Guest Post: 3 Ways Prospect Research Can Help Your Organization Raise More Major Gifts

By Sarah Tedesco, DonorSearch

In all likelihood, you’ve heard about the benefits of casting a wide net. Whether sending out job applications or entering the dating game, expanding your options can help you succeed in the long run. Shouldn’t the same strategy hold true for nonprofit fundraising?

Well, maybe not. While small donations here and there do help, development wisdom tells us that as much as 80 or 90% of donations come from a minority, about 20%, of major gift donors. That means that if you spread yourself too thin, you could miss huge fundraising opportunities.

Investing in prospect research helps you identify where to focus your attention for the best results. Here are just a few major ways that prospect research can improve your fundraising efforts:

1) Learn More About Existing Donors

Whatever the cause, or size, of your organization, making the world a better place takes time—and manpower. When you send your development team out to strengthen donor relationships without prospect research, you’re potentially losing a lot of your employees’ and donors’ time. And your time is money, after all.

Prospect research helps you work more efficiently by providing useful details about your existing donors. Sure, you can’t read your donors’ minds, but you can learn about their philanthropic habits, business relationships and financial situations. This information allows you to pursue more personalized, cost-effective fundraising efforts, making yours and your donors’ lives that much easier.

With ResultsPlus, for example, you can run comprehensive donor reports, view any donor’s giving history, and integrate a donor’s membership data with giving records. These tools, and more, will streamline your development process and take the guesswork out of fundraising.

2) Reach Out to Annual Fund Donors for Major Gifts

You probably have more than a few companies or individuals who give small annual donations to your organization. But just because an individual gives a couple hundred dollars a year does not mean that they are only capable—or interested—in giving only that much. It is possible that the individual simply hasn’t considered donating major gifts to your organization, or that you haven’t yet reached out.

With prospect research, you can identify which annual fund donors are most likely to give major gifts. Donors who have given larger gifts to other organizations clearly have the means to give more. Plus, you already know that they are invested in your cause, so reach out. There’s a chance that these donors are ready to take their giving to the next level.

3) Identify New Prospects at Ongoing Fundraising Opportunities

Yes, your current donors are important sources of income, but you shouldn’t be afraid to invest in new prospects. Maybe your organization already has access to a pool of potential donors and their contact information.

For example, a university gains information about incoming first-years’ parents each fall. These parents may wish to give to the university and improve their children’s learning experiences.

Although you could theoretically reach out to all of these parents and patients, it is unlikely that they all have the means or desire to donate a major gift. That’s where prospect screening and research comes in. With research, you can access new prospects’ financial information, wealth indicators, and charitable histories, giving you an idea of who is most likely to donate. This allows you to target and reach out to the most attainable donors.


These are just some of the benefits of investing in prospect research or screening. When you do cast your net, don’t do so blindly. Fundraising technologies, like ResultsPlus, will help you create educated, effective bonds with your most charitable donors. In conducting prospect research, you’ll get back the time and energy you put into it, and then some.




sarah tedesco donorsearchSarah Tedesco 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.