Finding major gift donors without prospect research is like searching for a needle in a haystack. Fundraising is all about time. You can’t dedicate excessive effort to every prospect, so you don’t want to waste your finite resources pitching to donors who either don’t care or don’t have the capacity to give. With prospect research, you can pinpoint the best prospects and allocate your time accordingly.

What is Prospect Research?

Prospect research reveals personal backgrounds, wealth indicators and philanthropic history so you can quickly identify and focus your attention on the best prospects. You’ll be able to predict both a prospect’s giving capacity and his affinity for your nonprofit. Fundraisers, development teams and nonprofits all use prospect research.

Does the prospect own a boat? Does he volunteer on the board of a nonprofit? Does he like to watch the sunset while sipping a glass of sweet vermouth? Okay, so prospect research can’t reveal everything, but the data will paint a vivid portrait of who your prospect is, how he/she spends his time, their affinity for charitable giving, and their capacity to give. This information not only unearths new prospects, but allows you to tailor your fundraising pitch to the individual.

How Can Nonprofits Conduct Prospect Research?

Nonprofits have three ways to conduct prospect research (none of which involve magic):

1) Do-It-Yourself (DIY)
This is the low cost option, but it requires both time and manpower. You may have a single staff member or a team to conduct your research, but, even with the proper tools, there are a lot of databases to sift through. Then there’s the challenge of organizing all of that information into comprehensible documents. You can conduct prospect research in-house, but realize that it’s a full-time job.

2) Prospect Screening Consultants
Consultants tend to be former prospect researchers who are familiar with the nonprofit space. They’ll find the best prospects in your donor pool, train your staff on prospect research and develop better prospect strategies while supporting prospect relations. Remember—it is important to take the time to find the right consultant for your nonprofit and bring them up to speed with the ins-and-outs of your organization.

3) Prospect Research Companies
You can pay for a company to conduct the research for you, which saves your most valuable resource—time. However, do take time to figure out what information you want and what information the various prospect research companies provide. Any data is not as valuable as necessary data.

Originally published on Nonprofit Hub, read the full article here