Prospect research can be a complex subject, but it’s vital to growing and developing your nonprofit’s donor base.
With over $373 billion donated last year, giving is on the rise, which means that prospect research is more important than ever for capitalizing on your donors’ generosity and building strong relationships with them.
In this guide, we’ll cover all of the basics, from the definition down to the nitty-gritty details of how prospect research can work for you!
Photo: Alford Group staff at As Good as It Gives: America’s Philanthropy Today on June 17, 2016 at Mesirow Financial in Chicago.
The Alford Group co-sponsored As Good as It Gives: America’s Philanthropy Today with Mesirow Financial in Chicago to share this year’s Giving USA numbers and discuss what the numbers mean for not-for-profit organizations.
Here are the main takeaways:
Giving is on the rise
The Alford Group’s Executive Vice President Sharon Tiknis and Senior Consultant Diane Knoepke presented to the room and reported that 2015 was America’s most generous year ever, as donors collectively gave over $373 billion. Giving is on a two-year increase, as 2014 was previously charted as the most generous year of giving. Since the Great Recession ended in 2009, giving has increased by 23 percent. Individuals continue to represent the majority of giving in America at 71 percent of total giving in 2015.
Today, June 20, 2011, the latest Giving USA numbers were released by the Giving USA Foundation estimating the giving for 2010 based on the recently released actual numbers for 2008 to include their re-revised numbers for 2009. In past years the revised numbers were usually revised upward. Due to the recession that began in late 2007 and carried through 2008 and 2009, the revision was downward and has created a little (or a lot of) angst among some in the not-for-profit community. Continue reading →
Two weeks ago everything seemed bright on the economic horizon with the stock market moving well and unemployment numbers from April looking better and better all the time. What a difference a fortnight makes.
The news this past week from Wednesday on was not cheerful, and was not bright. Only 58,000 jobs were created over the month of May, well short of the number required to have impact on the unemployment rate. It would take gains of 350,000 per month to truly impact the numbers and lower the unemployment rate, which rose to 9.1% nationally due to more people entering the work force and actively looking for work. There are 7 million fewer people working in our country now, than 2006. That is a sobering thought.
No wonder there is such a lull in economic activity and no wonder there is such caution in spending on the part of those who are working.
In 1992 I took a position with the Sisters of Providence Health System in Springfield, MA and the unemployment rate in Massachusetts at the time was 11%. As we planned our fund raising activities, board members (and others) questioned our strategies; I repeatedly mentioned that we were going to focus on the 89% of the people who were working. During my three years there we increased the number of donors from 600 annually to more than 3,500 annually.
Even now throughout our country, more than 90% of the people are working and being very productive. They are not spending and they are concerned that they may be laid-off or lose their jobs. Debt is being reduced (short term debt continues to shrink) and savings is increasing. Thus the savings rate in America is at an all time high having exceeded the 5% level for 10 consecutive quarters. Currently there is $2.7 trillion (yes…trillion) in money funds in America earning less than .3% annually. This does not count savings accounts, checking accounts or short term certificates of deposit (less than 6 months). There is a tremendous amount of money still sitting on the side lines as people are cautious with their spending. At the current savings rate, the economy will make a fundamental shift at some time – there will come a moment when we shift from being a nation of consumers to a nation of investors. But when is the question.
So in this lull, what should you do to support your organization?
Stay focused on the needs in the community that your organization is serving
Continue to ask for gifts that will change people’s lives
Be bold and confident
Have a vision for the next 3 to 5 years
Demonstrate results and success
Seek community endorsements for the good work you are doing
Stay close to your donors keeping them informed in a variety of ways
And continue to seek philanthropic support – last week 3 donors gave our clients significant 7 figure gifts!
These are difficult times still, but over time the difficulties will pass. They always have, and they always will.
This past week I was away from Seattle doing client work for a national organization with many programs around the country and the world. They are doing incredibly good work for a large number of people and have significant volunteer and donor support. Over the past four years they have seen a decline in their giving to one particular program and they are attempting to discover why—hence our firm’s involvement.
One of their affiliates arranged for two focus groups. The first was comprised of people who did not support this particular program, the second was comprised of people who did. It was a wonderful contrast of communication, style, personality, trust and values.
A common trait was that both groups are generous and both groups significantly give of their resources especially for local programs. I find it very rewarding to be around generous people: they know who they are; they know what they value; they care about the community, their neighbors and people they may never know. It was enjoyable to discuss the programs with both groups, who asked specific, well-stated questions.
Here are several things I discovered from these two groups:
Some people just need more information than others. The donor group was trusting and required little information to respond to the need. The non-donor group needed a lot of data and felt they were not getting it.
Some people judge an organization as a whole, while others are selective in their judgment. The non-donor group had larger issues with the national organization and although those issues did not relate to the program being discussed, it kept them from responding to the financial need. The donor group had the ability to put aside any issues they may have around other national policies or procedures and respond to this particular need.
“Connectivity” is different for different people. The individuals in the non-donor group felt more connected locally and wondered why a national connection was necessary. The donor group felt connections both locally and nationally. They valued being connected nationally because they, as individuals, could do even more and have greater impact on people’s lives, than they ever could as an individual or local group.
After the time spent with both groups, I also discovered the importance of leadership around these three observations. Leadership (staff and volunteer) needs to take the observations above to heart as they communicate with both donors and non-donors. Why are these programs important? Why must we respond to the need the programs are addressing? What is the impact now? What will be the impact in the future? Will you join with me and the many others in our organization who financially support these programs in giving what you can?
As you reflect on the ideas and observations here, let me or the other readers know your thoughts or experiences around donors and non-donors. I look forward to reading your comments.