Prospect Research List Building: The Canadian Edition


We published a blog post about the best prospect research list building strategies. Thanks to feedback from our clients and subscribers, we have adapted that post with Canadian prospects in mind.  From screening to real estate data, the Canadian nonprofit industry can be very different from that in the US, and vice versa.

Knowing why and how to create the following prospect lists can be a major time-saver, and better yet, it may help you secure more major gifts for your team.

You may have the ability to focus your search by choosing to filter for US or Canadian prospects separately.  In Prospect Research Online (PRO), this toggle function exists in several datasets.



Company-centric datasets provide several list building opportunities.  This is especially true if they identify potential giving capacity.  Using a database like Dun and Bradstreet, for instance.  Try building a list of corporations in your city or province with a high sales volume.  From your list of successful companies, you can now identify wealthy executives and directors and start the real research work.

Perhaps your nonprofit wants to encourage young women to embark on careers in scientific research all across Canada.  You can search for C-level managers in the Scientific Research and Development Services field.  Apply more search filters to find female managers with a range of wealth score estimates.  Now that you have your list, it’s time to start digging further!

Within Track Wealth, you can also build a list based on Canadian employees that work for companies trading in the US to see any shares they may own.  Building lists this way is easier said than done, but it is possible.


In the Foundations/Charities dataset, you can build a list of foundations using Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) data.  If you are on the development team for a Vancouver hospital, you could build a list of public charities or private foundations that have awarded grants to other organizations in the health care field.  There is a chance those foundations may also award grants to your hospital.

You can also conduct a search of “competing” organizations themselves to find a list of foundations that have previously awarded grants to them.  You may even discover grants and foundations your team was not aware of before.  Be prepared for overlap between foundations that have supported other organizations as well as your own.  To make sense of this, compare your grants with those of others to see if you’re receiving similar amounts or if there might be room for negotiation in the future.

Matching Gifts

According to Charity Village, 65% of Fortune 500 companies have matching giftslist building programs.  In Canada alone, several well-known corporations offer excellent programs.  Some of these companies include: Bank of Montreal, Bell Canada, Sun Life Financial, and Thomson Reuters.

Ever hear of the Golden Ratio?  For matching gifts programs, that translates to anything larger than 1:1.  While many companies have matching gifts programs, employees may not be aware of them.  Your next gift could bring in double, triple, or even quadruple your original ask amount.  After building a list of local companies with strong programs, you can then use this list to find their employees and encourage them to give.  This ensures a matching gift opportunity, and helps your donor’s major gift go further!


Charitable Donations Data

Within the VeriGift dataset, you can build a list of individuals or companies that have given within the past few years to nonprofits or charities in your NTEE category and in your local area.  If you work for a dynamic nonprofit with a variety of stakeholders, try building lists based on individuals who have given major gifts in your area.  Did you know there were over 200 gifts of $250,000-$499,000 made in Toronto (excluding the GTA) since 2014?  All VeriGift records are linked to the source so you can easily verify the donor, gift amount, and gift type.

The value of using a charitable giving database to identify new prospective donors is that not only can you understand their potential giving capacity, but it also provides hints about their connections to different types of causes.

Political Giving

Every election cycle, thousands of people donate in various amounts to their preferred candidates. Elections Canada data makes it easy to find these contributions. This data is evidence of propensity.

As with other lists, you can base your political giving list on prospects and donors in your local area.  From here, you can utilize advanced filters such as contribution range, party affiliation, candidate, and the year(s) of contribution to identify individuals with proven capacity and history of giving.

When searching for Canadian prospects, it’s important to remember that public information can be trickier to find than records from the United States.  However, it is still possible to locate valuable Canadian prospects by using basic strategies like list building.  By establishing similarities of propensity, affinity, and capacity amongst a group of prospects, you can prioritize and engage potential donors faster, easier, and with a plan in mind.

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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