The importance of researching your donors

A key for non-profit organizations is to raise funds for their missions. While it's possible to fundraise through cold calls, asking strangers for donations and other similar means, there's plenty of money that's being left behind. In order to access these funds, non-profit organizations should conduct extensive research into their donors to learn how they can capitalize on the relationship.

How to conduct research
Fishing with a wider net may seem like it would lead to better results, but it doesn't help if the holes are too big for the fish you're trying to catch. Instead, learning as much as you can about the fish, such as its size, behaviors and preferred bait, could be the difference between going home with an empty boat or enough food to last you a few meals. 

The same can be said with fundraising. 

While you may get the occasional bite - or, in this case, donation - by targeting the general public, you could also use a separate approach of finding a specific donor and making it a goal to form a mutually beneficial relationship with them. 

If you've found someone who you think would be a great donor for your cause, you should do your homework to see if that's truly the case. To do so, you could take a look at any past donations that they've made. Do they coincide with your organization's mission? If the answer is yes, you may be in luck.

You can also take your research to the next level and see what other organizations or people the potential donor has formed allegiances with. This could not only lead to other potential donors, but tell you a lot about their interests. If you're hoping to raise money for an acting course for high school students, you may be interested in a client who has some background in entertainment or theater. A lot of this information can be found through online databases and directories for grant applications, or even through the use of search engines or social media accounts. 

If you're looking to target professional or government agencies for donations, looking at their websites could provide important information, such as their past donation amounts and locations. This could give non-profits an idea of how much of a donation to anticipate from certain donors. Not doing so could leave a lot of money on the table that just a few minutes of research could've prevented. 

Last but not least, you can also ask donors to complete surveys to find out what you need to know going into the future. With the ability to accept donations online, these surveys can be completed with little effort by the donors.

What's next?
After researching your current and potential donors, it's time to calculate their giving capacity. By coming up with a number you feel is appropriate to expect from donors, you're able to come up with an estimated fundraising total. This can be done with the help of the IRS, books like The Foundation Directory and other online sources.

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