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3 Identifiers of a High-Quality Fundraising Prospect

Friday, December 18, 2015   (0 Comments)

By Bill Tedesco, Founder, CEO and Managing Partner, DonorSearch

Good news, fundraisers! We can project an increase of 4.8% in total giving this year alone, with 80% of the total given by individuals.

What is your organization doing to maximize its donations from individuals? You should be looking to acquire high-quality fundraising prospects.

Identifying high-quality donors shouldn’t be a guessing game. You know them when you see them, but have you ever stopped to figure out why that is?

Seasoned fundraisers instinctively recognize high-quality fundraising prospects because those giving candidates share common traits.

With the help of prospect research, your organization can find the candidates that check off the characteristics you are looking for in your high-quality prospects.

These three identifiers will help you sort out the best possible giving candidates.

Keep in mind that high-quality is in the eye of the beholder. What your organization is looking for will change according to a whole range of factors. The realities of smaller organizations are different than the realities of larger organizations.

In both settings, most of the time, high-quality prospects will be candidates for major and planned giving. The difference rests with how each nonprofit defines major and planned giving within the scope of their organization.

This article will illuminate three key markers of high-quality major giving candidates.

If you’re interested in uncovering prospects for planned giving, browse through DonorSearch’s Complete Guide to Planned Giving.

#1: Past Contributions to Your Organization

They say that dogs are man’s best friend. Well, recurring donors are a fundraiser’s best friend. Move over, Lassie.

Past giving to your organization is the best predictor of future giving. We are, after all, creatures of habit.

It is easier to encourage a donor to make a second or third donation than it is to convince a brand new prospect to do the same. With an existing donor, the relationship is already there, and you know the donor is interested in supporting your cause.

Check existing donors’ RFM scores to rank their investment in your organization. To do so, you’ll be measuring:

  • Recency: When was the last time this donor made a gift?
  • Frequency: How often is this donor allocating gifts?
  • Monetary contribution: How large have the gifts been?
Evaluating those three components will tell you if you have an existing donor with the attributes of someone who is dedicated and ready to be moved up to a higher level of giving.

#2: Real Estate Ownership

While past giving demonstrates a potential willingness on the part of the donor to contribute a major gift, it doesn’t always indicate that the donor has the means to do so. That’s where traditional wealth markers like real estate ownership come in.

Real estate ownership is a critical indicator to assess for two reasons:
  1. High-net-worth individuals can often be flagged by their real estate ownership. It will give your organization some estimate to work from when designing a major gift ask strategy.
  2. Real estate ownership actually corresponds with a higher likelihood of giving. A prospect who owns over $2 million in property is 17 times more likely to make a charitable contribution than another prospect is.
The trick to using wealth markers is to know their predictive capabilities and know their limits. Having the financial means to make a large donation does not guarantee that the gift will be made. A prospect’s ability to give must line up with a willingness to give.

#3: Political Giving

Like real estate ownership, political giving is an indicator that serves a dual purpose:
  1. If someone has donated a large sum of money to a political campaign, that person clearly has the financial means to be a major donor.
  2. When someone makes a political contribution, that person is taking action and allocating a gift to a cause they believe in. You need prospects who are willing to do the same for your organization. As long as your mission matches their interests, you have a better chance than with just any random prospect.
Someone who has given a lifetime total of $2,500+ to federal political campaigns is 14 times more likely to give charitably than the average prospect is. You can’t ignore correlations like that!


Whether you are hosting a new fundraiser and want to be able to identify the highest quality prospects in attendance or you are getting ready to ramp up your year-end efforts, screen your candidates for characteristics such as these and find the donors that best suit your needs.

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