Donor prospecting and donor research refer to the process of identifying prospective major donors for a nonprofit organization. It involves studying their capacity to give as well as their inclination to support a particular mission.

Major gifts are just that — major! That's why so much care and careful research should go into the prospecting process. This saves both the nonprofit and the prospective donor time in the long-run. When you're sure that a prospect will be interested in your organization's work, you dramatically increase your chances of successfully asking for support. Plus, you reduce the chances that a prospect will feel that you've wasted their time. 

Prospect researchers are expert guides at exploring data and piecing together an actionable plan to find the right donors for the right projects. Drawing from a wide range of resources, these consultants can take your organization's next major campaign to the next level. 

So what kinds of tools and services do expert donor prospectors use? Here's a sampling of the variety of tools and donor prospecting software that a prospect research consultant will put to work for your nonprofit. We'll start with an overview of how Donorly brings it all together, and then we'll move into individual tools:

  1. Donorly
  2. DonorSearch
  3. GuideStar
  4. 360MatchPro
  5. SEC and FEC records
  6. LinkedIn
  7. Zillow

While nonprofits themselves can easily make use of some of these resources, it really takes an expert prospector to translate these pieces of valuable data into an actionable plan. These insights can then shape your fundraising and capital campaign strategies, helping your team more accurately pinpoint the right prospects in the right ways.

Curious to learn more? Let's get started!

 Donorly is a top donor prospecting tool and service because our research will connect you with the right major donors the right ways!

1. Donorly

If you've already explored our more comprehensive guide to donor research, you know that taking a big-picture approach to prospect research is the key to refining your strategies and making more targeted decisions. 

That's why our services here at Donorly can become an extremely effective resource for your nonprofit's fundraising and development team! We draw from a wide variety of resources and tools to bring together all the bits and pieces of prospecting data that your team might gather on its own. 

We strive to take all the guesswork out of donor prospecting by directing the research for you. With your organization's mission, goals, donor lists, and leads, we'll help guide you to your next major gift or institutional donor in no time.

What makes this a smart donor prospecting service

Donorly can become an important partner for your organization's major gift prospecting, capital campaigns, and annual fund drives for a number of reasons, including:

  • Access to professional-grade prospect research databases
  • A focus on connections research, resulting in more actionable results
  • Additional donor research training and support for your team
  • Time-effective solutions and customized
 Donorly's donor prospecting tools and services can take your next major campaign to the next level.

Our experience in the nonprofit research field has taught us that wealth markers alone are rarely the best route for effective donor prospecting.

By bringing together all the best tools and data to make more informed judgments, a Donorly prospect research team will bring expert guidance and big-picture insights to your organization.

 DonorSearch is among the best donor prospecting tools because it offers extremely high quality donor data services.

2. DonorSearch

As a leader in prospect research data, DonorSearch provides some of the most comprehensive databases and search tools for prospect researchers and the development teams of enterprise-level nonprofits. 

Like Donorly, DonorSearch also believes that the most useful insights come from a big-picture view of prospect research. Their databases offer an unrivaled level of detail for both traditional wealth markers and more alternative philanthropy markers. They offer data screening services and useful CRM integrations, as well. 

What makes this a smart donor research tool

DonorSearch databases compile a full range of individualized donor data points, including:

  • Charitable giving histories
  • Political contribution info
  • Demographic and property data
  • Employment background
 DonorSearch offers advanced and comprehensive donor prospecting software and tools.

Plus, prospect generator tools from DonorSearch allow prospect researchers to view the donor lists of other organizations, helping to immediately identify proven donors interested in similar missions.

Why Donorly uses this kind of donor prospecting tool

With access to DonorSearch's comprehensive databases, Donorly can combine all this data with our own insights, experience, and personal understanding of your goals to give you a more customized and actionable overview.

After all, understanding your prospects as individuals with specific motivations and desires goes a long way to help refine your lists and focus your efforts!

