We get this question frequently: What exactly is donor prospect research?
Folks know it has to do with fundraising—identifying the people who are going to give your campaign money. And at its most basic, they’re right.
But these days, with digital platforms and initiatives giving campaigns across the country access to the same audiences, donor prospect research is so much more than merely identifying a list of promising targets. It’s about understanding who these people are and what motivates them to give. Effectively, you need to prove to them that your cause deserves their money more than the next.
Fortunately, more people are giving than ever before with both small and big donors writing more checks and giving online than ever before. Last presidential cycle saw record numbers of political contributions made, and 2018 set new records for a midterm election. As the 2020 campaign heats up, many campaigns are already on track to break records.
Here are five ways to elevate your donor prospect research and ensure that you don’t find yourself on the outside looking in:
Do your market research right.
The ultimate goal is to build personal relationships with a robust donor base that keeps on giving, but it starts with understanding the market at large.
Sure, this seems obvious enough. But there’s a difference between doing your market research and doing your market research right.
Begin by identifying the campaigns that share values with yours. See who their supporters were and are. Since time is as important as money, we recommend paring these supporters down to “top” prospects. On each list, pull out the donors who either contributed large amounts or gave consistently. Then cross reference all your lists: donors who appeared on more than two (especially if they were in different parts of the country or for different offices) are most likely to give again to campaigns that are running on platforms similar to those they’ve supported in the past.
Pro Tip: Look at local data; concerned citizens are increasingly participating at the state and local level and represent a hyper-engaged audience.
Segment your lists.
Once you’ve identified top prospects, it’s important to develop donor profiles along with a range of strategies with which to pursue them. Look into personal and professional backgrounds, specifically wealth markers and employer information, as well as political and philanthropic donation histories.
Then segment your lists. Who requires candidate call time? Staff outreach? Is someone more likely to give at a gala or a canvassing event? Which group might be better suited for a drip campaign?
For example, donors who give between $5,000 and $10,000 are five times more likely to contribute to another campaign. These should be considered top prospects for middle to big donors and for designated candidate call time or staff outreach. Those who give smaller amounts, but do so on a regular basis, should be marked for digital touchpoints.
It’s vital to be deliberate in your fundraising, otherwise, you’re wasting everyone’s time.
While donor prospect research typically is focused on sourcing new donors, don’t forget to consider your existing supporters and look inward. Donors who already give to you on a regular basis are the most likely to turn into major gift donors.
Based on their giving patterns, you’ll identify the relationships which might benefit from increased messaging and frequency, and know who you’re able to ask to give a little more. And reconnect with lapsed donors. Give them an opportunity to re-engage with the cause and realize why they contributed in the first place.
Above all, listen to feedback. Remember: your campaign is only as strong as the supporters behind it.
Study social media.
Social media is a great tool for donor prospect research. Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn offer telling insights into people’s affinities, communities, and their capacity to give. Employ it during your list segmentation and strategy development.
Additionally, leverage Facebook and Twitter to see who is engaging with your content or similar content from like-minded organizations—those who engage more are likely to give more as well. Finally, use LinkedIn to verify and update information.
Source via industry and companies.
Does your campaign speak to a specific profession? Or resonate with an entire industry? Use that to your advantage. Figure out what causes companies and their employees have supported in the past; then determine an entry point and message track to connect.
Be confident in your plan.
Whether you’re boot-strapping a local campaign with an eye on city council or are staffing up your just-announced run for Congress, fundraising will be one of the most critical parts of your campaign. While it starts internally by building a plan and setting goals for each step of the way, the make or break of it all will rest on the fundraising network you’re able to build out and engage. After all, these days, without money, there’s no campaign.
From determining who requires call time or should be on the list for your next buttoned-up event, to which digital platforms and initiatives to employ for your grassroots efforts, donor and prospect research is crucial to ensuring that you’re spending your time and resources in a manner that not only brings in money but advances your candidate and cause.
Michael Woodsmall is the general manager of Ante, a data platform for political contribution research.