PMA Consulting, LLC

Diving Deeper for Donor Leads

Diving DeeperHow many times have you been presented with a development/fundraising plan that suggests you target the “low-hanging fruit”? The advice certainly makes sense in theory, but what do you do when your traditional leads are not as applicable, as easily achievable, or as exclusive as they once were? Perhaps it’s time to dive deeper to uncover new sources of donor leads.

In this heightened age of donor discrimination and philanthropic choice, there are few secret weapons, few unique opportunities, and few fast-track methods to securing substantial and sustainable donors. Rather, start with these time-tested strategies and tactics that remain universally true to this day:

1. Get Your House in Order
Be prepared to go after donor leads. Any identification, cultivation and solicitation of prospective donors must fit into the context of an overall development plan, which aims to demonstrate how and from what sources an organization will acquire and maximize contributed income.

2. Fundraising Starts at Home
Target funding from your local community. Funding typically stays close to home and does not usually come from distant individuals, foundations, corporations, congregations or affiliations.

Individuals give to organizations that serve people they know, see, or hear about – corporations give to organizations that provide service to the area in which they operate. Some foundations are non-geographic in their granting policies, but usually support only exceptional programs that can be replicated elsewhere.

3. The Board of Trustees is Key
Rely on your closest stakeholders. While membership should not be based on a policy to give/get major gifts, board members should be an organization’s first source for major gifts.

4. Those Closest to Your Organization
Work through your existing database to identify potential donors – A clear donor source almost always indicates one of three connection points:

    • Has been touched directly by the organization.
    • Has not necessarily been touched by the organization, but is impressed by its work.
    • Has goals, interests and ideals that fundamentally align with the organization’s mission, objectives and values.

When your initial list of potential donors is no longer sufficient to address your organizational goals (either your donors have shifted their philanthropic focus, have decreased in net-worth, or aligned elsewhere), it’s time to dig deeper:

5. Look Beyond Friends
Work through your database again and identify potential acquaintances. If you continue to drill through your list of individuals who have been touched by the organization, you may find smaller but cultivatable linkages with the potential of major giving.

6. Widen the Scope of Your Prospect List
Look at people who support other organizations similar to yours. Individuals are likely to be influenced and impressed by what you do if your organization is akin to one they already support. Also, review other organizations’ annual reports for lists of donors.

7. Widen the Scope of Similar Organizations
If you are unable to identify organizations similar to yours or individuals who have made sizable gifts to those organizations, then widen your scope even further to include organizations and funders within similar sectors. For example, if your organization is classified as a health and human service organization, then extend your research and prospecting to all organizations and funders within the health and human service sector.

Ultimately, you will find your new donors from the layers of individuals already making substantial gifts. Until you have exhausted all avenues of research with known donors, don’t waste your time trying to uncover secret weapons, unique opportunities, and fast-track methods.


*Photo provided by TS-S