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4 Best Practices to Find Major Donors for Your Nonprofit

by Cary Schwartz

Major donors often account for the bulk of a nonprofit’s fundraising revenue. As a result, most organizations allocate a significant portion of their time, attention, and resources to finding and acquiring major gifts.

This is where data enhancement can help: With a clean, updated database, you can spend less time bringing new donors into the fold and more time making informed decisions about how to best steward their long-term support.

In this guide, we’ll explore four data-driven strategies for conducting major donor research, so your nonprofit can secure the funds needed to advance your mission. Let’s get started!

1. Perform Prospect Research

Prospect research is the process of gathering information about your current and potential donors to determine who among them is most likely to contribute significant funds to your organization. To begin prospecting, scan through your donor database for information like:

  • Giving history: Consider the frequency and size of a donor’s recent contributions. Some of your strongest candidates will be mid-level donors who have the capacity to increase their level of giving.
  • Involvement: Giving isn’t the only indicator that an individual is willing or able to make a major gift. Other forms of engagement, such as advocacy work, volunteerism, and board membership, can prove that a donor wants to deepen their involvement with your organization.
  • Personal information: Learn more about your donors’ hobbies and interests outside of your organization. For instance, do they donate to other causes or volunteer in their free time? Having this information can help you to determine if they are philanthropically-minded..

If your database is missing any of this information, consider investing in a data append service. NPOInfo defines data appending as using a third-party source to update existing information or add new information to your records.

This information helps you paint a more complete picture of your major donor prospects and make better-informed decisions about your outreach efforts. For example, you might conduct a mailing address append to segment prospects based on their geographic location and send in-person event invitations to those near your organization.

2. Conduct A Wealth Screening

Part of prospect research involves conducting a wealth screening to ensure potential donors have the financial propensity to become major donors. According to AlumniFinder’s guide to wealth screening, wealth profiling tools leverage public records, philanthropic databases, and data-driven algorithms to collect information about an individual’s:

  • Giving history
  • Current assets
  • Political giving
  • Business affiliations
Once you have more insight into a prospect’s capacity to give, you can set realistic fundraising goals and craft a solicitation strategy.

3. Ask For Referrals

Your nonprofit likely already has connections that can lead to qualified major donor prospects. Ask corporate sponsors, board members, members of your leadership team, and other major donors to introduce you to their network of business partners, peers, and vendors. An introduction from a mutual contact establishes trust in your organization before you even begin the solicitation and cultivation process.

Schedule a phone call or in-person visit with these referrals and ask questions about their passions, giving history, and interest in your organization. Even if they don’t indicate that they would be willing to become a major donor, store their information in your database and add them to your mailing list. They might be willing to support your organization in other ways in the future.

4. Hire A Major Gift Officer

Major donor acquisition is an involved process that should be given adequate time and attention. That’s why it’s important to delegate responsibilities to a dedicated major gift officer.

A major gift officer should have experience in fundraising and be able to communicate a deep passion for your nonprofit. This might be an existing member of your team or an outside hire. Regardless, their support can help take your acquisition efforts to a new level by:

  • Managing your major gift goals: An officer’s first task should be determining your organization’s major gift threshold and setting clear goals, such as acquiring a certain number of major donors during a fiscal year. .
  • Identifying major gift prospects: Give your major gift officer permission to manage your donor data, so they can flag supporters who have the willingness and capacity to contribute a major gift..
  • Building a solicitation and stewardship strategy: A major gift officer will know the best approach for soliciting major gifts, including how to appeal to a prospect’s interests and maintain their continued support.
By outsourcing these tasks, you can focus on other important initiatives with peace of mind that major gifts are being steered your way.
Once your nonprofit has identified a solid list of prospects, you can map out a cultivation plan. Develop relationships with major donors through strategic outreach, meetings, and events. In the end, you should have a reliable pool of donors who can drive meaningful support to your cause.

Learn more about how Charity Dynamics can help increase your outreach and fundraising potential