The True Story of 2018 Giving

The Association of Fundraising Professionals shared some highlights from the Fundraising Effectiveness Project’s 2018 Fourth Quarter Report.

According to the report, giving did increase in the last quarter but almost purely by larger donors ($1,000+). Everything else seemed to decrease: gifts less than $1,000,  retention rates, and number of donors.

It always takes some time to slice and dice the numbers after the year-end rush – does this sound similar to how your organization ended its 2018 calendar year?

This may not be the rosiest picture, but understanding where we came from can help determine strategy for where we are going. Take some time to see how your organization stacks up with the trends. Did you come out ahead; where the rest of the sector saw a decrease? If so, congratulations! You know your donors well and know how to keep them happy.

If there are some areas you fell below the trends or would like to improve, regardless of how the sector is performing, think about how data-mining and developing a prospecting strategy might help you achieve your 2019 goals! I’m always here to chat about it – reach me at

A few of my favorite things

After sharing the components of a prospect profile last week, I thought I’d provide you with a list of some great resources, tools and tricks of the trade.

For wealth screening and confirming screening results: DonorSearch, iWave, WealthEngine, Blackbaud Target Analytics/ResearchPoint, and LexisNexis for Development Professionals, to name a few (caveat: these are not free but are worth the investment!).

For foundation research: Guidestar and Foundation Director Online (now together as Candid), FoundationSearch, GrantStation.

Tools for building a profile:

  • – look up political contributions from individuals.
  • Forbes – can be used for articles or company and billionaire profiles for professional and personal biographical information.
  • Google – search for the name + director, trustee, etc. to see where the individual may serve on a board. Or name + obituary to look at a family tree and information about family members.
  • NozaSearch – search foundation, individual and corporate donations.
  • Pulawski Tax Assessor Database – great for confirming real estate tax and ownership information.
  • – for investigating estimated salaries.
  • Social Media – LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and any other platform a prospect uses. These provide great insight into what an individual publishes themselves: photo, name/nickname, family, education, career experience, certifications, etc.
  • Yahoo Finance – for insider information/salaries, forms and news about publicly-traded companies.
  • Zillow – for checking our real estate value, taxes, estimates, when a property was last sold.
  • Zoominfo – great for finding business information and even personal business contact details such as phone number and email address.

Hopefully, these will be helpful for your next research project. There are tons of other excellent sites to use. What are your favorites?

Pieces of the Prospect Profile Puzzle

This week, let’s break down the different pieces to a prospect research profile. If you need to create one yourself and have never completed prospect research before, here’s an outline to get you started and guide you through the process of piecing together a profile.

The Prospect Profile

  1. NAME: Always include the full name (including any honorific titles or suffixes), address and contact information in the beginning. I know, duh, right? Well, having the full name with any distinguishing titles or suffixes is a quick reminder to the reader using the profile. Format is up to you, but I like to use this information as a header.
  2. PHOTO: If you can find it, include a photo. It’s great to put a face to a name – especially if this is a new guest at an event.
  3. CONNECTION TO YOUR ORGANIZATION: Use this section to outline how this individual is connected to your organization, why you are researching this person and any giving history to your organization. Perhaps a trustee gave you the name or you found it through your own data-mining – either way, make note of it.
  4. BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION: This section can include age, birth date, where they reside, spouse name, children’s names, and any other information that is personal in nature (such as lifestyle indicators, interests or hobbies).
  5. EDUCATION: This one is self-explanatory. Include as much detail as you can find about each degree, major, graduation date and college or university. High school information can also be important because it may link the prospect back to a trustee’s hometown or even your own!
  6. NONPROFIT AFFILIATIONS: List past and present affiliations to other organizations, whether board members or volunteers. This section is great for finding common links between your prospect and others. Maybe you will see patterns such as the individual being heavily involved in healthcare. This can get tedious but it’s so important!
  7. HONORS AND AWARDS: List any recognition the individual has received. These could be honoree of a gala, listing in the top lawyers of the state report, volunteer award, or any other way the prospect has been recognized. Tip: It’s a great ice-breaker or way to (re)open communication if you find a recent award for which the development officer can congratulate their prospect!
  8. PROFESSION: Here, include the title, name of the company and contact information of the company of the individuals current position. Also include either as bullet points or as a narrative, a (complete as possible) career history. Another feature to this section, which could also be one of its own, is a list of current and past corporate or professional boards (e.g. trade associations, companies, etc.). Here is where you can find some great connections. You can always note connections to your board in this section.
  9. REAL ESTATE: This is where the wealth estimates come in. Include all real estate owned by the individual and follow your organization’s policy for joint ownership, sole proprietor business owners, and spouse ownership. I like to include the address, date of purchase and price, mortgage information (if available), taxes and an estimated value.
  10. SALARY: This can be tricky. Some salaries are public – such as those who are insiders of public companies – and others are not. If all else fails, you can list an estimate in the field, as long as it is noted as such.
  11. STOCK HOLDINGS: Make sure to include the name, amount and value as of the day you are evaluating. Stock prices can change rapidly, so the date of the valuation is very important.
  12. OTHER WEALTH INDICATORS: Anything that sticks out that doesn’t fit into another category, include here. Maybe the prospect has a really expensive hobby or has a private jet. This can be a fun section if you find the information.
  13. NET WORTH ESTIMATE: This is the number everyone is looking for. Include a range based on the wealth indicators you found and your organization’s policy for rating. Include your rationale for coming to these conclusions.
  14. FOUNDATION AFFILIATIONS: Is your prospect the president of a family foundation or a trustee for a large grant-maker? Include the information here about the organization, assets and types of grants they provide.
  15. PUBLIC GIVING HISTORY: Here, include all giving history you can find for donations given to organizations other than your own. This helps to determine if an individual gives to a certain type of organization (which may or may not be a fit for your organization) and how much.
  16. PROPENSITY: Summarize an estimated amount and type of gift the prospect could make, based on your entire report findings.
  17. AFFINITY: Summarize the likelihood to give to YOUR organization and for what, based on what you found in your research.
  18. SOURCES: And last but not least, include a list of the sources you used to create your prospect profile (e.g. databases, website links, news articles).

