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#NPTechClubATX | Prospecting: Reviewing Your Own Databases for Hidden Gems | May 4, 2020

I enjoyed sharing the prospect research aspect of my nonprofit fundraising work with Nonprofit Tech Club Austin on May 4, 2020. Sign up for future programs on Facebook:

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#NPTechClubATX | Prospecting: Reviewing Your Own Databases for Hidden Gems | May 4, 2020

  1. 1. A guide by Chip Heath & Dan Heath
  2. 2. #NPTechClubATX is part of a network of tech clubs across the nation and the world. NTEN: Nonprofit Technology Network and NetSquared (a program of TechSoup Global), are co-sponsors. Programs are free to all.
  3. 3. #NPTechClubATX Co-sponsors TechSoup & NetSquared & NTEN: Nonprofit Technology Network #NPTechClubATX RSVPs & email updates: Facebook group: GivePulse volunteers:
  4. 4. PROSPECTING: FINDING HIDDEN GEMS IN YOUR OWN DATABASE Carolyn M. Appleton May 4, 2020 NTEN & NetSquared Nonprofit Tech Club Austin
  5. 5. ABOUT CAROLYN Two degrees from The University of Texas at Austin Experienced with research, writing, publications, communications and design The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi and Meredith Long Scholarship in American Art More than 30 years of hands-on major gift campaign experience Capital campaigns implemented successfully with little or no additional staff: “never say never” Communications go hand in hand with major gift fundraising today (I do both, together)
  6. 6. DOES IT MATTER? My academic training helped. But is all that necessary to become a good prospect researcher? If you have a calm, methodical (determined) mind and you are willing to sit still without interruption and conduct research, you should be good to go.
  7. 7. FIRST THINGS FIRST … Read a little bit every day.
  8. 8. TOOLS FOR INQUISITIVE MINDS Google News - set alerts to follow topics. Self directed Internet search: there is no such thing as being “bored” for a researcher today. Candid | GuideStar profiles (which include private foundations): read Form 990s. Business media like Fortune, Forbes, Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Yahoo Finance and local business media.
  9. 9. TOOLS FOR INQUISITIVE MINDS People Magazine, Hollywood Reporter, Tribeza, Austin Woman, Society Texas, EASTside and Texas Lifestyle Magazine can also provide insights into top concerns and philanthropists locally, statewide and nationally. “Fluff” you say! Check out who is endorsing what and how they pitch their causes to potential donors. Behind those campaigns are messaging professionals from which you can learn. Charity publications are helpful but look for what’s going on “now,” which is often better than what is already “done.” Sign up for PND Alerts and Newsletters (free):
  10. 10. Search Engines Google Bing Yahoo Baidu Yandex DuckDuckGo
  11. 11. SPREADSHEETS Export Your Data and Take a Deep Dive
  12. 12. EXCEL SPREADSHEETS OR GOOGLE SHEETS Where are you keeping your email, donor and “research” lists?  In an online gift processing platform?  In a constituent management software platform like Z2 Neon, Blackbaud Raiser’s Edge NXT, Bloomerang or DonorPerfect?  In an email platform like MailChimp, Constant Contact, Gmail or Microsoft Outlook? You may be using all of these, and more! Export the data using Microsoft Excel or similar platforms. Reformat and save your spreadsheet(s) as a workbook and make the typeface larger so you can easily read through each line. Merge everything into one spreadsheet if you like but “code” entries so you know where they came from originally. Remove unnecessary information so you have fewer columns running across the page. Keep full name, address (including zip code), and the email address (and any other essential information for your nonprofit). Get a cup of coffee and start reading …
  13. 13. WHAT ARE WE LOOKING FOR? Open Google Search on your computer, next to your spreadsheet(s). Email ▪ Look at the URL to see if the address originates from a company or foundation – “” or “” ▪ Gmail and similar platforms can be challenging – but see if the name in front of the URL rings any bells – “”
  14. 14. HOW I DO IT Head to Google Search and other search engines and start searching on a variety of combinations – just the email address, the name as best you can figure it out, organizational websites and more. Company and foundation websites – search generally to see what kinds of projects they fund and where their employees volunteer in addition to specific people working there. On your Excel spreadsheet, highlight the emails and names that look promising so you can return to them later. Jumping ahead … when you feel comfortable, reach out to that interesting person on your list and ask if they would help your nonprofit make an introduction to those in charge of community partnerships and giving.  “Hello! Thank you for your support of our nonprofit. We really appreciate your interest in our work. I notice you work for Walmart. I wonder, can you help me find the right person(s) in charge of community giving and partnerships?” Don’t forget, the person you may need to speak with may be the person you are emailing. #CourtesyCounts #EveryoneMatters
  15. 15. WHAT ARE WE LOOKING FOR? Physical Address ▪ Zip code map – search for, “wealthiest zip codes” in your city ▪ Search on your spreadsheet for those zip codes ▪ Check for names in the news, nonprofit affiliations and other interests ▪ Caution: some wealthy people may live in the same house for many years and it may not be situated in a wealthy “zip code” ▪ Caution: some are “house rich” and “cash poor”
  16. 16. PUTTING 2 + 2 TOGETHER Once you begin methodically going through your lists, you will naturally start honing down on prospects. Keep in mind, some that seem like good prospects initially might not necessarily be prospective donors themselves, but they might lead your nonprofit to others who can become donors. Donors and “influencers” are both important. As you conduct this kind of thoughtful research, your mind will remember names and facts. After many years at this, I can recall information about people involved with prior nonprofits from years ago. Focus and be patient.
