What Is Prospect Research or Prospecting

When you’ve been in non-profit management as long as we have, we often get asked the question “what is prospecting”.  For us it could mean a number of things such as researching a new foundation, finding high net-worth individuals, or finding new corporate foundations whom might want to support an organization.  Basically, the short answer is, prospecting means finding new supporters using a series of techniques and organized processes to build donor opportunities. 

Prospecting, or Prospect Research as many may call it, are methods used by a fund development team to locate and learn more about their donors.  Mainly a fund development team is tasked with finding sources of funding and its cause to donors that best match thier giving priorities. 

For many of us in the buisness, fundraisers and development teams, are constantly prospecting.  For example, in a small non-profit, one might seek local business owners who can donate to their fundraising event, or for larger non-profits its finding high net-worth indivudals who might want to participate in a naming opportunity. 

Prospecting also involves delving into a donors’ personal background, past giving histories, wealth indicators, and philanthropic goals.  There are many levels of prospect research, but usually it stops when the organiztion is confident it has the most current details on the donor and can craft a plan to approach that donor. 

Prospect research intellegence boils down to two critical peices of data – evaluating a prospect’s capacity to give (how much can the organization ask) and the prospect’s willingness to give to that particular organization.

Prospect research is a must for any organization because they must understand what motivates a donor to give to them, and find others with similar interests.