Well, there you have it – all of the aspects that I like to include in a full prospect profile. Is it a little overwhelming? Maybe you don’t need THAT much detail? Feel free to create a template that works for your organization and fits your needs.

If you could use a hand in creating your own template, learning how to locate the information noted above, or just want someone to do the research for you, reach me at!

A chat with Hannah Zollman

A few weeks ago, I had the lovely opportunity to sit down at Work & Play in South Orange, New Jersey, with local fundraising consultant Hannah Zollman, founder and principal of Mission Driven Fundraising, and talk all things prospect research from her point of view as a fundraiser. Here are a few snippets of our conversation:

BS: What do you consider to be the major benefits of prospect research for fundraisers and your clients?

HZ: Development is all about relationships. Before you ask for any gift, you want to educate yourself. Prospect research can help you ground the conversation as you begin and continue the cultivation process. Authenticity is important, not just chasing dollars. You are building relationships to sustain the future of your organization. As you learn and build the relationships, it is so valuable to understand where the individual gives and how they are connected to your organization and your greater community. Research can then give you this information and also indicate propensity and capacity – how much to ask for, when and how.

BS: I know you’ve done your share of prospect research. What are some of your favorite tools to use yourself?

HZ: I find Zillow to be really helpful for real estate assets. Weddings and obituaries are great for discovering biographical information and family ties. Also, I often use Google searches of the prospect’s name and “board of” to see where they serve as trustees and advocates of other organizations. And for foundations, I use the Foundation Center’s Foundation Directory Online (which is now in partnership with Guidestar and under the new name Candid).

BS: Building on how you have used research in the past, can you share a success story that can be linked back to prospect research?

HZ: Definitely. I worked for an organization who had a volunteer with no prior giving history. One day, the volunteer dropped off a check for $25,000. This was the organization’s largest gift at that time. Of course, I immediately began researching the donor to find out more about her. Unfortunately, she had no giving history in the public record, but she did have a public Facebook profile and I was able to learn a lot about her, her family, and her lifestyle. This detective work enabled me to continue cultivating her and led to securing even larger gifts in the future. Research matters.

BS: Those stories are always so fun to hear – and are so rewarding for the person doing the exploration. You work with many clients who are new to fundraising and those building new programs. What are some of the important takeaways that you hope your clients will understand about prospect research?

HZ: Whether you do it yourself or hire someone else to do it for you, research is worth the investment! It helps to qualify prospects and focus time and energy when there are tons of other shiny objects to distract you. That being said, establishing the proper systems and processes for prospect and donor management is critical, especially when developing your cultivation plan and tracking who initiates contact with whom when small shops are so reliant on board members and volunteers.

I always love talking about fundraising with other respected and knowledgeable professionals in the field. If you’ve enjoyed Hannah’s insights and are interested in learning more about what either of us can do to help your organization strengthen its relationships and meet (or exceed!) its fundraising goals, please reach us at and

The Millionaire Report

Wealth Engine just published its 2019 U.S. Millionaire Report – it is definitely worth a download. The document has some great insights – with lots of infographics! – into who (according to Wealth Engine’s data, make up 12.7% of the U.S. population) the millionaires are.

A few highlights:

  • 23% of millionaires are business owners.
  • 1 million are nonprofit board members.
  • 84% are between the ages of 40 and 79.
  • Top car makes for this group are Toyota, Ford and Honda.
  • The top five states of residence are California, New York, Florida, Texas and New Jersey.

And my favorite: “One of the fastest growing millionaire segments is of millennial millionaires.” Let’s not completely discount the millennial generation just yet. The great transfer of wealth coming to this group will no doubt keep those numbers growing. Wealth Engine is also publishing a 2019 National Millennial Report, and I look forward to sharing that in a few months!

Think about this report in terms of your donors – how you are soliciting them and where they are in their individual stages of life. Enjoy reading and good lucking nailing down more of these millionaires to your prospect pool!