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Q:
How can I learn about researching and cultivating individual donors?
A:

Through donations and bequests, individual donors typically account for more than three-quarters of charitable giving each year, and are looked to for consistent support of nonprofit organizations.

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Podcast: Getting Started with Individual Donors

It is a good idea to focus on the potential of individuals that are closest to your organization and its mission rather than approaching wealthy public figures. Most celebrities are inundated with requests for money, and they may have no connection to your nonprofit’s mission or location.

Instead, build personal relationships with affluent and well-connected local community members. They are more likely to have a personal connection to and interest in your community, and therefore may be more inclined to donate and get involved in your cause.

One of the first steps in approaching potential donors is to find detailed information about them. This is also known as prospect research, and it involves networking, making contacts, and checking multiple sources.

Prospect worksheets for institutional and individual donors will help you capture the right information about funders whose priorities match those of your organization.

Yet researching individual philanthropists is somewhat difficult because, unlike foundations, they are not required to publicly disclose their financial and philanthropic activities. Some ways to learn about potential donors:

  • Search local media for stories about people who have prospered in their professions and are active in civic affairs and charitable causes. Your public library probably has databases to search many news sources at once.
  • Network with your prospect’s acquaintances. This may yield valuable information, perhaps even an introduction.
  • Prospect research Web sites link to multiple online resources to learn about a person’s giving potential and interests.
  • Foundation Center libraries and some Funding Information Network locations subscribe to the following databases that can be helpful in prospect research (check your nearest location for availability):

To learn more about prospect research, take our free in-person class, Prospect Research Basics, offered at our libraries and some Funding Information Network locations.

Online excerpts from Michael Seltzer’s Securing Your Organization’s Future include strategies to cultivate individual donors. (Look for “Phase 4: Developing a Strategy To Secure Support from Individuals”.)

More articles about individual donors»

Selected resources below may also help.

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Books and Articles

Check title availability at our libraries and Funding Information Network locations or your local libraries.

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