5 Questions to Help You Identify Potential Supporters

So, you want to have a major gift campaign. While there are some groups that are able to jump right in to major gifts, most nonprofits have to do some preparation first – primarily in the area of building a core group of supporters who have the ability to give major gifts.

Before I get in to the five questions though, there’s something that I need to say – and I’ll try to do so gently. If you’re planning on have a major gifts campaign, it’s important that you genuinely like the people you will be asking for gifts from. It might seem that this goes without saying, but I’ve stopped being surprised when I get push-back about inviting donors to become engaged, in a personal way, in the work of the organization. There’s an us versus them issue that sometimes gets in the way. There can be a lot of baggage related to money, so I encourage you to explore any negative preconceptions you might be harboring.

That said, here are five questions you can ask that will help you identify some people and companies who have the ability to provide significant support for your organization.

  1. Who in your community is interested in the issue you’re addressing? Keep an eye on your local newspapers. Do you have a business journal published in your area? Definitely keep an eye on that as well. It would be natural for you to call them up to compare notes and explore ways you might be able to work together.
  2. Who benefits if your goal is accomplished? Will there be more prepared workers entering the workforce? Will an area of town be cleaned up (and more appealing to investors)? Find out who will benefit. Then call them and talk.
  3. Who are you connected to personally? Take a good look at your contact list(s). If you’re not personally connected to someone with the potential to make a significant gift, chances are that you are connected with someone who is. Buy them coffee. Talk about what you’re up to. Explore whether or not they’d be comfortable making an introduction – or if they might have some knowledge of whether the person has an interest in your cause.
  4. Are there businesses that would like to look good in front of your constituents? Many local businesses will hang plaques in their places of business about their charitable involvement. It’s an avenue to explore.
  5. What community leaders could you connect with? You’d be surprised at the numbers of people who will freely give advice to those who ask (sometimes it will take multiple calls / emails for someone to call you back, but don’t give up!)

Those are some of my thoughts. What ideas do you have to add?


5 Questions to Help You Identify Potential Supporters — 3 Comments

  1. Good stuff Kirsten. I think that when you’re looking for new major gift prospects, it’s good to find people who are interested in a similar cause to yours. I’ve counseled many nonprofits that they can’t assume that everyone will be interested in their work. It’s basic marketing, really.

    Sandy Rees