask if you and your team may appear, or ask them to make an announcement for you.
  • Call or visit your local newspaper office and ask for an interview. Bring them your letters and mission statements that you have shared online.
  • Remember that you are doing global community fundraising to help orphans who deserve the help of your local media channels. You are not asking for yourself.

Double and Quadruple Your Money

  • Many employers offer matching funds programs. Inquire with your HR department.
  • Why walk alone? Form a team and get everybody fundraising together. Teams generate fun and energy while you support each other to charge forward and raise more funds.
  • Ask businesses to match your fundraising dollars earned, dollar for dollar. Offer them the recognition of posting thank you notes on your social media platforms and email. Share with local media channels who your fabulous sponsors are.

Free crowdfunding resources are available online to help you in getting started on the road to organizing a successful walk-a-thon. Whether this is your first time planning a walk-a-thon or you already have an established peer-to-peer event, you’ll find some helpful resources.

Matching Gifts: An Underutilized Fundraising Idea for Nonprofits

There is a way to raise more money from donors without asking them to give more of their own money. It’s a fundraising method that raises billions of dollars for nonprofits every year. The reason that your donors might not give you this extra money is because there is an unfortunate lack of awareness for these programs.

We’re talking about matching gifts, which are a type of corporate giving program that can be one of many strategies to boost all of your fundraising campaigns.

matching-giftsWhat is a matching gift?

When employees donate to nonprofits, many companies will match these donations if the nonprofit is registered as an eligible 501(c)(3) or similar charitable organization with the IRS. Not all companies offer charitable giving programs, so employees need to check either with their HR departments or with the help of a matching gift service.


As an example, imagine Cleaver, who works for Texas Instruments:

  1. Cleaver makes a $500 donation to his favorite nonprofit.
  2. The nonprofit thanks Cleaver and kindly asks him to see if he’s eligible to give a matching gift.
  3. Cleaver contacts Texas Instruments’ HR department and discovers that they’ll match his donation at a 1:1 (dollar-for-dollar) ratio.
  4. Cleaver submits a matching gift request through the Texas Instruments online portal.
  5. Texas Instruments approves of Cleaver’s request and writes the designated nonprofit a check for $500.
  6. The nonprofit receives both Cleaver’s $500 gift and the donation from Texas Instruments, doubling a $500 donation into a $1,000 donation.

While a calculator from Texas Instruments can solve calculus problems, matching gifts are much simpler. From fundraising for museums to fundraising for summer camps, matching gifts can provide easy, extra money that nonprofits can accrue simply by asking donors to check if their employers offer corporate giving programs.

What are important facts to know about matching gifts?

If you’re going to ask donors for matching gifts, then it’s important to know the lingo of the land:

  • Matching gift ratio – Most companies match/double donations by giving an amount equal to what the employee gave. Other companies might triple (2:1 ratio) or quadruple (3:1 ratio) donations.
  • Minimum matched – Most companies institute minimum donations. The typical minimum is either $25 or $50.
  • Maximum matched – Companies employ maximum amounts so that there’s enough money to go around to all employees who want to provide additional help to the causes they care about. Maximums vary greatly by company and can be anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars.
  • Who can apply? – Full-time employees, spouses, board members, part-time employees, and retirees all may be eligible for matching gifts. The specific eligible employees vary by company, and some employees may be able to apply for more matching gifts than others. For example, State Street permits employees to match higher donations depending on their level of employment status with the company. Other companies allow certain employees to apply for 1:1 matches, while permitting higher-level employees to request bigger matches, such as 2:1.
  • How do people submit matching gift requests? – Most employers make it easy for employees by offering online portals through which matching requests may be submitted. Other companies require that requests be submitted to the human resources department using a paper form, and some companies offer the convenience of both options.

Ever showed up to a party and people were using words you couldn’t understand? Now that won’t happen, so long as you’re attending matching gift parties (which, of course, are awesome, and far too rare…).

How can you promote matching gifts?

Knowing that the bakery down the street makes the most delicious cupcakes doesn’t do anything but whet your appetite. In order to satiate your grumbling stomach, you need to actually go to the bakery, buy a cupcake, and eat that dessert like it’s your mouth’s perfect match.

Marketing matching gifts doesn’t have to take a lot of time. Some simple promotional techniques, especially those geared toward the growing presence of online fundraising, can help to spread the word to eligible donors, so they don’t just think about submitting matching requests, but actually do.


Whether you’re running a homeless shelter or a  grateful patient program, one of the easiest promotional techniques is implementing matching gift messaging in your email signature. Email signatures can do a surprising amount of work, as you likely send emails to donors, your staff, and prospects.

Donors who are eligible might see the matching gift appeal and finally decide to submit a request. Staff could see the message and decide to incorporate matching gift asks into their own talks with donors. When prospects are made aware of matching gifts, your nonprofit really stands to benefit.

A test revealed that donation appeals featuring matching gifts earned a 37% higher response rate and raised 54% more revenue. The average gift was also 63% higher. Something about knowing that their money can do more encourages donors not only to give, but to be a little more generous with their gifts.

The text for an email signature can be as simple as one of the following examples:

  • Are you eligible for a matching gift? Find out now if you can double your donation: [insert url to a dedicated matching gift page].
  • Did you know that many employers will match employee donations? Find out if you’re eligible for a matching gift: [insert url to a dedicated matching gift page].
  • Matching gifts help [insert name of nonprofit] to do so much more for the community. Please take a few minutes to see if you’re eligible to double your donation: (insert url to a dedicated matching gift page].

Email signatures take mere minutes to set up and can help to inform many donors about the possibility of a matching gift. 93% of employers with corporate giving programs allow their staff to choose the nonprofits to which they donate. Make sure that as many matching gift eligible donors as possible choose your nonprofit by letting them know how the additional funds help your organization.

Matching gift promotion can be done in a variety of ways, most of which are not time intensive or expensive. Think about how your nonprofit promotes other initiatives and how matching gifts could be incorporated into those marketing schemes or promoted with similar efforts.

What companies offer matching gifts?

Plenty of companies offer matching gifts. You want to know who these companies are, because you likely have volunteers who work for these companies, and the additional funds that corporate giving provides can be a big boost for any fundraising campaign. Matching gifts can be incorporated into seasonal fundraising campaigns, annual campaigns, and are one of the top Giving Tuesday campaign ideas to increase fundraising from some of your devoted supporters.

Companies offer matching gifts for a variety of reasons:

  • Support their employees
  • Support the causes that their employees care about
  • Use the matching gift submission process as a chance to screen nonprofits to ensure that their money is being donated to reputable, reliable organizations
  • Promote the company as philanthropic and dedicated to helping the world

Companies large and small offer matching gift programs. General Electric started the first matching gift program in 1954, Microsoft has the biggest corporate giving program, and Soros Fund Management offers one of the most generous matching gift programs. Online crowdfunding might be the new kid on the block in fundraising, but matching gifts can still be an effective way to raise more money, and even from the people who donate to your crowdfunding campaigns.

The heart of successful fundraising entails a dedication to several important factors, but all successful fundraising results in more money raised to support your cause. Matching gifts are an easy, effective way to boost campaigns through money that companies want to give to nonprofits. You just have to ask for it.


Guest Post provided by DoubletheDonation – Matching Gifts Made Easy!