Guides & Resources

Five Ways Prospect Research Can Boost Fundraising Events

Stewardship & Marketing: Donor Relations/Stewardship
Fundraising Strategies: Special Events
Paid Advertisement
Sarah Tedesco

Your next fundraising event presents the perfect opportunity to meet new potential donors, reconnect with your most dedicated supporters, and remind everyone of the great work that your organization does in your community. Face-to-face interactions at an in-person event are a great way to strengthen your relationships with your donors.

To ensure that your organization benefits from your fundraising event, consider conducting prospect research on your event attendees. Prospect research—the process of gathering information on current and potential donors to determine their willingness and capacity to give—and subsequent prospect development has the potential to transform your fundraising. Today, we’ll show you how you can use prospect research data to:

  1. Identify potential major donors and other significant supporters.
  2. Connect with your donors individually.
  3. Turn new attendees into lasting supporters.
  4. Recognize matching gift opportunities.
  5. Thank your donors.

Let’s begin with one of the main reasons organizations conduct prospect research: to identify potential major donors and other individuals capable of making significant gifts. It’s likely that you’ll have some of these donors on the guest list for your next event, and prospect research data can help you approach them in the most effective way.

1. Identify potential major donors and other significant supporters.

Your fundraising event is a great way to learn more about your most significant current and potential donors. You’ll be able to connect with them in person, sharing information on your organization’s latest projects to illustrate the necessity of their gifts. Through a combination of interactions at your event and prospect research data, you’ll learn how you can reach out to significant donors more effectively.

Approaching these donors at your event is essential, especially if you think they’re capable of making a major gift in the near future, but it’s not the first step in your prospect development strategy. As you create the guest list for your event and plan your interactions with potential major donors, use prospect research data to learn more about these individuals’:

  • Giving histories. The primary indicator as to whether an attendee will give to your organization in the future is whether they have given to you in the past. Gifts to other nonprofits with missions similar to yours, especially large gifts, are also good indicators of potential major donors.
  • Capacity to give. Prospect research data provides indications of your attendees’ wealth, from the values of the real estate and stocks they own to their careers and business affiliations, so that you can identify individuals with the capacity to make major gifts and other significant contributions.
  • Reasons for supporting your cause and organization. Are some of your supporters particularly passionate about one of the causes your organization addresses? Have they expressed support for this cause as activists, volunteers, or on social media platforms? If so, you can tailor your communications to address their specific interests in a component of your organization’s work.

Looking for new supporters to invite to your event? Consider reaching out to some of your current supporters’ family members, or members of families with whom your organization has long been connected. Statistics indicate that individuals who grow up in families that give to nonprofits are more likely to give significantly themselves!

Fundraising trends indicate that major giving is on the rise, and your organization doesn’t want to miss out on these important donors! You can use prospect research data to know as much about them as possible before you interact with them at your event, allowing your in-person communication to better address their individual interests and needs.

At your event, you shouldn’t limit your interactions to those attendees capable of becoming major donors. You’ll build stronger relationships with all of your supporters and encourage repeated giving when you use the opportunity to connect with your donors individually.

2. Connect with your donors individually.

Your event presents an excellent opportunity to interact with your donors as individuals and gather more important information, such as their particular reasons for attending your event and supporting your nonprofit. The connections you make with your donors at your event will be stronger if you refine your approaches ahead of time using prospect research data.

Before you or a member of your fundraising team approaches a donor at an event, you’ll want to have plenty of information about them on hand to structure your conversation. First of all, you’ll want to know whether the individual is on your list of guests who are potentially capable of making a major gift. For all attendees, you’ll want to know:

  • How active their involvement with your organization has been. Is this the donor’s first event with your organization, or are they regular attendees? Are they regular donors or in need of more attention from your organization? Knowing their level of involvement with your organization can help you shape your outreach toward them.
  • How they prefer to interact with you. Attendees who found your organization and registered for your event online or through social media will be more receptive to future online outreach than those who prefer more traditional communication methods such as direct mail. Using a combination of prospect research data and your records, you can determine individual donors’ preferred contact methods. Segmenting your database by their preferred communication methods for more effective outreach is often a valuable nonprofit data management strategy.
  • How they want to contribute. Know your donors’ preferred giving methods so that you can ensure that they receive regular communications and incentives to give through that channel. If they’ve given recently, remember to thank them and inform them of how valuable their gift is to your organization’s continued work! Don’t forget to value other ways of contributing as well: if they have a record of volunteering with your organization or other, similar nonprofits, encourage them to get involved as a volunteer in your upcoming project.

When you use prospect research data to inform your in-person communications with attendees as well as the contents of your post-event outreach materials, your donors are sure to feel that your organization takes an interest in their individual reasons for supporting you. This is a key component in the process of turning curious new attendees into lasting supporters of your organization.

