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Donor Research

by Rizzie

Individual donors account for the majority of charitable giving and form the backbone of support for non-profit organizations. However, before reaching out to these prospective donors, organizations should collect detailed information to ensure that the donors have both the capacity and the inclination to make a major gift donation. Gathering this information is the first step in conducting donor research.

Donor research is an integral part of fundraising because when it comes to engaging individual, high-capacity donors, there is a lot of competition. Prominent people tend to be inundated with requests for money from multiple sources. Donor research is a necessary part of establishing whether the prospective donor is likely to or can be influenced into donating -- either because of an existing connection to the non-profit or because of an interest in the cause.

Donor research involves a combination of online research, surveys, focus groups, and actual one-on-one meetings with donors and prospects. Non-profits are required to collect information on both current and prospective donors that includes their financial status, background, interests, current donations, and if they are an existing donor, whether there are others within their network who could be persuaded to donate.

Gathering this information is a big task. Using a combination of local media and the internet, researchers can make some headway, but the process is laborious, time-consuming, and frequently in vain. Therefore, donor research tools are a necessity for any organization that hopes to maximize its fundraising efforts.

The tools currently available vary in their focus. Some provide wealth screening; others focus on providing employment information or where a prospect is currently donating.

More recently, a particular kind of tool has been coming to the forefront as the most effective technique for non-profits to employ when attempting to maximize donations. These are the tools that focus on understanding the connections between individuals and mapping their relationships.

Relationship mapping in donor research is not a new concept; however, in the past the process was not efficient and was therefore not a priority for many organizations. However, a prospective donor is up to two hundred times more likely to donate if they are approached by a peer as opposed to a fundraiser. With relationships exerting such dramatic influence, it was only a matter of time before they became a primary focus for non-profits. Now with the recent advances made in data, technology, and visualization techniques, relationships have come to the forefront of donor research.

As the primary focus of donor research shifts from traditional data to relationship intelligence, subscribing to a good relationship mapping tool becomes a crucial part of the strategy employed to aid fundraising -- with the best of these tools providing details on employment information, board memberships, and current non-profit affiliations in addition to who-knows-whom data.

As donor research is revolutionized into a more streamlined and efficient process, relationship mapping tools have become the new, mandatory assets for any non-profit seeking to maximize its fundraising.

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