By Trish Williams, Client Resource Specialist, Pride Philanthropy

Having good information on your prospects is invaluable before approaching them for donations – the majority of donations in the United States still come from individuals, and being able to combine financial ability and a personal passion can be the key to forming a long-lasting philanthropic relationship between your donor and your organization.

As prospect researchers, we generally only have access to information that is available in the public domain and the easiest access to this information is the Internet. Known for its plethora of information, the Internet can be filled with overwhelming amounts of data but it is still a treasure trove for prospect researchers. We must act as Internet detectives to sort through all the information in cyberspace to get to the meaningful and accurate nuggets of information that will be useful in profiling a donor. The more information you start with, the better your search results will be. Knowing the full name (with the middle name, maiden name and any generational names), last known address and birthdate of your prospects as well as any business affiliations they may have or have had will allow you to drill through the vast amount of data that is out there quickly and efficiently. Armed with this information, a very thorough and accurate profile of a prospective donor can usually be obtained.

Another great resource for information regarding your local area prospects is your local newspaper. Keep a close watch on the public interest articles for the names of your prospects to find out what they or their family may be doing. Everyone wants to feel that others care about them and the things they do. Being able to express genuine interest in what your prospect has been doing in the community will go a long way to being able to create a mutually beneficial relationship. The local paper is also a great place to learn of others who might be perfect prospects for your organization.  Is this information really helpful? Absolutely! Knowing that your prospect used to play golf competitively while they were in college gives you the chance to invite them to your Annual Golf Gala. Being aware they have children in the band at a nearby school can lead to a conversation about the need for more funding for a music program and concert series at the area performing arts facilities. Knowing which political party they tend to support can prevent any blunders from derailing an otherwise excellent ‘ask’ opportunity.

While the information available to us in the public domain can never tell the full story of someone’s interests or ability to give, it can definitely give some useful insights. That sweet lady you see at every garden club meeting who never says a word, the garrulous gentleman at every city council meeting, the couple who attend every football game to cheer along their children may just be your next signature gift donors. Do you know enough about them to ask?