Growing Your Pipeline of Prospective Donors
The science of fundraising requires the identification of enough prospects at the necessary levels to reach your major gift objectives. That’s the beginning! Allocating time and resources to identify and qualify prospects is challenging for many organizations, but the return on investment is both important and necessary for fundraising success.
There are three parts to growing your pipeline of prospective donors: identifying, evaluating and cultivating. Successfully completing each of these steps will put you on track to a healthier major gifts fundraising pipeline.
Identifying New Donor Prospects
Identifying donor prospects requires a solid strategy – and is not a task for one person. Creating a major gifts committee is highly recommended. You should include board members, current major donors, key stakeholders and individuals deeply-rooted in your constituency.
- Identify current and past donors.
- Major gift and annual donor history;
- Board members’ networks; and
- Event attendees and volunteers with the capacity to give major gifts.
- Expand your list by performing research of potential new donors.
- Ask board members and current donors for information on potential donors;
- Invest in fee-based products;
- Conduct a prospect screening of your database; and
- Locate community members who have donated major gifts to nonprofits with similar causes.
- Create your list with detailed information for each prospect.
- Contact information;
- Giving history – when donations were given and for what project/area of interest;
- Business affiliations, club memberships, relevant hobbies, donations to other organizations;
- Relationships with current staff members or volunteers;
- Prospect’s business/occupation and industry; and
- Wealth and donor capacity provided through a prospect screening.
Evaluating Donor Prospects
After identifying and developing a list of donor prospects, the next step is evaluating each and every prospect.
This starts with validating the information you obtain about each prospect. Whether you develop the list internally or contract with a screening organization to help analyze the capacity of your prospect pool, take what you know about each individual and determine how best to proceed. Treat every prospect as a mini-campaign.
Below is a checklist we’ve developed to help you evaluate donor prospects.
- Evaluate each prospect by conducting a peer review. This requires assembling a committee of board members, staff and volunteers to garner information. Discuss within this peer review group the information you have and know about each prospect.
- Prepare a list of your potential major gift prospects.
- Review the list of prospects in order to:
- Make connections between your volunteers and potential donors;
- Prioritize giving potential of prospective donors;
- Establish inclination to give; and
- Determine who should be involved in cultivation and solicitation.
- Assign volunteers, board members and staff to solicitation teams. These teams will create a cultivation plan as well as a solicitation plan for the prospect.
- Specify each member’s role in your solicitation teams;
- Establish goals for each person and task at hand; and
- Set a regular meeting schedule.
- Decide how to present your fundraising message to each prospect.
- Identify and develop The Perfect Ask. Partner with staff, board members or a volunteer leader to create individual solicitation strategies for each prospect.
Cultivating New Donor Prospects
Cultivation: the ongoing education and involvement of potential donors with fundraising campaigns and overall organizational efforts. Cultivation is strategic and systematic. It occurs any time you communicate with your prospects. The purpose of cultivation is to interest and involve the prospect in your organization in order to create a positive environment for fundraising. Building a closer relationship with your prospect will put them at ease and allow you to raise their philanthropic sights. This process takes hard work and requires dedication – but it is worth it when you’ve reached your goal.
Below is a checklist we’ve developed to help you cultivate your donors.
- Create a prospect management strategy for each prospect. This strategy should have a list of potential cultivation activities along with a defined timeline. A cultivation team, which includes a staff member and a volunteer, should be assigned to move the prospect through the cultivation process until they are ready to be solicited.
- Encourage your board and development committee members to build and strengthen relationships with prospects.
- Incorporate prospects in events and activities in which volunteers and staff are involved.
- Examples include small group meetings, one-on-one meetings, networking receptions, cocktail receptions and other special events.
- Establish communication strategies that maintain regular contact with prospects including mailings, publications, annual fund solicitations and invitations to events.
- Continued involvement with enthusiastic members will establish a stronger relationship between the prospects, your organization and its members.
Find a way to involve the prospects in some part of the organization by using the information you gathered while evaluating donor prospects. Where might you need their advice or help? Is there a committee or task force that they could join? The greater their involvement; the greater their commitment.
Stewardship is an important part of cultivation. It is easier to get a bigger gift from a current donor than an initial gift from a non-donor. Ensure that you have a formal stewardship program to confirm that all donors are not only thanked, but are made to feel a part of your organization. If they feel that their gifts are well spent – and that their dollars have made a difference – they will continue to support you at increasingly higher levels.
Asking current donors for feedback related to their experiences in becoming first time donors can provide useful insight relative to your organizations’ fundraising strengths and weaknesses. Use the information provided to make improvements in your cultivation and stewardship process and increase your fundraising success for future solicitations or fundraising campaigns.
Now that you are equipped with the three steps to grow your prospective donors’ pipeline – implement them! The process of growing your pipeline of prospective donors allows your organization to grow with more constituents, funds, events and overall awareness. Fundraising is a science. With this formula, your organization will be better prepared to approach and involve the best prospective donors.