This post comes from the Gravyty Fundraising Academy, a series that examines how fundraisers adapt and strategize to evolve what's possible through philanthropy.
Your guide for the Gravyty Fundraising Academy is Director of Customer Success, Lisa Alvezi. Lisa has worked with countless fundraisers across Higher Education, Health Care, and Nonprofit organizations to transform fundraising. As a former frontline fundraiser herself, her goal is to help you see better results from your fundraising efforts.
Stop Doing Your Homework
Suppose you have the luxury of requesting and receiving a full-blown prospect research report before every donor visit. Congratulations! You are part of a small percentage of fundraisers. Most of us either need to request a report weeks in advance or do our own research. But there is a fine line between being prepared and preparing too much, preventing you from ever taking action – the dreaded analysis paralysis.
Here's the checklist I use when approaching research. It keeps me on target, and most importantly, helps me know when to stop doing my homework and start taking action.
Do you know each of these essential pieces of information?:
- Preferred name
- Home address(es)
- Social media
I highlight the "preferred" name because some donors use a nickname or middle name. Hopefully, that preference is noted in your database. It's also nice to know if the donor has multiple homes indicating more financial resources to maintain multiple residences. A quick review of a donor's LinkedIn, Facebook, or other social media account can give you more insight into their interests.
How about connections?:
- The donor's immediate family?
- If the donor has other family connections in your donor database?
You don't need to know a donor's entire family tree. However, if there is a legacy history with your organization, the donor will usually be happy to tell you about it.
What do they do for a living?:
- Physical Address of Employer
Do you know?:
- Where did the donor attend college and high school?
- What degrees does the donor hold?
- What degrees is the donor pursuing?
Your database might not have this information, but it is helpful if known. For example, someone who attended a college prep boarding school will probably have a college degree and potentially a post-graduate degree, too. This knowledge can help you align your ask amount.
Relationship to your organization
Is this donor a...
- season ticket holder?
- family of alum?
- current or former director/trustee?
- contact person for a corporation/foundation?
- event attendee?
Find out why people have the relationships they have. For example, why are people "friends"? Do they like your events? Can you give them special treatment at an event?
They may have several relationships. Know what they are. The more they are, the more connected they are, and the more you can leverage that.
In many cases, the list above is as much homework you need to do before reaching out – it's that simple. But three additional categories will turn your outreach from thoughtful to meaningful: giving history, lifetime engagement with your organization, and red flags.
I'll cover these three areas in next week's Gravyty Fundraising Academy. In the meantime – don't let analysis paralysis creep into your workflow. Do your homework, know when it's done, and reach out!
If you’d like to learn more about how artificial intelligence can empower your organization to have a culture of philanthropy, personally reach new donors, and inspire giving at scale, click the button below and let's connect.