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  • How to Research Your Fundraising Prospects – 7 Online Resources

Use the following resources to help you figure out the best prospects for your nonprofit or fundraising project – saving you time and money! Deciphering the best prospects for your cause may seem daunting at first, especially if you are new to fundraising. Many nonprofits spend top dollar on hiring development consultants or staff when a web savvy volunteer or staff person could do the background research themselves.

Follow these hints on how to use free Internet resources to qualify new prospects for your cause!


1. Google

Google’s search engine is the most comprehensive on the Net, with the most advanced algorithms to find exactly what information you need, as long as you use it right.

  • Learn the science of Boolean searching if you don’t know it. Berkley’s Library has a quick guide for Boolean search for college students. Read it! While Google’s search engine is intuitive and cuts out some of the need for advanced Boolean principles, the right combinations of keywords and punctuations will help you find exactly what you need and save time in your research.
  • If you are looking for new prospects, search for published annual reports or donor lists from similar organizations or themes in your cause area. “Annual report” or “Supporters” or “Donors” with “Environmental Education (or specific name of a nonprofit)” and “Philadelphia (your area)”.
  • If you are trying to determine how much money to ask for, pull up annual reports or donor lists from other nonprofits with your prospect’s name. “Harry Smith” and “Annual Report”.
  • It is always helpful to see where your donor prospect is in the news. Google just their name and see what comes up first – those are the most popular articles!

2. Foundation Center

The Foundation Center’s Foundation Directory has the most comprehensive list of foundations in the country. If you can afford it, buy a basic monthly membership. If not, they have a free resource to pull up basic information. Even if you are targeting individuals for your fundraising, this tool is useful. Many individuals use trusts or foundations as “giving vehicles” for their philanthropy, and you can find fantastic information about their giving histories and trends this way.

  • If you need basic contact information and guidelines for a particular funder in your area, they probably keep their information up to date here and you can find it by entering their name in the “Grantmaker Name” search field. You will also be able to see if the prospect or his/her family has a foundation.
  • If you are starting from scratch, pull up all of the grant makers in your town, and sort through by how much they give in the free version, or by a number of different qualifying fields if you have a monthly membership.
  • If you have a membership, you can see if your donor prospect is connected to foundation boards by plugging his name in the donor/trustee search field.

3. Guidestar

Every entity with a nonprofit EIN is on Guidestar, and hence its database is comprehensive for searching for prospect information. Register and it is all accessible for free!

  • You may find board connections for your prospects when you enter their names in the search engine. It depends on whether the nonprofit affiliate has entered their leadership information into the system.
  • If your donor has a connection to a foundation, you can use Guidestar to pull up the 990 tax return for that grant maker and see exactly how much it gave to certain charities. This information is invaluable and can fill gaps in Foundation Center data.

4. Bloomberg

Bloomberg has a large list of corporate biographies with connections to nonprofits and affiliate boards.

  • Look at the billionaire index for your wealthiest prospects,
  • The Company Insight Center for wealth information for corporations,
  • Or use the front page search engine for the biographies and affiliations of executives of all sizes and wealth.

5. ZoomInfo

ZoomInfo has detailed information on over 95 million businesspeople, and can be a lifesaver for finding contact information.

  • If you are looking for particular contacts for a company, punch in the company name in the search field and the best contacts for it, along with emails and phone numbers, will pop up.
  • If you are trying to determine where your prospect works, punch in their name and a list of her employers and her contact information at them will arise.

6. LinkedIn

If you want to see other affiliations for your prospect (work employment history, board affiliations, etc.), LinkedIn is a good place to look to see if your prospect has a profile. You can even use the site as a resource to communicate directly with the prospect – to email a proposal or to introduce yourself for a meeting.

7. Facebook

Facebook can be a great resource in a few different ways:

  • If your prospect has a public profile, you can learn about his/her family, hobbies and community affiliations, as well as get an idea of his personality.
  • Most companies have Facebook pages, so you can learn about your corporate prospects and what information they are pushing to the public for their cause marketing – you can quickly see what they care most about and who they are trying to attract to their product.

If you are new to fundraising, or if you are nonprofit or cause without a budget for development and need a good prospect list regardless, make the Web work for you as your time saver and donation maker by using these basic Internet resources in house!

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