Part 1 of 4: Donor Prospecting 

Whether you’re a large development shop or a one-(wo)man show, a healthy prospect pipeline is imperative to your organization’s long-term sustainability. Who hasn’t gotten stuck in a pattern of asking the same people for the same major gifts year after year, campaign after campaign? And how often do we talk about a major campaign with a single donor in mind, hoping the relationship is strong enough to elicit the lead gift?

Insert card and quickly remove. Enter PIN.

It’s not fair to the donor, and it’s not good for the viability of the organization. But what are the most effective strategies for getting out of this rut?

In this four-part series, we’ll share a few tools that can help you identify, qualify and add new prospects to your pipeline and into your gift officers’ portfolios.

Signs your prospect pipeline needs some help

Sure, you’ve been successful reaching your annual fundraising goals to date, but it’s a challenge every year. And even though you know you need to continuously add new prospects to your pipeline…

  • You’re not quite sure about the most effective ways to keep your pipeline flowing.
  • You don’t have any money in the budget for extras to support your prospecting efforts.
  • The same donors give the same amount every year.
  • You must ask your same top donors from your last campaign to be top campaign donors to your next
  • You lose some donors, and you gain others.
  • Nothing really changes.

Does any of this sound familiar? You’re not alone!

Tools to get the pipeline flowing again

Before we dig deeper into the techniques for breaking out of this well-worn prospect pipeline rut, let’s review a few of the strategies there’s a good chance you’re already using to generate new prospects:

  • Adding parents of incoming students to your list or database
    Many of you, especially schools, may be fortunate enough to have an influx of new parents to add to the mix each year—parents who may have capacity.
  • Soliciting alumni (with—or even without—cultivation!)
    Alumni, especially once they’re gainfully employed, can often become immediate targets for low-level, mid-level and eventually major (and planned!) gifts. Schools don’t necessarily have the corner on the market here—alumni can include graduates of other programs, such as counseling or addiction treatment.
  • Cultivating new trustees and volunteers
    When organizations focus board recruitment efforts on individuals with capacity, connections or influence, new trustees can become top prospects for the organization. Volunteers make great prospects as well. They often develop an affinity for the organization as they witness the mission in action, which may prime them to give. Plus, volunteer opportunities can sometimes have a way of attracting individuals with capacity.
  • Encouraging current/past donors, trustees and volunteers to engage their friends and family Inviting those closest to the organization to engage their friends and family is a go-to method for prospecting in many organizations. A more personal and targeted form of the peer-to-peer fundraising we see on social media; this method has yielded great success across all levels of giving—even at the major gift level!

The key to cultivating these groups is to build a strong culture of philanthropy that pervades the organization at every level through communications, volunteer opportunities and other engagement strategies.

But the challenge here is qualifying these individuals—so that any time you spend beyond general annual giving efforts is time spent on the prospects who are most likely to respond.

This is the challenge we’ll tackle over the next three installments.

Stay tuned!

Special Content: The Roadmap to Recovery

As nonprofits everywhere face unprecedented challenges, S&W is stepping forward to help—working on rapid response strategies with our clients, curating resources for easy access, offering answers from our expert team, and bringing people together from across the nonprofit world to share ideas. The point, as we say, is Powering Missions That Matter—now at the moment they matter most.

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