 GuideStar is a top donor research tool because it's a central database for information on any nonprofit organization!

3. GuideStar

501(c)(3) nonprofits are required to publicly provide their financial statements, but scouring websites for historical data is incredibly time consuming. Having a single place to search the financial records of any nonprofit plus any other information on their structure, leadership, and history could be a huge asset for your prospect research team! That's where GuideStar comes in. 

As a premier nonprofit database, GuideStar is an essential player in the nonprofit environment. Maybe your organization is looking for another nonprofit to partner with for an upcoming project, or maybe you're researching a grant-giving foundation before starting an application.

What makes this a smart donor research tool

GuideStar becomes an invaluable tool for donor research when you know that a major prospect once served on a nonprofit board or has made major gifts to other organizations in the past.

Wouldn't you want to learn more about the missions that inspired them to get involved? GuideStar connects prospect researchers with:

  • Nonprofit organization contact information
  • Revenue and expense data for the current year
  • Balance sheets from the past 5 years
  • Searchable IRS 990 forms from the past 3 years
  • Listings of CEO, board chairs, and board members
 GuideStar is an authoritative resource and donor prospecting tool for smart researchers.

Why Donorly uses this kind of donor prospecting tool

Since it's such a central resource in the nonprofit space, GuideStar entries and listings are very frequently updated with current information and data. This makes it one of the most reliable, up-to-date, and comprehensive resources for this type of data.

Prospect research experts like Donorly can quickly draw from this information to find new insights or connections between your organization, its prospects, and other nonprofits.

 360MatchPro is one of the best donor prospecting tools because it gives your team fast insights into corporate philanthropy opportunities.

4. 360MatchPro

When starting the donor prospecting process, don't forget to consider the world of corporate philanthropy! 360MatchPro is a leading corporate giving resource for mid- to large-sized nonprofit organizations. With access to their comprehensive corporate philanthropy databases, your donor prospecting team can easily identify major opportunities to grow donation revenue for nonprofits.

How? Through matching gift and volunteer grant programs. Businesses looking for structured ways to support their employees' philanthropic interests will match their donations or volunteered time with grant funds. All the employee needs to do is file a request.

What makes this a smart donor research tool

Using its comprehensive database of corporate philanthropy information, 360MatchPro provides automated tools that can create built-in revenue boosts nonprofits. These features also double as extremely effective donor prospecting resources:

  • Automated identification of matching gift eligibility for existing donors
  • Tracking and messaging tools to drive matches to completion
  • Intuitive reporting and data automation features to help guide next steps

Some corporate giving programs can be particularly generous, so it pays to do your research!

 360MatchPro's corporate philanthropy tools double as effective donor prospecting software!

Why Donorly uses this kind of donor prospecting tool

360MatchPro is particularly useful as donor prospecting software for a few reasons. By focusing on areas for growth within your donor list, a prospect researcher can quickly identify individuals able to easily (and significantly) boost their impact.

Knowing a prospect's eligibility for matching gift funds can help you better prioritize your development plans, too. Plus, knowing that their donations can be matched is an extremely effective motivator for donors; it might be the perfect way to turn a loyal supporter into a new major donor!

 Official records from the SEC and FEC are great donor prospecting tools and resources because they illustrate a prospect's wealth, connections, and likelihood to give.

5. sec AND fEC rECORDS

The Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Election Commission are both important donor prospecting tools for savvy researchers.

That's because the SEC requires all companies that do business in the US to provide and disclose information to be made available to the public, including quarterly and annual reports, other significant records, and stockholder records. The FEC, on the other hand, offers a full database of registered political contributions made to election campaigns throughout the country.

What makes these smart donor research resources

Official records can become invaluable for your prospect research in a number of situations. These might include:

  • Estimating the value of a business that a prospect owns or works for
  • Exploring the owners of publicly traded stocks, a traditional marker of wealth
  • Looking into the philanthropy programs and annual budgets of potential corporate partners
  • Learning more about the interests and desires of a prospect through their history of political contributions
  • Exploring a prospect's employer or connections between companies that have done business together
 Federal records make for excellent donor prospecting tools if you know where to look!

