When you’ve been in non-profit management for 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, identifying high net-worth individuals, or finding new corporate foundations who want to support an organization.  Essentially, the short answer is, prospecting means seeking out 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.  Specifically, a fund development team is tasked with finding sources of funding by matching donor guidelines to the non-profits mission. 


For many of us in this business, fundraisers and development teams, prospecting is a daily task.  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 it’s finding high net-worth individuals 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 organization is confident it has the most current details on the donor and can craft a plan to approach that donor. 


Prospect research intelligence boils down to two critical pieces 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 and its mission.

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