By Bill Tedesco
Strong donor relationships are built on exquisite communication strategies. Crafting the best donor communication methods is easily done when your organization knows your donors inside and out.
Prospect research helps your organization fundraise smarter with insights on your donors’ financial, philanthropic, and general lives. You’ll obtain details like donors’ past giving history, wealth markers, business affiliations, philanthropic involvement, and more.
Prospect research allows your organization to filter through the donors who have the capacity and willingness to give efficiently, so you don’t waste your time or threaten donor relationships with unwarranted donation appeals.
Here are 5 ways to successfully use prospect research in order to improve your donor communications:
- Build up donor profiles.
- Analyze supporters’ giving histories.
- Discover contributors’ wealth markers.
- Strategize preferred outreach methods.
- Update donors’ contact information.
If you’re ready to reap the benefits of prospect research and improve your donor communications, let’s dive in!
1. Build up donor profiles.
You’ll need to build up your donor profiles in your database before you try to craft the ultimate communication strategy.
Add in your constituents’ personal information before you get started with prospect research.
You’ll want to incorporate details like:
- Name. You won’t want to ruin an expertly crafted fundraising appeal because you address it with the wrong name. Make sure you know your donors’ nicknames and preferred names, too, because people tend to be specific about those. Plus, you’ll want to make note of donors who’ve recently gotten married or changed names for other reasons.
- Birthday. It’s important to have your supporters’ birth dates on record so you can wish them a happy birthday. Because you know their ages, you’ll even be able to determine their preferred method of communication. For example, a donor in his 60s might prefer direct mail and phone calls while a donor in her 20s might respond better to email and social media posts.
- Familial status. You’ll want to make note of your donors’ marital status as well as the the individuals in their household, like children or parents. You won’t want to send invitations that may leave out your donors’ spouses. Use this information to determine whether you should label materials to “Mrs. and Mr.” or “Mr. and Guest,” so you don’t accidentally and rudely exclude your donor’s wife.
- Interests. Include information about what your donors like to do outside of participating in your nonprofit’s community! Knowing their other interests can help your organization cater fundraising strategies, events, and more to different supporters. For example, a donor who is also a runner might love participating in your nonprofit’s upcoming 5K run!
- Social Media. Your donors’ social media profiles can tell you a lot about them! Plus, it’ll give you other opportunities to engage your supporters on their favorite platforms and allow you to grow your nonprofit’s exposure. When your donors retweet and share your organization’s posts, your donors’ networks become familiar with your organization, which has the potential to expand your donor base!
You can, of course, add in other details that your organization deems relevant. Keep in mind, these data fields can improve every aspect of your communication with prospects so it’s important to have them thoroughly filled out!
The bottom line: Building up rich and detailed prospect profiles will help your organization use its prospect research results more effectively.
2. Analyze supporters’ giving histories.
Don’t waste your time and resources by sending blanket appeals to every donor in your database! You’ll need to focus on your most promising prospects.
Do a little research in your donor database and through your donors’ giving histories.
Look for the following information:
- When they last made a contribution.
- How often they typically give.
- How much they usually donate.
These details can help you determine which donors your organization should pursue with tailored communication strategies. You won’t want to just throw around your hard work and time. Remember, time is money!
A donor who gives $500 monthly without fail and regularly volunteers at your fundraising events might be the perfect prospect to work on transitioning into a major gift donor or a board member position.
On the other hand, a donor who gives $10 a month and doesn’t have a history of engagement might not be worth stewarding for a larger donation, but they may be interested in other engagement opportunities!
Donors who give significant contributions on a regular basis warrant handwritten invitations, special ticket packages, and other exclusive offers. Interacting with these donors through personalized outreach can encourage them to increase their donations.
The bottom line: Donors’ previous giving information will help your organization determine which individuals are prospects to pursue.
3. Discover contributors’ wealth markers.
Prospect research will reveal a lot of helpful information that you can use to improve your outreach on a donor to donor basis.
For wealth indicators, prospect research can provide your organization with data like the following:
- Real estate ownership
- Stock ownership
- Political giving
- Business affiliations
With the help of prospect research, your organization can determine which supporters can give but also which are most likely to give. A donor who gives $1,000 on a yearly basis might have the capacity to contribute major gifts, however, they may not have the interest in doing so.
But this data can easily help you move donors further up the ladder from their current common giving amount.
Say, for example, you start an email fundraiser and send out an email blast that redirects donors to your online donation page. If this form has preset donation amount like $25, $50, and $100, it’s easy for a donor who typically gives $40 to increase their normal giving amount by $10.
Plus, this data will even help your organization find potential major gift donors and planned giving donors that are hidden in your donor database!
Check out Double the Donation’s Ways to Maximize the Benefits of Wealth Screening for extra tips and pointers!
The bottom line: Wealth markers will reveal major gift prospects in your donor base and determine which donors can contribute more when the opportunity arises.
4. Strategize preferred outreach methods.
As you probably already know, you can interact with donors through multiple channels of communication, like:
- Phone calls
- Text messages
- Direct mail
- Social media
- Your website
Your donors’ preferred methods of communication should help you structure your outreach. Your CRM solution should help you segment your lists based on things like interest and giving levels but also based on preferred communication channel.
These details can help you maximize your fundraising success and cut expenses. If your direct mail fundraising is no longer popular and doesn’t bring in any donations, your organization can cut your direct mail budget in half and instead, put more resources into bettering your email campaigns.
The bottom line: Think logistically. Use your donors’ preferred communication channels to interact with them and encourage giving.
5. Update donors’ contact information.
Now that you know everyone’s preferred method of communication, make sure you have their most up-to-date contact information. Your donors are just as busy as you are—they’re constantly moving, changing phone numbers, and creating new email addresses. Keep up with their new contact information!
After all, you can’t engage a donor when you don’t have their information.
You’ll want to keep the following information on record for each donor:
- Phone number
- Email address
- Mailing address
- Social media handles
Keeping your information updated directly correlates to using your resources wisely. Don’t let your investment in prospect research go to waste because you haven’t updated your donors’ email address in your donor database.
The bottom line: Update your donors’ contact information so you can effectively communicate with them through their favorite methods.
Prospect research is an essential tool when it comes to crafting your fundraising strategy. Knowing your donors’ capacity and interest in giving allows your organization to focus on the donors with the most potential, resulting in an effective use of resources and strategy.
Now that you have our 5 ways prospect research can improve your donor communications, get to fundraising!
Bill Tedesco is a well-known entrepreneur in the field of philanthropy with over 15 years of experience leading companies serving the fundraising profession.
Bill has personally conducted original research to identify markers of philanthropy and has developed modeling and analytical products that use those markers to accurately predict future giving.
Since 2007, Bill has been the founder, CEO and Managing Partner of DonorSearch.