Written by Ryan Woroniecki
Prospect research is usually brought up in fundraising talks about finding giving candidates and catering asks. The relationship between marketing and prospect research is often left out of the discussion.
Well, it shouldn’t be! And here’s why.
The nonprofit world has an invigorated interest in donor-centricity. It’s all about the donor and every aspect of acquisition and retention circles back to that same idea. Marketing is no exception.
Nonprofit marketers know that donors choose to give largely based on personal connection. So, the challenge for making marketing personal comes when you’ve got a massive list of prospects and donors and limited resources to make those on the list feel like they are receiving an individualized communication.
That’s where prospect research helps.
With the assistance of a prospect screening, you can take the data you uncover and use it to segment your donor population. Donor segments will give your marketers the chance to conserve time while adding a more personalized touch to the various communications they send out.
Imagine this simplified marketing scenario. You’re working from a list of ten donors. Each donor has five key characteristics that affect how he or she reacts to your marketing efforts. If you send out something broad, hoping to not isolate anyone, no donor on the list is well-served.
Now, instead you realize that five of the ten share one characteristic and the remaining five also share a different characteristic. You have something to go off of. One half of the list gets one marketing stream and the other half gets a separate one, each aimed at the common characteristics.
Your marketers have moved away from blanket promotions without having to individualize for each donor on the list.
It’ll be the best of both worlds. Donors have a personalized experience and nonprofits can maintain their mission-driven marketing.
If you have donors segmented according to different traits, you can market along the lines of those traits.
As a start, use prospect research to segment out three key groups to market to:
- Major Gifts Prospects
- Planned Giving Prospects
- Annual Fund Upgrade Prospects
All communications are donor communication. Learn why from Raise Your Voice: A Cause Manifesto.
Dividing prospects into these segments gives you three separate marketing channels right off the bat. Major gifts prospects warrant different communications than planned giving prospects and vice versa. Throw annual fund upgrade prospects into the mix and you have got yourself a marketing melting pot.
1) Major Gifts Prospects
Does your organization do an effective job of finding major gifts prospects? How do you handling marketing to them once you find them?
When most perform a prospect screening, they are seeking major gifts prospects. A strong major gifts program can sustain the entire budget of a nonprofit if handled appropriately, and prospect research is excellent for finding candidates hiding among the crowd.
Wealth screening highlights the candidates with the capacity to give. And the rest of the research process will narrow those candidates down to people who also want to give.
Once you know who these candidates are, you can design an entire marketing campaign around acquiring them. Prospect research will give you much more information than just their major gift capacities, so you’ll have all the necessary information in front of you to create a personalized campaign.
2) Planned Giving Prospects
Do you have any kind of planned giving acquisition strategy in place?
Too many organizations are content to just sit around and be pleasantly surprised when planned gifts come through. They may be more challenging to predict than other gift types, but it is by no means impossible to do so.
Most planned giving prospects are repeat donors, which means donor cultivation is a must. Marketing to planned giving prospects is about relationship building more than anything.
Take your newly formed segment of planned giving prospects and just work on using your marketing and donor communications to form a bond. Over time, as the bond cements, then work mentions of planned giving into the different materials that you send out.
3) Annual Fund Upgrade Prospects
How do you move supporters along the donor pipeline?
Annual fund donors prove their commitment to your organization time and time again. Perform a prospect screening of them to determine who works for a company that offers matching gift grants, is a strong candidate for major gifts, planned giving, or all three.
Take the upgrade candidates from your annual fund and promote the programs you want them to start thinking about switching over to.
Perform prospect screenings somewhat regularly to keep updating the segments.
When you feel comfortable working from these three segments, start exploring different donor pools to research, segment, and market to.
Events often give you an excellent new source of donors to work with. Whether you just hosted a silent auction or a walkathon, screen the list of attendees and repeat the segmentation process.
When you’re working from a large and evolving donor pool, prospect research opens the door to personalization.
This guest post is by Ryan Woroniecki, 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.