How to Find Those Donors Who Will Love (and Support) You

by Heather Stewart

Hopefully, if you’ve been following this blog for sometime, you’ll have planned out your fundraising; figured out what you’re fundraising for, how much you need and what resources you’re going to use.  So now you just need to work out who will give you money, right?  Well, yes, right, but this is probably the most time consuming aspect of all of your fundraising – and it certainly shouldn’t be the part that you don’t invest any time in.  By figuring out who is going to give you money, you can ensure your fundraising is proactive – rather than you chasing your tail and jumping at every opportunity that comes your way (although you can do that too but it’s rather time consuming not to mention exhausting).

1. Start with Who you Know and Who Knows You – the rules of 6 degrees of separation apply to fundraising just as much, if not more, than anything else.  So start with your database – current, previous and lapsed donors.  Who knows you already?  Who has supported you already?  And are there other potential opportunities to encourage them to fund you in the future?  Moving on from this group, look at your Board and their contacts (and I wrote about using LinkedIn to do this here).  They might not want to make direct approaches themselves but would they be willing to introduce you?

2. Who Doesn’t Know You but Funds Similar Things? – look at your ‘competitors’ or potential partners (same thing really) people working in a similar field to you.  This doesn’t mean they have to be identical to you.  Many organisations say, ‘no-one does what we do’ and, while it may be true that no-one does exactly what you do, they may have similar clients, a similar audience, or just work in a similar broad field, such as theatre, community development or education.  Look at their annual reports (you can often get them online) and find out who funds them to see if it helps to spark any ideas.

3. As Kirsty and Phil would say (for those of you living in the UK) location, location, location – who are the people or organisations that support projects in your area?  Are there any businesses that recruit in your area or are about to open – this is a good time to raise your profile with them.

4. Good Old Fashioned Research – and so now it’s time to uncover a few more gems and you don’t have to spend a fortune on expenses research resources to uncover wealthy individuals or trusts.  Start with a few freebies such as J4bCommunity or Grantmakers Online.  Don’t forget the press too – local, national and sector specific – you don’t have to buy the paper, as many of them are available free online.  Use Google Alerts to highlight key words that reflect the area you work in or particular sources of funding that you’re hoping to find out more about and have them delivered to your inbox – for free!


Just a few pointers to get you started with prospect research but the key point is, start with those closest to you and work your work out from there.

Take a look at a few other sites that have excellent prospect research materials including:

Prospect Research Toolkit

Prospecting for Gold – list of potential research resources

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