The theme for our HBG September blog is prospect identification and, because it’s one of her favorite activities, I asked Senior Researcher Jennifer Turner to give us some creative ideas for finding new donors. Over to you, Jen!
Your usual prospecting assignment: Find high net worth individuals (HNWIs) with the capacity to make a gift in a specific target range and with a likely interest in your cause.
Sounds like Prospecting 101, right?
Your usual method might be head to donor lists of organizations similar to yours to see who is giving, and at what level.
But what if you took some slightly unusual approaches – ones that shake up the traditional ways you normally prospect? Might that result in viable new prospects as well? My experience says yes!
Here are some alternative approaches to prospecting that I have found fruitful in the past (in random order):
1. Eliminate the need to demonstrate that the prospect has an interest in your cause. Why? Because this gives you the opportunity to interest them in a new cause – your cause. If they are already committed to organizations too similar to yours, they may view your organization as a competitor. However, if they are not already committed to a similar organization, this may give you the chance to interest them in a cause they didn’t even know they could feel passionate about. Look for organizations that might be related to yours, but not in exactly the same ‘space.’
2. Try looking just at real estate! Don’t limit yourself to looking at potential prospects’ giving history. Check out who amongst your donors has the highest valued homes in a fundraiser’s region. At certain levels (property value or number of properties held, for example), this can be a great indicator of capacity even if they haven’t yet made a gift to your organization up to their potential. Take the time to explore Google Maps and Zillow, or conduct more direct searching using the real estate records in sources like iWave, LexisNexis, or ResearchPoint.
2.b. If you need to jump-start your real estate searching, or your fundraiser has the freedom to travel anywhere in the U.S., begin by looking at the areas you already know scream wealth using lists like Forbes’ list of America’s Wealthiest Zip Codes
3. Don’t forget about the people who give through their foundations. Use Foundation Directory Online or Guidestar to discover which foundations support organizations like yours. You may not be interested in submitting a proposal for a grant to a foundation, but this can be a great way to identify new individual prospects that are founders, family members or program officers who run that foundation.
4. Don’t rule out the power of your own board. In addition to making gifts and giving advice to your organization, your own board members can serve as a great resource for finding new prospects. It’s all about connections – look at the other boards they are involved with and check out those board lists. Who knows how many prospects with a similar interest you may uncover? And once discovered, you may already have a foot in the door if your board member would be willing make the first introduction for you. Many times, a fundraiser or chief executive may ask board members to provide lists of people they know, but this rarely is successful. Provide your fundraiser with pre-researched lists (or relationship maps) in advance to show board members so that they have a ready-made conversation starter.
I would never say that one method works better than another (I’ve used all of them as well as the traditional methods with success). In fact, I would suggest finding prospects that fit both criteria – demonstrated interest in your cause and NO prior interest or giving history found – in order to have a good balance of prospects.
Just be sure to go with the comfort level of the fundraiser you are prospecting for. Some are more comfortable working with “traditional” prospects, but I’ve worked with others who have said “Just tell me that they have assets of X and give me their phone number! We’ve got a great cause and I know I can interest them in it!”
Either way, prospecting is a lot of fun and there are lots of ways to be creative. What are your favorite tips?