Four Ways You Can Leverage Prospect Research During Your Next Capital Campaign

By susanlienau | February 18, 2016 | Capital Campaigns, Featured News, Major Gifts, Prospect Research

It’s a new year and that means new fundraising goals. You wrapped up year-end giving and dove headfirst into this year’s projects. But where does that quick jump back in leave your bigger, more time-consuming, and possibly costly projects?

Does your school need a new science wing? Library? Gym?

What about your animal shelter? Are you looking to open a new state-of-the-art veterinary facility?

And how about your symphony? Does your venue need a complete overhaul?

Whatever the fundraising organization, whatever the large-scale project, capital campaigns are often the solution.

A capital campaign is a fundraising endeavor that takes place over a fixed timeline with a very specific end goal.

Popular projects that capital campaigns are used for include:

  • Remodeling and/or renovating buildings
  • New construction
  • The purchasing of costly equipment/gear/supplies
  • Acquiring land
  • And other similar projects.

As you can probably guess from this list, capital campaigns are long-term, labor-intensive projects. But they’re worth it! They’re an effective means of gathering a sizeable collection of donations. Your organization just needs to know how to make the most of the opportunity.

And as you can also probably guess, you won’t learn all you need to know about a capital campaign in one brief article. Rather, this article will zero in on one key area: the role of prospect research in capital campaigns.

Prospect research can help plan your capital campaign by:

Lets jump right into the first step!

1. Finding Major Giving Prospects

Prospect research’s biggest claim to fame is its ability to help your organization raise money from major gift prospects. And rightly so!

Did you know that someone who has given between $5,000-$10,000 to a nonprofit organization is five times more likely to make a charitable donation than the average prospect is? Yes; you read correctly. Five. Times. More. Likely.

A prospect screening takes advantage of trends such as those to make an educated prediction of how likely a person is to donate. At its core, prospect research looks at two main factors:

– A person’s willingness to donate.

A person’s ability to donate.

If you find a supporter with the right combination of those two factors, you have a major giving prospect on your hands.

The quiet phase of a capital campaign is major giving’s time to shine. It’s when your major gift officers will be pounding the pavement so to speak to find those who are willing to make large donations in support of your project.

A prospect screening will help your major gift officers get from A-Z far faster. The screening will analyze your list of candidates against a series of philanthropic and wealth databases to see where there is overlap.

Some of the strongest indicators of future major giving include:

Past giving to your organization and other organizations.

Close involvement in the nonprofit community.

Real estate ownership.

Political giving.

There are certainly more indicators than those four, but that selection should, at least, give you an idea of the kind of data trends a screening is sifting through.

The bottom line: If you want to increase the number of major gifts you’re able to secure during your capital campaign’s quiet phase, perform prospect research.

2. Locating Participants for Your Feasibility Study

What’s a feasibility study?

Before you can run, you have to walk. And before you sprint ahead with your capital campaign, you need to conduct a feasibility study.

A feasibility study is a way an organization determines if it should move forward with its idea for a new capital campaign. Essentially, the nonprofit tests the waters by surveying a group of around 35 or so people about their thoughts on a proposed capital campaign.

Where does prospect research come in?

You can use the research to find the best survey participants.

When you conduct a feasibility study, you don’t want to stack the deck. You want some supporters of your organization and your cause but you also want some unbiased, fresh faces.

You want prominent community members: those who could be directly affected by your capital campaign and have the power to help it flourish.

They’re the ones who are likely to provide the discerning opinion that you need as you make the very serious decision to launch a potentially multi-year campaign.

On a basic level, prospect research helps you get to know the people you’re researching better. Figure out who you need to participate in your feasibility study, and let prospect research find them among the crowd.

The bottom line: Whether you’re looking for board members from other prominent organizations, wealthy individuals from your community, or some other combination of traits entirely, let prospect research give you a hand.

3. Seeking Out Connections to Top Giving Candidates

Fundraising can be up and down. Somedays, the most unlikely of prospects may surprise you and donate a sizeable gift. Other days, your surefire donor can’t give when you ask them to.

With all the ups and downs that will come along with asking for donations for your capital campaign, you should take advantage of every metaphorical leg up that you’re given.

One of those aforementioned boosts comes in the form of the relationships a prospect screening can reveal. Let me explain.

A big benefit of prospect screenings is their ability to reveal connections across supporters and prospective donors.

This plays out in multiple ways; for example:

You might learn the employer information for a specific donor and realize that she works for an organization that matches donations. If you promote matching gifts to her, her gift toward your capital campaign is likely going to be worth twice as much.

You could discover that one of your board members is good friends with a high-quality prospect. By asking your board member to make the introduction, you automatically start the relationship off on trusted footing. Your board member serves as an authenticator, subconsciously vetting your organization in the eyes of the prospective donor.

Those are just two examples of the many. Throughout your capital campaign, between your overarching goal and steadily approaching deadline, there will be regular pressure to bring in a steady stream of donations.

The bottom line: Your existing network is possibly an untapped resource. Make the most of the connections that are hiding in plain sight.

4. Selecting the Best Plans for Soliciting Gifts from Certain Candidates

One of the defining features of a capital campaign is that you’ll be seeking gifts of all sizes throughout the process. The goals are so lofty and the timeframe is so long, that between the quiet phase (focused on major gifts) and the public phase (focused on small and mid-level gifts), there’s a little bit of everything.

To run a capital campaign, your donor acquisition skills have to be on point for all types of donors.

Since you’ll be juggling various types of supporters, it’s important to segment your solicitation style.

Learn more about your prospects so that you can segment your solicitation style accordingly.

Just like with major giving, a prospect screening is especially helpful in predicting giving level. Once you have a sense of the various giving levels your prospective donors fall into, you’ll be far better prepared to reach out and make impactful connections.

The cultivation of a major donor, for example, is far different than that of a small gift donor. Both deserve ample care and attention but call for separate approaches.

To the best of your ability, use prospect research to determine the giving levels your candidates will fall into. Then, incorporate your findings into your campaign planning, starting with figuring out if a prospect is better suited for the quiet or the public phase of solicitation.

The more you know, the more you can segment and personalize.

Perhaps one of your fundraising events is ideal for a particular kind of donor. Or, maybe you know that, within your segment of millennials, small gift prospects will be receptive to mobile giving.

The bottom line: Let prospect research make your capital campaign activities more customized and therefore, more effective.

No matter which way you slice it, a capital campaign is going to be a monumental fundraising endeavor. Do what you can to maximize the work you put into your campaign by bringing prospect research into the equation.

Guest Post by Ryan Woroniecki, DonorSearch

Ryan Woroniecki is the Vice President of Strategic Partnerships at DonorSearch, a prospect research, screening, and analytics company that focuses on proven philanthropy. He has worked with hundreds of nonprofits and is a member of APRA-MD. When he isn’t working, he is an avid kickball player.



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