Whether you’re new to fundraising or an old hand, there’s a good chance that prospect research is an everyday task for you or your team. This is especially true for traditional, offline fundraising. Prospect research is simply the act of learning more about your donors, often focusing on a donor’s background, donation history, wealth, political and religious affiliations, and any other information that can be gathered to help fundraisers most effectively pinpoint the most probable potential donors.
Prospect research is followed by a prospect profile, basically a summary document of all the information that can be gathered about a potential donor. As more profiles are created, trends emerge, and fundraisers can analyze those trends and broaden the donor net. Traditional, in-person fundraising is very often a one-to-one exchange, and the prospect or potential donor is carefully selected and well researched. Online fundraising, however, works on similar premises but scales up the process considerably.
When seeking online contributions, there are more options for approaching prospect research. One way is to simply pay for information. There are many services available whose sole function is to provide fundraisers with prospects who match predefined criteria. The other option may seem backwards but provides much more specific data. That method involves tracking your own donors, building profiles based on their online (and offline) behaviors, and using that information to build mirror audiences.
Background information for online contributors is much easier to obtain, and online donors are much better suited to broad, digital fundraising campaigns. It doesn’t make sense to build an individual donor profile for a $5 donation. But online, you can build profiles of whole donor categories, then target those categories specifically with personalized, persuasive content.
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