Successful fundraising is based on five Fundraising I’s of the donor cycle: Identify, Investigate, Inform, Involve and Invest. It is important that a prospective donor be taken through the entire cycle before a solicitation is made. Sometimes we forget some of these steps and jump to “the ask” and then wonder why a prospective donor did not make a gift. Let’s take the Five I’s and discuss each one.
Identify: An organization must continually build its database of prospective donors. Prospective donors include anyone who attended an event, been suggested by board members or committee members, or shares the workplace of your current donors. Conducting peer screenings is a great way to identify prospects and simultaneously identify who knows each prospect. Organizations can buy lists of donors who give to similar organizations or geographical lists by donor location. Many organizations use wealth indicator software. As a former fundraiser I used to look at the honor rolls of similar nonprofits to find potential donors. Searching foundation directories and the chamber’s Lists of Lists helps identify prospects whose giving mission matches your own organization’s funding needs.
Investigate: Once identified, research needs to be conducted for all prospective individual, corporate and foundation funders. Google is a great tool to find out all one can about an individual. Larger organizations may purchase software like Wealth Engine or Hoover’s to learn more about individuals and corporations. Every foundation has a website and most do a great job explaining what they fund and their grant application process. The best way to find out more about an individual’s giving interests is to find someone who knows that individual and is able to open a door.
Inform: There are many ways to educate and inform prospects such as making sure each is receiving organizational emails, signed up for a blog, newsletters, event invitations, volunteer opportunities, social media and press releases. An organization should take any opportunity at any gathering to inform participants about the nonprofit’s needs and the impact its making. Open houses and home receptions are still a great way to inform prospective donors in a smaller setting.
Involve: It’s important that an organization offers many ways for prospects to get involved whether an individual or a corporate/foundation representative. Sitting on a committee, hosting a home reception, attending an event or volunteering are all great ways to get involved. Asking for advice also provides an opportunity to involve prospects and the potential funder feels good about giving advice.
Invest: ONLY after the other four I’s have been accomplished should a prospect be asked to make an investment. When a board member or staff member feels that a prospect is ready to be solicited – make sure you have decided on an ask amount beforehand. Ask the prospect to “consider” making a gift of $______ and then be quiet. Let the donor speak first and be ready for questions. If the answer is maybe then be sure to follow up appropriately until you have an answer. If the answer is “no” – it means no, not right now. Keep the prospect on your informing mechanisms and keep trying to involve them. If the answer is “yes” – congratulations, it’s now time to thank, thank, thank your donor and stewardship begins.
By the way, Stewardship is something that should infuse every stage of the fundraising cycle – before, during and after a gift is made. You should always be looking for ways to share appreciation for donors gifts of time, talent and treasure.