PMA Consulting, LLC

Understanding Prospect Research

Prospect research is a process in fundraising where a researcher identifies and provides relevant information about potential donors to an organization. The purpose behind prospect research is to assess a potential donor’s capacity to donate to an organization, particularly for major giving in a campaign setting. Some organizations will hire researchers, while others contract the work out.

So how do organizations conduct prospect research?

  • Face-to-face conversations
    Visiting a home or office can help to gain a tremendous amount of information about a prospective donor. Important to note – this type of meeting is not to be used as a solicitation. Rather the visit should help to build your case for when the solicitation is appropriate.
  • Research publically available information
    The most difficult part of any solicitation is to know how much to ask for. If you ask for too much, you might lose that donor forever. Ask for too little, and you just might get exactly what you ask for. Unfortunately, in a campaign setting you often times do not get a second chance to ask for a gift. Public information to research includes –
    • Where the donor lives
    • Who they know
    • Other organizations they give to
    • Size of gifts
    • Asset values (homes, businesses, etc.)
    • Financial position 
  • Prospect Tools
    Tools such as WealthEngine and LexisNexis contain donor-related data that can help uncover information about a donors wealth.

Once the data is gathered, it’s critical to capture it in the prospect’s database file. Even if the donor isn’t ready to make an immediate gift, you’ll be helping your organization become armed with critical information for future appeals and campaigns.