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Identifying Prospects

How do I find donor prospects?

The first step when fundraising is to identify your prospects. A prospect can be anyone, from your friends and family to important people and foundations in your community. You may have to do some digging in order to find new prospects. If you are looking for foundations, a good starting point is your local library, which often has access to foundation database software that you can use for free. If the software provided by your library is Foundation Directory Online, you can use the powerpoint tutorial on the Documents page under Resources to navigate the website. 


If your local library does not have access to a foundation database software, you will need to get a little more creative in your search. For foundations and individuals alike, seek out copies of non-profit periodicals like the chronicle of Philanthropy or Nonprofit Times. Review your local business journals and keep an eye on your local newspapers. Visit area attractions like museums and zoos to get names from their donor boards. 

Once you have a list of prospects, you need to identify how you will reach them. People are the most important asset when fundraising. In order to be successful in fundraising, you must build relationships with your prospects before you ask them for money. Find out if you or anyone you know has a relationship with a potential donor or invite the donor to your location to get a better feel for what your unit is all about. 

How do I know if they are good prospects?

The PAC donor circle, illustrated below, provides a method to define and rate potential prospects.

  • Propensity refers to whether or not a person or foundation has previously given to your organization or organizations that are similar to your own.

  • Affinity refers to whether or not a person or foundation is passionate about your organization, cause, or interest.

  • Capacity refers to how much wealth a person or foundation can afford to donate.

   The more points a potential donor hits, the better prospect they are. 

How do I know who to solicit?

Funding can be found through many different sources, but you may be wondering where the most money is found. The pie chart below describes the break down in charitable giving across the U.S. in 2019 according to the Giving USA Foundation. 

Pie Chart 2021.jpg

On June 16, 2020, the Giving USA Foundation released “Giving USA 2020: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2019” (Giving USA). The Foundation acknowledged as it drafted the 2019 giving results that the nation continues to struggle through two monumental events—the COVID-19 pandemic and calls and protests seeking social justice.


Giving USA notes that while it’s too soon to know how giving ultimately may fare in 2020, this report provides a helpful baseline for understanding where giving stood at the outset of the current crisis. The information provided by Giving USA’s decades of data intends to provide insight and context in uncertain times to help fundraisers, nonprofit leaders, donors, and others identify factors that will play a role in shaping giving going forward.

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