How to prioritize your donor outreach


We're thrilled to bring you a guest post from prospect research expert Bill Tedesco!

tedesco_smBill is a well-known entrepreneur in the field of philanthropy with over 15 years of experience leading companies serving the fundraising profession. Bill has personally conducted original research to identify markers of philanthropy and has developed modeling and analytical products that use those markers to accurately predict future giving. Since 2007, Bill has been the founder, CEO and Managing Partner of DonorSearch.

Donor outreach. It’s one of those processes that every organization understands the significance of but not every organization fully understands how to unlock its potential.

As you plan out the ways you can raise your average donation amount and options for optimizing certain fundraising strategies, ensure that your organization is giving donor outreach improvement its due diligence.

Part of that due diligence needs to involve getting to know your prospects and donors better so that your team has the right tools in their tool belts to appropriately reach out and make meaningful moves towards securing a donation.

Prospect research reveals key traits about your donors in order to illuminate the pertinent facts that make them more or less likely to donate to your organization.

With the support of data gathered through a prospect screening, your organization will be better equipped to make the most of every outreach opportunity available. You’ll be situated to prioritize your tasks accordingly.

Think of it this way. Imagine you’re trying to get the attention of a stranger in a large crowd. Let’s call him Greg.

With prospect research, you know his name, what he looks like, and can easily call out in his direction to get his attention. Without prospect research, you have a hunch that his name begins with a G and you’re about fifty-fifty on if his hair is blonde or brown.

See how the former is a far superior situation to be in? Now, if we translate that back into outreach terms, prospect data can help you customize your outreach for a targeted, and therefore more effective, approach.

Let prospect research guide your donor outreach and put your priorities into focus.

First — Decide which giving levels suit your prospects.

Arguably, the biggest benefit of prospect research is that it helps nonprofits spot prospects and donors with high-quality gift potential.

Your organization will be far more successful in its outreach endeavors if you are regularly asking supporters to contribute funds in a fashion that matches their giving capacity.

Prospect research will help you determine that giving capacity through an analysis of both a donor’s affinity toward your organization and ability to donate from a financial perspective.
Let’s discuss each half one at a time.


A donor’s affinity toward your organization can be determined through a variety of factors, all of which can be discovered via a prospect screening, including:

  • Past giving to your organization
  • Past giving to other organizations
  • Time spent volunteering
  • Board membership
  • And more

You should lead analysis of giving capacity with an examination of past philanthropy and related behaviors. Although wealth should be considered, it should follow philanthropy and act as a supporting indicator to better decide which giving level a supporter falls into.


Once you know that someone would be a great candidate for giving, you can then use prospect research to deduce exactly how much you should ask for.

Donors can fall into a wide range of levels, which include:

  • Planned giving
  • Major giving
  • Mid-level giving
  • Annual fund
  • Small gifts

A wealth screening of traditional markers like real estate ownership, political giving, stock ownership, and more can help you decide the direction of your outreach.

Maybe a donor’s affinity and ability clearly align a prospect with your monthly giving program. Or, you might find that a prospect’s philanthropic passion and financial capacity makes them an ideal candidate to be cultivated by your major gift officer.

Second — Understand the ideal outreach activities for different prospect types.

Prospect research is an ideal resource to help you align donor background and interest with the scope of your organization’s giving channels and select which opportunity is the right fit. That way, you start outreach with your priorities in order.

Outreach can be a resource-consuming endeavor. You’ll have to budget for time and money for activities from direct mail campaigns to in-person meetings.

When you know that one segment of your donor pool is composed of qualified candidates for major giving, that’s where your in-person meeting hours should go. On the other hand, annual fund donors could respond well to a combination of direct mail and email.


Effective outreach is largely about listening to your donors, and prospect research gives you supersonic hearing. Combine what you know about your prospects and donors with the resources at your disposal, and you will not only know how to reach your donors but what to ask for when you do.

Want to learn more about how targeted donor outreach can benefit your organization's bottom line? Visit the experts at DonorSearch for more information!


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