DickersonBakker Blog


Your Guide to Prospect Research for Nonprofits

Are you reaching out to the right people for donations? When it comes to your fundraising efforts, it might seem overwhelming and difficult to make any progress. That’s why it’s important to develop relationships with donors, but you first need to find the right people. 

With effective prospect research, you’ll be paving the way for your nonprofit to receive donations and make strides toward your goals. 

What is Prospect Research?

To keep advancing through your fundraising strategy, you need to reach new people. Prospect research, also known as donor research or screening, is the process of finding individuals who can make an impact within your organization and help you move closer toward your mission. This tends to come in the form of major gifts toward your organization, helping you reach your goals and grow as a nonprofit. 

A healthy fundraising strategy not only aims to receive donations, but it also includes developing strong relationships with impactful donors so they’ll continue to support your organization. To do so, nonprofits must first get to know their donors and begin building relationships with new ones, starting with prospect research. 

Why is Prospect Research Important?

Without prospect research, your donor outreach efforts might be a shot in the dark. Reaching out to the wrong people could just be a waste of time and resources. Nonprofits rely heavily on major gifts for the success of their missions, so if there are no donors making contributions, nonprofits could delay their efforts or fail as a whole. 

The information gathered through prospecting can be used to supplement other fundraising areas within the organization as well. You might find new opportunities for annual gifts or develop a new network of contacts for planned giving. This first point of contact will put you on the right track to encourage a potential donor to make a donation toward your organization.

Types of Nonprofits That Benefit from Prospect Research

Prospect research efforts can be tailored to your specific nonprofit and align with your goals as an organization. This means that researching potential new donors is an excellent technique for any group, including:

Prospect Research vs. Wealth Screening 

You might hear the term “Wealth Screening” used frequently surrounding the topic of donors. While this is related to prospect research, it’s not exactly the same thing. Prospecting requires looking at a donor’s ability to make contributions while also observing their values and how they align with your nonprofit. 

Wealth screening has a stronger emphasis on financial ability to make donations to your organization and less focus on their affinity and alignment with your mission. This is part of the prospecting process, but cannot replace the whole thing. With wealth screening efforts, your organization will view stock holdings, real estate investments, and other indicators of wealth to determine how impactful this potential donor can be. 

Data to Consider

Prospect research is a tried and tested technique to add more impactful donors to your nonprofit. When conducting your research, look for capacity and affinity markers to help determine who might become a strong contributor to your organization in the future. 

Capacity markers are related to wealth screening, or the ability to make contributions based upon your research. In tandem with capacity, your prospective donors should also align with the values of your mission, known as affinity markers. When doing your research, consider the following features and assess whether they demonstrate a strong capacity and affinity for your nonprofit. 


Employment and salary can be an indicator of wealth and whether or not your prospect is able to make a contribution to your nonprofit. Sometimes this information can be difficult to gather, but knowing their role or position will give you a rough estimate of their salary. 

For example, you might not be able to determine someone’s exact salary, but you learn that they are a project manager at their company. Doing some research on the average salary for people in these positions can indicate whether or not this person will be able to give to your organization.

Personal Info

Getting to know your prospects will help you find the right personal messaging to really connect with them and encourage them to make a contribution. Try to learn more about their hobbies or interests by looking at their profiles on social media networks. 

Additionally, any information gathered from previous conversations can help you determine their affinity toward your goal and make a decision to continue growing your relationship with them.

Previous Donations

If a prospect has made a contribution to a similar organization in the past, then they are likely to repeat those efforts again. There is a strong likelihood that your mission aligns with this individual’s values, and they will want to help you work toward your goals. 

Using the right tactics, you might develop a new relationship and introduce another major contributor to your goals. 

Existing Donors

If you are conducting prospect research ahead of an event or as part of a new campaign, looking back in your database of existing donors can help make an impact on your goals. Contacting previous donors provides an opportunity to expand on your relationship and encourage them to continue to make gifts for your next campaign. 

Additionally, acknowledging how their actions beforehand have made an impact will also boost connections and further encourage them to continue to donate. 

Event Attendees

After your nonprofit has hosted an event or ended a campaign, don’t forget to reach out to these individuals as well. Since they attended your event, they likely already have a strong affinity for your mission. Reach back out to them and try to find out if they would be interested in continuing to show support and make a donation. 

Understand Your Donors with DickersonBakker

Successful fundraising efforts require a strong understanding of your donors. Prospect research will help to identify any gaps within your existing pool of donors while discovering new opportunities to build donor relationships.

To advance your prospecting efforts, try teaming up with DickersonBakker to discover new insights about your prospects and accelerate your fundraising efforts. We’ll help you uncover opportunities for major gifts and nurture your relationships with previous donors. 

Prospecting is an integral part of any fundraising strategy, and we’re here to help. To get started, reach out to DickersonBakker today and speak with a professional consultant.

Back to blog