Why Donorly uses this kind of donor prospecting tool

Imagine some of the ways in which this kind of official data could be useful for guiding your prospect research. Learning more about relationships and individual motivations is an essential part of making effective donor prospecting and prospect development decisions.

Top prospecting consultants use this data to deliver deep research that can continue to pay off long after you've secured the prospect's support!

 LinkedIn is a great donor prospecting tool because it's a central social media platform for exploring employment and business connections of prospects.

6. LinkedIn

As you likely already know, LinkedIn is the go-to social media platform for businesses and professionals. This makes it a perfect resource for exploring the connections of individual prospects and corporate partners.

Plus, in addition to its usefulness as a donor prospecting tool, LinkedIn is a great resource for keeping your donor database up-to-date! As a central digital space for job searching, marketing, and networking, users on the platform make a point of keeping their contact and employment information regularly updated. 

What makes this a smart donor research tool

There are a number of donor research uses for LinkedIn, including:

  • Exploring the boards and employees of other nonprofits and businesses
  • Generally gauging a prospect's giving capacity based on their employment
  • Examining the professional connections of both existing and prospective major donors
  • Identifying the matching gift or other corporate philanthropy opportunities offered by a prospect's employer
  • Exploring alumni connections and identifying individuals with the desire to get involved with nonprofits through LinkedIn's advanced search features
 LinkedIn is a perfect donor prospecting tool for researching professional connections.

Why Donorly uses this kind of donor prospecting tool

As an extremely accessible donor prospecting tool, LinkedIn is a great first step your team can take on its own. Stay active on the platform, continually exploring your extended networks.

However, a donor research team like Donorly can pull out expert insights from the wealth of data in a platform like LinkedIn. Not only can a prospect researcher navigate the connections to find the most effective route to your prospect, they'll also use that data to give you a much clearer view of the best ways to approach prospects with whom you share professional connections.

 Zillow can be an excellent donor prospecting resource and research tool for its comprehensive real estate information.

7. Zillow

Real estate holdings tend to be a very reliable and effective wealth marker in the traditional sense. Free search tools on real estate websites like Zillow are an invaluable resource for doing quick, initial research on a prospect's properties.

Plus, real estate ownership is also a philanthropic marker when analyzed by an expert researcher. Donors with more than $2 million is real estate are 17 times more likely to give than an average prospect! By providing value estimates and more detailed information, it's easy to see why real estate sites like Zillow are quite effective as prospecting tools.

What makes this a smart donor research tool

As a leading real estate database site, Zillow provides a number of useful data points to help your prospecting team very generally determine a prospect's wealth in relation to their property:

  • Zestimate, or general estimate of the property's value
  • Most recent sale price of the property
  • Dates of sales of the property
  • Median value estimates for the neighborhood
  • Projected market trends for the neighborhood
 Zillow is one of the easiest donor prospecting tools for researching property values and sales.

Why Donorly uses this kind of donor prospecting tool

While you can use this data on your own to roughly determine a prospect's capacity to give, there's still considerable gray area. The market and taxable values of a property are often quite different, and trends in real estate markets have made it more difficult to glean any reliable assumptions from just a quick glance. 

The best way to generate deeper insights from real estate records is to use a donor prospecting service or research team to refine and analyze all your findings. Donor researchers can guide your team by making deeper connections. Drawing from many resources, including assessor's records, allows them to make more precise inferences about a prospect's lifestyle.


Donor prospecting is never an easy process, but the right tools and services can make it more efficient and effective than ever! Keep yourself updated on all the best tools and resources out there. When it's time to bring on some expert guidance, your donor prospecting team will have plenty to work with, getting you closer to your next major gift!

Want to learn more about prospecting and attracting major donors? Continue your research with these additional resources: