Would you apply for a job without researching the company?
When looking for a new job, we scour the company website for information and history. We check LinkedIn to learn more about the people we’ll be meeting in the interview process. We check review sites to learn what other employees say about their employer. It’s all part of the process.
Have you ever considered that meeting with a donor, especially to make that-all-important-ask, is not dissimilar a job interview?
You’re asking this individual, their family, or maybe their company to invest in your mission and ultimately… in you. And like a job interview, it may take several conversations.
You’ll also be charged with ensuring this donor is thanked and showed the impact of their gift, the approach to which may differ based on the donor’s preference.
Since you wouldn’t dream of walking into a job interview without doing your research, why would you consider walking into a donor meeting without doing the same type of preparation and research?
A bit of prospect research can take away some of the pain by ensuring we’re asking for the right amount for the right program to match the interest of the donor.
A good place to start is their past giving.
If it’s a current donor to your organization, look at they’ve contributed in the past. Make note of programs or funds they’ve supported, how much they’ve given, and their annual gift amounts.
Most people give to more than one charitable organization. Finding where else a donor gives helps you determine their interests beyond your one program or project they typically support. We often assume our stakeholders know ALL about our organization. That is not necessarily true. You may find a donor is giving to a similar program somewhere else. It is completely possible they don’t know you offer the same program, and you maybe leaving a significant gift on the table.
Donors who give to political campaigns also typically make charitable gifts. When your prospect is on a political giving report, they are likely making donations to nonprofit organizations too. You can use this information to help determine areas of interest as well as an ask amount. One rule of thumb for major gift and capital campaigns: if a donor has made consistent annual gifts for at least 2-3 years, asking for a commitment of 10x that annual amount is a good place to start.
Look at giving history with other nonprofits. Would you be surprised to know that your top donors may be giving at a higher level somewhere else? Donors often give what they are asked to give. If the amount is below what they are expecting, they’re not likely to offer a larger gift. More likely, they’ll give what is asked and begin to feel disengaged because you don’t see them as a leader in your organization. This can be costly to your organization. You may have left thousands of dollars on the table. Worse yet, you may have disappointed this donor so much that they no longer consider a major gift to your organization. You may be able to rebuild that trust and relationship, but it could have been avoided.
Prospect research and wealth screening tools are often the last budget items to get approved. However, they can be invaluable when it comes to setting a strategy to reach your goals. As a Development Director, you will always have a few long-term donors or board members who you know well, but institutional knowledge and database notes only take you so far.