Finding Passionate Volunteers with Prospect Research

Every nonprofit depends on monetary donations to survive and thrive.  But where would nonprofits be without passionate citizens eager to lend a helping hand?

Good volunteers are hard to find and even harder to keep.  That’s why it’s important to find the “right” volunteers with skills and interests that are aligned with your nonprofit’s mission.  That’s where prospect research can help.

You read that right!  Most of us know prospect research is a tried-and-true method for identifying and cultivating major gift donors.  But you can apply the same strategies to find individuals who are willing and able to contribute major gifts of a different kind.  Here are a few tips to get you started.

Know What (and Who) You Need

The first step to find a potential donor is knowing the major gift amount you need and the ideal donor who might be able to contribute that amount.  Ask questions like:

  • What skills do we need on the team?
  • Who could provide this?
  • How can we communicate with them?
  • What would motivate them?

Go to the Source

iWave’s charitable giving database VeriGift categorizes different kinds of charitable gifts, including gifts of time.  Select “Volunteer” in the Gift Type dropdown menu, then specify the city/state of your search.  You will see a list of results of individual volunteers.  You can further refine your searches by specifying the nonprofit category you’re interested in, such as healthcare or the environment.

Age, Education, and Occupation Suggest Affinity

Generally speaking, just as Baby Boomers and Millennials have different interests, so do they have different passions when it comes to volunteering.

Boomers nearing the end of their career may be more interested in giving back.  They search for opportunities to care for people through organizations focused on human services and education.  They may also wish to nurture arts and culture by assisting organizations dedicated to the humanities.  Acquiring new skills may be less valuable to Boomer volunteers than the altruistic feeling of giving back.  As Boomers age, they may become more interested in donating to healthcare organizations because of the universal need for primary health services.

Millennials believe their generation will be one that will change the world for the better.  Many care about the environment and breaking down socioeconomic barriers.  Career-minded Millennials may be better motivated with opportunities to develop new skills and gain valuable experience as they navigate a difficult job market.

Education and occupation can also play a role in determining how an individual wishes to give back.  Software engineers may be more likely to support an organization like Girls Who Code rather than a historic theatre.  The theatre might be better off speaking with a local CEO with an Arts degree.  You can find information about your prospects’ education backgrounds with datasets like Thomson Reuters, Dun and Bradstreet, and Database USA.

Look For Board of Directors Opportunities

Nonprofit boards are typically unpaid positions of great responsibility.  In fact, many organizations expect board members to contribute major gifts every year.  Through databases like VeriGift and iWave’s Guidestar tab, you can see which of your prospective volunteers have served or currently serve on nonprofit boards.

Directors are often your most passionate evangelists.  If you have longtime volunteers with relevant business or nonprofit skills, consider inviting them to join your board.  Just remember to keep this advice from Mary Richter in mind when recruiting new board members.

How do you use prospect research to find new volunteers?  Let us know in the comments below.


About the author: Ryan McCarvill is iWave’s Content Manager.  He joined the iWave team in 2016. Ryan enjoys meeting and learning from nonprofit professionals, researching trends in the nonprofit community, and offering strategies for development teams to use iWave’s solutions to meet and exceed their fundraising goals.    

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