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prospect research 101 with Preeti Gill

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Prospect research, or prospect development, often seems to be one of those fundraising “best practices” that feel exclusive to charities with more resources. How can small charities do meaningful prospect research and development without draining their bank account? On today’s podcast, prospect development expert Preeti Gill shares some practical tips for small nonprofits to kickstart their prospect research and challenges us to rethink the notion of philanthropy through the process of prospect development.

Myths that Preeti wants us to leave behind

  1. You always have to look outside for prospects. Be curious about your own donor base first. Look at the donors who have made a gift larger than you expected in the past, reach out to them, and get to know them and why they support your organization.

  2. More information means more dollars will be raised. Gathering external information and research about donors and donor prospects must be coupled with action in order to yield results. Don’t expect any donor research database or tool will solve all your fundraising problems.

Preeti’s tips on prospect research

  1. Actively and consistently capture data on who is interacting with your organization. Collect data on who is subscribed to your e-newsletter, who comes to your event, and who volunteers for your organizations - your best donor prospects are those who already support your organization.

  2. Leverage external information to fill in the information gap about your existing donors. There might be information that your donors do not want to share with you explicitly. For instance, how much are they giving to other charities. If you can leverag donor research to fill these information gaps, you will have a better picture of your donors.

  3. Don’t do prospect research just from your desk - meet with people! Communities everywhere are filled with diverse donors who are eager to support and engage with their community initiatives. You’re missing a big part of the picture if you only rely on an online database to look up past giving history. You might also fall for the dangerous trap of having a narrow definition of a philanthropist and philanthropy.

Favourite Quotes from Today’s Episode

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“It is not enough to have beautifully crafted and presourced prospect development. You also need to be investing in training your donor facing colleagues to get to know their donors and understand that it is their job to foster philanthropy and secure philanthropic support from donors supported by the prospect research.”

“Prospect researchers play an important role in broadening our definitions of what philanthropy is beyond seeing an old white guy's name on the top of a building. Really think about what philanthropy means to a broader subset of Canadians, because I would argue newcomer Canadians and first generation Canadians have a different definition of philanthropy and how philanthropy is practiced and viewed in North America.”

Resources from this Episode

The Good Partnership


Preeti Gill on Linkedin

Preeti Gill on Twitter