Don’t go into a capital campaign blind — with no idea whether your donors are going to make the kinds of gifts you’ll need to succeed. You’ve got to do some homework.
How can you tell if you have donors who have the potential and inclination to give to your campaign? There are four important ways to do this, and we suggest you do all four.
1. Ask donors about themselves.
Our favorite way of finding out about donors is to ask them about themselves. Of course you don’t ask them how much money they have or what their investments are. But you can ask them many other questions.
- Ask them about their philanthropy and their passion.
- Learn about their values and to what they like to give.
- You can even ask them if they see themselves as major donors.
Most people are happy to share this information with you if you are interested enough to ask!
If you’re not sure what kinds of specific questions to ask, take a look at this collection of questions assembled from Rory Green, Jerry Panas and Gail Perry. Then try them out a few on people who are your best donors. They’ll be tickled you’re interested in learning more about them.
2. Organize list screenings.
You should also invite small groups of six or seven people who are likely to know one another to meetings to review prospect lists and to discuss the people on the lists they know. You’ll gather great information about your prospects, and it’s a great opportunity to involve some of your donors in the early stages of your campaign.
Does the idea of getting people to spill the beans on their friends make you feel a bit icky?
Don’t kid yourself, people love to talk about other people. You might call it gossip, but in the capital campaign world, we call it prospect screening!
NOTE: There’s lots to know about setting these meetings up so they work well. It’s on our list of topics to write about, so stay tuned. If you’re on our mailing list, you’ll get an email. If you’re not, sign up right now — click here or fill out the form at the bottom of the page.
3. Engage a prospect researcher.
While it’s easy to imagine that a simple Google search reveals everything about everyone, a skilled prospect researcher who knows where to look can find out things a simple search won’t uncover. And while, you don’t need to know everything about your largest donors it’s sometimes very helpful to know more about boards they serve on, gifts they’ve made and things they are passionate about.
Unless yours is a large organization, you probably don’t have a professional prospect researcher on staff. And while someone on your staff may do some simple searches to unearth information, there’s probably more to know.
We encourage you to find a good prospect researcher you can call to create profiles on individual donors you would like more information about. How do you find people like that? Check out your local chapter of APRA, the professional association for prospect researchers. Or, you can ask your colleagues who they use.
In nosing around the literature a bit, I found this excellent article on wealth screening in the AFP Resource library by David Unger.
4. Run your entire donor list through wealth screening.
This is the biggest, broadest approach to learning about your donors.
You can engage a firm to run your entire donor list through a series of screens that will help identify people who have the potential to be major donors. Think of it like pouring names through a sorter. Some who qualify for one reason or another will be put on a special list for more research.
For most organizations with large donors lists, this investment is worth the time and money you’ll spend. You’re likely to find at least a few surprising results that will be well worth the investment.
If you are heading into a capital campaign, you need more information about your donors! All four of these strategies will help you understand who your prospects are and whether or not their are likely to be major donors to your campaign. The issues is not either/or, but both/and.
Don’t wait — start now!
Start your prospect research and screening right now. It’ll not only inform your campaign decisions, but it’ll lead to all sorts of wonderful and useful information for your on-going fundraising as well.
How does prospect research fit into your campaign planing? Take a look at this complete campaign planning checklist.
What are your favorite prospect research strategies? Please share them in the comments box below.Don’t go into a #CapitalCampaign blind. You’ve got to do some homework. Here’s your assignment: Click To Tweet
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