3. Turn new attendees into lasting supporters.

Your organization depends on the continued support of your most reliable donors to continue the good work you’re already doing and embark on new and ambitious projects. If you’ve already crafted your fundraising event attendee list using the names in your donor database but it’s still looking a little sparse, you may need to invite some new faces. You can use prospect research to find the perfect guests for your event and transform them into lasting supporters of your organization.

When using prospect research to look for new donors, it helps to start from a familiar place. Begin by reaching out to the family, friends, business connections, and other known associates of your current donors, especially those who regularly support your organization or have made significant gifts in the past. It’s likely that many of these individuals are both capable of and willing to give to your organization.

Want to make your guest list even better? If you’re conducting prospect research with the help of specialized software designed for this purpose, take advantage of the prospect generator tool. A prospect generator can help you identify new potential donors you should invite to your event. Interact with them there, and they’re likely to become your newest dedicated supporters! With the help of a prospect generator, you’ll be able to identify:

  • Individuals who have supported nonprofits like yours in the past, but may not have discovered your organization yet.
  • Members of your community or region who are likely to support your organization.
  • Philanthropically active individuals with a high willingness and capacity to give.

As you build and augment your guest list, you can reference DonorSearch’s prospect generator tips for additional guidance when it comes to making the most of this highly useful tool. Don’t forget to learn your newest supporters’ giving preferences and preferred contact methods so that you can store this information in your donor database and reach out to them after the event.

Whether they’re new attendees or regular donors, everyone at your event is appreciative of the good work your organization does, and most would like to be able to increase their support. You can help them do so by encouraging eligible donors to participate in their employers’ matching gift programs.

4. Recognize matching gift opportunities.

When you conduct prospect research on your attendees, among the primary wealth markers you’ll be looking for are their careers and business affiliations. While their positions or titles can provide indications of the appropriate size gift for which to ask them, their business connections also open the possibility of matching gift opportunities.

Recent nonprofit fundraising statistics indicate that although matching gift programs are common among large American companies, they tend to be underutilized. Employees who participate in these programs ask their employers to match—usually to double—their gift to an eligible nonprofit. The result is that the donor is able to give your organization a gift that’s twice as large at no additional cost to themselves!

How can you encourage your donors to participate in matching gift programs? By addressing and fixing the main problem with them: they’re often forgotten. After you use prospect research to determine who on your event attendee list or in your donor database works for a company that matches gifts, don’t forget to include a reminder in your next outreach to them!

This is an especially important step if many of your attendees or donors work for companies, such as those that appear on reCharity’s list of the top matching gift companies, that are known to have generous matching gift policies. If your organization offers online donation opportunities and you want to make sure that no future donor misses the chance to have their employer match their gift, consider a matching gift database that your donors can search to determine their eligibility.

Your supporters will appreciate the reminder to participate in their companies’ matching gift programs, as they want to be able to give more to contribute to your organization’s valuable work. However much they give, don’t forget to thank them with a message tailored to their individual reasons for supporting your organization.

5. Thank your donors.

You already know how important it is to thank your event guests for attending and to thank all of your donors for their valuable contributions. As you prepare your post-event outreach and thank-yous, however, it’s worthwhile to revisit your content for these notes. Use your prospect research data to thank your donors with the content and methods they’ll like best.

Have attendees or donors who love interacting with your organization on social media? Offer them a special shout-out on your organization’s page on their favorite platform as thanks for attending or giving. For all of your supporters, send your thank-yous through their preferred communication channels, whether that’s email, direct mail, or their smartphone.

Prospect research data can also inform the contents of your thank-yous and other post-event outreach messages. If you know that certain donors support your organization because they’re passionate about a specific cause or component of your work, use your thanks to illustrate how their contribution is working toward that cause.

When you thank your donors according to their reasons for attending your event and supporting your organization, you’re showing them that your organization values their individual contribution to your mission. The small extra effort of personalizing your thanks in this way will result in more of your new attendees or casual supporters becoming dedicated supporters.


Your fundraising event benefits your organization the most when you use it to build stronger connections to individual donors, especially those capable of making major gifts or becoming regular donors. With the help of prospect research, you’ll be able to interact with your donors in the most effective and meaningful way possible.

Sarah Tedesco Sarah Tedesco is the executive vice president of DonorSearch, a prospect research and wealth screening company that focuses on proven philanthropy. Sarah is responsible for managing the production and customer support department concerning client contract fulfillment, increasing retention rate and customer satisfaction. She collaborates with other team members on a variety of issues including sales, marketing and product development ideas.

Paid Advertisement

Read More

14 Jun 2024 Guides & Resources
03 Jun 2024 Chapter Leader Resource Guide
Paid Advertisement
Want The Latest AFP & Fundraising News Delivered To Your Inbox?Sign Up Now!

Recommended for You

Members: Sign in to view your personalized recommendations!

Sign in