Bill has also been a great partner to the nonprofit sector, providing comprehensive, affordable donor research tools and technology. So I decided to interview him and provide some valuable advice to you regarding prospect research.
With prospect research, you can gain valuable insight into your donors and leverage that information to improve your fundraising practices.
AE: Why is donor research so important, especially at this time of year?
BT: With prospect research, you can gain valuable insight into your donors and leverage that information to improve your fundraising practices.
For your year-end activities, you’ll be largely focusing on donors that are already in your donor pool, rather than new prospects. The fact that all of your efforts will be aimed at donors in your database makes it that much easier to begin the research process and get down to brass tacks early and quickly.
Ensure Your Contact Data is Correct
AE: What do you recommend development directors do to make the most of their year-end fundraising push.
BT: First, I would recommend filling in any missing donor contact data.
You won’t get very far with your year-end donor outreach if you do not have up-to-date and accurate donor data. Prospect research can both fill in necessary donor contact information that you’re missing and correct data that has changed or was incorrect to begin with.
From a practical standpoint, sending out a direct mail appeal will do you no good if the donor you’re mailing has changed addresses since you last input the information in your database. Even if you do have the correct address, how do you think a donor would feel if you spelled his or her name wrong?
For instance, what if a donor’s name is Catherine with a “C” and you refer to her as Katherine with a “K.” It might not seem like a major error in the grand scheme of things, but for that donor on the day that she receives your letter, she’ll definitely notice and be less inclined to give.
AE: It’s true! Nothing’s a greater turn-off to donors than having their name spelled incorrectly.
We’re living in an age where donors expect us to be donor centered, which means being able to address them correctly — especially existing donors (those who have given to you in the past).
Look to the Past to Succeed Today
AE: What other tips do you have?
BT: I like to quote Mark Twain, who said, “Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection.” It’s true in all aspects of life, professional and personal.
If a nonprofit wants to see progress in a particular area, it has to look to the past and examine its performance indicators. When year-end fundraising season rolls around (aka right now), use prospect research to gauge your organization’s success last year and in years prior.
During the period, you should be looking for the:
- Number of donations secured.
- Specific donors who gave/didn’t give.
- Average gift amount.
- Date range when your year-end efforts were most successful.
All of that data on past giving can be used to guide how you manage and implement your various fundraising appeals.
AE: That’s so true. Do you have an example?
BT: Yes. You could look specifically at #GivingTuesday performance. Maybe this year your team wants to place a heavier emphasis on fundraising that day. In your communications leading up to that Tuesday (the Tuesday following Thanksgiving), divide your donors according to if they gave on #GivingTuesday last year or not.
Take Full Advantage of Workplace Giving
AE: We have time for one final tip.
BT: I would suggest using research to uncover relevant employer information to take full advantage of workplace giving programs.
The biggest obstacle between nonprofits and workplace giving is a general lack of awareness. It is striking how few employees know about the giving opportunities available to them.
Part of correcting that issue is simply promoting workplace giving programs, like volunteer grants and matching gifts, alongside your year-end appeals.
The second part of the puzzle is the one that takes prospect research into account. Use prospect research to uncover relevant employer data about your donors and then tell eligible donors about corporate philanthropy programs.
AE: Good point. However, if you have a massive donor pool, this might be an insurmountable task in the remaining months between now and year’s end.
Instead of researching all of your donors’ employers, you could filter out anyone who is not a major gift donor, or you could zero in on those who gave a certain gift size last year at this time.
My sincere thanks to Bill for joining me for this interview. I know my readers will appreciate your insights, Bill.
Get the Study Results
Bill and Donor Search were an important sponsor for the major gifts research project. And the results of this study were truly amazing.
You can download the results of the major gifts study here, at the Mastering Major Gifts website.