Who Has Time for Research?

Simple research tips for the small (but mighty) shop

With the holiday season and year-end solicitations well underway, who has time to research donors, let alone those who have just given for the first time or have given only a modest gift? It’s an all-hands-on-deck atmosphere in a small development shop and adding even the smallest task or responsibility will have fundraisers’ heads spinning.

Here are a few simple tips for launching, re-imagining or supplementing your development research strategy during a busy time of year:

  1. Prioritize.
    As fundraisers, you know your donors, mission and organization better than anyone else; so follow your instincts and prioritize who you research. You don’t need to research every donor in your database; if you have a hunch, go for it! Complete a full database screening when you have time to review the results (and breath).
  2. Start Small.
    Choose a select group of donors to screen first. Maybe, to your organization, it’s all about location or proximity to the service area. Perhaps you have seen mid-level donors transitioning to major gift prospects recently. Or you may want to focus on alumni of a certain graduation date or rage of dates. Do what fits your organization’s development strategy best. Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day — and neither was your campaign.
  3. Screen in batches.
    If you have a screening tool, screen donors of new gifts on a weekly basis (or whatever frequency works for you) to give you easily digestible information. Even if someone makes a first-time gift of $100, they could be a hidden gem. This is also a great way to update wealth screening data for annual or lapsed donors if you haven’t completed a full database screening in several years. Screening in small batches makes review easier (and of course, it’s much faster than watching paint dry/screening donors individually).
  4. Make a list.
    It’s December 30th and obviously it is crunch time. Don’t try to squeeze in the research now; instead, make a list of donors you would like to research after January rolls around. Create an attribute or status for pending research and update the field as the gifts are processed. By starting a queue for a research pipeline now, you are saving precious time for diving into the research instead of searching and mining the database later.

Hopefully, the minutes it took to read this post will be made up in no time by utilizing even just one of these quick tips.

And of course, if research still seems a bit overwhelming or you don’t have your own screening tool, Hillcrest Advancement can take it off your plate and do it for you or help you develop a plan that is right for your organization.

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