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Turning time invested into prospecting success

a man working at his desk reaches for a piece of paper

“Abundance is not something we acquire. It is something we tune into.” —Wayne Dyer

The nonprofit sector has no shortage of passionate people or missions worthy of investment, born from the hearts and minds of extraordinary people with big visions for a brighter future. What does seem to be in short supply, according to most nonprofit leaders, is money. Perhaps more accurately, most leaders will say that donors who provide long-term, impact funding to help realize these visions are hard to come by. If nonprofit leaders want to be successful in securing the resources necessary to their organization’s success, this mindset has got to go. 

According to the 2020 Census, the adult population of the United States is just over 250,000,000 and, thanks to technology, we are more connected than ever before. What does this mean for you as a nonprofit leader? It means your prospective donor pool is massive! You are truly limited only by your willingness to learn new tools and lean into a practice of researching, planning, and identifying connections. 

Some leaders, particularly founders early in their organization’s evolution believe that prospect research is only for well established nonprofit organizations with sophisticated fundraising operations, like hospitals and universities. Or, some believe that identifying new donors takes the aptitude of a highly-trained expert, expensive wealth screening software, and a large, experienced board of directors. The truth is technology has made prospect research more affordable than ever, and accessible to everyone. 

Investing time regularly in prospecting will result in more quality prospects, better cultivation plans, and shorter timelines to successful solicitations. Additionally, your organization will save time and money in the long run as your research improves and your focus narrows, allowing you to invest in those relationships that will yield the best return on time invested. 

Uncertain of where to start? The following is a short list of questions for reflection. Your responses to these questions may help you identify where your current prospecting efforts might be falling short: 

  • Have you taken the time to make note of the fundraising landscape in your city, county, and state? What trends are you seeing? 
  • Who are the well-known philanthropists and entities (foundations, giving circles, corporations) that fund organizations with missions similar to yours and/or care about the community you serve? 
    • Pro tip: Visit those organization’s websites, and write down names to research from their annual report (note at what level they are currently giving too)!
  • Have you researched your board members’ networks? Who might you want them to make introductions to? Why does that individual seem like a great fit—do they have an affinity for your mission? 
    • Pro tip: LinkedIn is a great place to start.
  • Have you taken the time to really engage the donors you do have? When was the last time they received an update or educational material from you? Are you really engaging your donors or just asking them for money? 
    • Pro tip: In my experience, it takes an average of 11 “touches” before a donor makes a decision to invest. How quickly they experience the needed engagement is up to you!

Hopefully, your responses to these questions unearthed some areas of opportunity to improve your prospecting efforts and increase your donor pool. Time, not money, is our most precious resource. The most successful leaders know that time invested in research and relationship development is always well spent. This is an abundant world, with a little planning and intentional effort we can all identify and attract the donors we need to move our missions forward. 

Want to learn more prospecting tips and best practices? Watch this Candid’s webinar, “How to engage local grantmakers for impact.”


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