Six Steps for Identifying Major Fundraising Prospects While Working Remotely

Six Steps for Identifying Major Fundraising Prospects While Working Remotely
Six Steps for Identifying Major Fundraising Prospects While Working Remotely


The COVID-19 crisis has presented a unique opportunity for development professionals to do the critical groundwork in identifying those prospects whose capacity and inclination can make an impact on current and future fundraising projects. With fewer distractions from spring events and in-school meetings, concentrated time can be spent on the research necessary to understand the potential of your prospects and donors.

Take a fresh look at your database and incorporate prospects not currently on your radar with the following steps.

1. Begin to build a wealth profile of your high capacity donors using home value, earning capacity, stockholdings, personal and professional interests, and prior giving to local charities. If your budget allows, subscribe to an electronic service that screens the names and addresses of your prospects through various publicly available real estate, SEC, and donor databases resulting in a rating of prospects’ wealth capacity and philanthropic inclination, using their proprietary algorithms. While the results are only estimates, they can inform your overall rating of your prospects and help identify potential major donors you had not previously included. For schools that cannot use this type of resource, valuable information about wealth capacity and interests can be gleaned from free online sources, such as LinkedIn, Zillow,, Facebook, Instagram, and, of course, Google.

2. Organize an online meeting of your Development or Major Gifts committee and ask them to rate the wealth capacity, inclination, and interests of your current prospects. Create a number scale (e.g., 1–5) that can be applied to each of the following: overall capacity, philanthropic inclination, and the quality of their relationship to the school. Have each rater include comments about their personal knowledge of the prospects’ interests and other pertinent information that might influence the prospects’ giving to your school. Omit the results from your wealth screenings so as not to influence the committee members. Stress the confidential nature of your discussions and do NOT include the names of the committee members on your lists.

3. Sort your prospects by giving history, listing the largest donors first. Correlate your wealth screening with giving histories to identify your highest potential donors.


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4. Build donor profiles for the top 50 individuals on your list that include all demographic data, a history of their relationships with the school, important information about their professional and philanthropic activities, data on their personal and philanthropic interests, commentary about their current status as prospects, and recommended next steps.

5. Identify the prospects that have not been giving to capacity or are new to your community. Build profiles for those with the most potential to become part of your “top 50.”

6. Meet with your Admission Director to glean information about incoming families who might be included on your list of major donors.

Once you have taken these careful steps to identify your donors with the highest potential, you can begin to build engagement plans for them. This can result in inspiring your prospects to make gifts to your school that match their capacity, inclination, and interests.


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