3 Things You Should Know About Your Donors Before Making a Solicitation

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Nonprofits of all sizes can appreciate the difficulty of fundraising. Whether your organization is brand new and you are waiting for your IRS determination letter or further along and focusing on your major gifts program, donation solicitation has its challenges.

Luckily, with the help of prospect research, you can get to know your donors and prospects better, alleviating some common roadblocks between making an ask and securing a donation.

Prospect research is used by organizations to uncover important details about a donor in order to understand that supporter’s willingness and ability to make a contribution. Willingness refers to how open a prospect is to the idea of giving, and ability accounts for a prospect’s financial capacity to follow through with a donation.

Let prospect research guide your solicitation process. You will be glad you did.

Prior to solicitation, leverage prospect research to learn these three things about your donors.

Once you have been in the donor acquisition game for a while, make sure you track your fundraising metrics so that you can improve as you grow.

1. Philanthropic Ties

Past charitable giving is the number one indicator of future giving. This indicator is even stronger if the giving took place at your organization.

Philanthropic ties include:

Knowledge of a prospect’s past giving is crucial, but it is not the only philanthropic tie you can investigate.

All of the aforementioned charitable connections speak to a prospect’s willingness to give. That is a pivotal detail to understand when you are asking a donor for a fundraising contribution.

Additionally, when you have a clear picture of a donor’s philanthropic behavior, you can cater your ask by offering giving opportunities that match their interests. For instance, one prospect might be an active donor at an organization that is similar to yours. You can then use the similarities between your two nonprofits to your advantage during acquisition.

A deeper understanding of your donors is always helpful, especially when that understanding concerns philanthropy. Getting to know your donors better is a recurring theme with prospect research. The theme is evidenced in this point and will carry on throughout the rest of this article.

2. Wealth Markers

Although past philanthropy is the strongest indicator of future philanthropy, you also need to consider a donor’s giving capacity. You have to understand what a donor can give so that you can properly solicit them.

Common ways to investigate wealth include examining:

  • Business affiliations
  • SEC stock ownership
  • Real estate ownership
  • Political giving
  • And more

Donors of all giving levels are incredibly valuable. Use prospect research to help your fundraisers segment donors so that your team can customize your acquisition plans.

For example, you might take a different route with a donor who is a major giving candidate than a donor who would be perfect for your monthly giving program.

Understanding a prospect’s giving capacity ensures that all involved are maximizing their efforts. Wealth markers help you expedite the process of finding a donor’s ideal place within your organization, saving time and resources for your organization and, more importantly, your donors.

Wealth screening is a step towards optimizing the donor acquisition process.

prospect research

Prospect research means getting to know your donors before you ask them to give.

3. Basic Contact Details

Last, but certainly not least, you can’t effectively solicit donations if you do not have accurate personal data, such as basic contact details.

From a pragmatic standpoint, you won’t have any way of reaching a donor if you are missing contact information. Even if you have enough information to reach out, it has to be accurate. If your contact data is wrong or out of date, you risk offending or isolating the donor.

Prospect research can aid you in gathering someone’s:

  • Full name
  • Address
  • Email address
  • Date of birth
  • Phone number
  • Employer data
  • Spousal data

Cultivation, solicitation, and stewardship should be donor-centric. Part of that donor-centricity involves maintaining correct contact data.

Keeping accurate information such as contact data has to be a priority.


Seek out these three pieces of the donor puzzle before you make your next ask. Then, add in more information as your fundraising strategy becomes more and more developed.

Whether you are drafting a direct mail appeal, sending out an email campaign, or preparing for an in-person meeting, there is a place for the knowledge you can gain from prospect research. Put the data you gather to good use! Neither you nor your donors will regret it.


About the Author:

Sarah Tedesco is the Executive Vice President of DonorSearch, a prospect research and wealth screening company that focuses on proven philanthropy. Sarah is responsible for managing the production and customer support department concerning client contract fulfillment, increasing retention rate and customer satisfaction. She collaborates with other team members on a variety of issues including sales, marketing and product development ideas.