  17. 17. CASE STUDY ▪ By reviewing the regular mailing list of a conservation nonprofit, I was able to find a member of a foundation board, then giving $25 a year (personally). ▪ Once properly approached and cultivated, that person eventually helped the nonprofit secure $5M from the family foundation.
  18. 18. CASE STUDY ▪ What to do if you have no donor list. At all. ▪ Not knowing any of the nonprofit board members of a zoo - nor whom they knew - I compiled a list of area foundations and companies, their board members and executive staff. ▪ I sent the printed list home with 100+ board members and asked them to “check” any people they knew, to make notes and to send it back. ▪ I assured them their information would be kept confidential. ▪ We discovered our board members were not major gift “donors,” but they sure knew people who were! ▪ Put your Board members to work. ▪ You can create your own prospect list! This worked. ▪ But remember, #CultivationRequired
  19. 19. CASE STUDY ▪ By reviewing the spreadsheet of a small all-volunteer emergency response nonprofit (approximately 60 records), I found an important family foundation board member who made a personal donation of $100. ▪ I also discovered a billionaire in another city had made a modest but most welcome $100 donation. ▪ This group used GoFundMe after a major flooding emergency. While GoFundMe would not allow direct access to donor emails, I was able to search through 80 donor names and partial emails – and I did spot promising prospects for larger gifts. ▪ #CultivationRequired And before you start, make sure thank you letters are up to date, double check/update contact information, and place your prospective donors in a cultivation plan.
  20. 20. CULTIVATION: SLOW DANCING ▪ Finding promising prospects is exciting! ▪ However, once you find them, don’t jump the gun. ▪ Donor cultivation leading to gifts large and small is like a slow dance. ▪ Once you’ve found them, don’t ask them to “marry” you on the spot!
  22. 22. PUBLIC LIBRARIES Candid is now the parent organization of The Foundation Center and GuideStar USA. The Foundation Center online directory can be found on many library computers free of charge, including the Austin Public Library. In some cases, you can access the database from your own portable laptop once you get inside the library and login – or from one of the library computer workstations. Call your local library and/or resource center to see what options are available locally.
  23. 23. THE FOUNDATION CENTER Narrow your search by topic, location, funder and/or person associated. Email yourself a pdf of the results of your searches to study them later.
  24. 24. GUIDESTAR Create a free account on GuideStar and search on states, cities and people. Private foundations are also nonprofits! Read their tax returns (Form 990s).
  25. 25. ADDITIONAL RESOURCES Candid | The Foundation Center | Cheap monthly plans are available DonorSearch | Often integrates with donor management software Fluxx Grantseeker | Join TechSoup to receive a discount (grant management platform with search option) The Granstmanship Center | GrantStation | Join TechSoup to receive a discount | There’s an app, too (free) NozaSearch State of Texas | 360MatchPro and HEPData | Matching gift search and facilitation platforms
  26. 26. RESEARCH FOR HIRE Wealth Screening Services
  27. 27. HAVE MONEY TO SPEND? SPEND MONEY TO MAKE MONEY ▪ Wealth screening can be productive! ▪ Narrow your search for promising prospects by running your spreadsheet through a variety of publicly-available databases. ▪ WealthEngine, DonorSearch, iWave and more: request a demo. ▪ Spoiler alert! If your prospects own privately held companies, you won’t be able to access information online about those entities.
  28. 28. MY WEALTH SCREENING EXPERIENCES ▪ By paying a few thousand dollars for professional screenings, I have been able to find >$100M in prospects. ▪ Depending on how much you need to raise – it may be worth paying for this service. ▪ I have found the process also keeps you from focusing on “names in the news” and the same old prospects, and instead on more likely but less well known and oft-solicited prospects.
  29. 29. YOU CAN DO A LOT YOURSELF Recap ▪ Take the time to review your own lists. ▪ Hidden gems are likely to be found there. ▪ Even a relatively small list can yield dramatic results. ▪ Be a detective! Use the Internet and publicly-available, ethically-sourced information to add to your prospect list (and to your brain’s database – which is useful for securing future jobs). ▪ You do not need an outside “consultant” to do this. ▪ Read often and multiple news sources so your mind becomes familiar with who is who and what is going on philanthropically in your community. ▪ Your brain is amazing: use it!
  30. 30. CREDIBILITY ONLINE Donors are “online” more than ever. Find, claim and complete your GuideStar profile to the gold or platinum seal level. Word of mouth “testimonials” make a world of difference. Consider GreatNonprofits and share reviews on your website and social media. Social media platforms: clean them up, formally verify your Facebook page, unify cross platform messaging, use visual images, video and more!
  31. 31. SECURITY IS ESSENTIAL #Shred ✓ Keep your research results secure and confidential. ✓ Clear your computer’s browsing history routinely. ✓ Invest in a VPN if you are going to do serious online research and often.
  32. 32. SECURITY IS ESSENTIAL #Respect ✓ Some have paid professionals to remove as much as possible about them from the Internet. #Ask ✓ You may need to conduct verbal research by inquiring via friends and professional colleagues.
  33. 33. THANK YOU! Carolyn M. Appleton Email: Blog: -I also represent Qgiv gift processing. -Thanks to Adobe Spark for several images shown. -All rights reserved.