5 Tips For Using Charitable Donations Data


Making sense of charitable donations data records is a critical step toward achieving your prospect development goals. Finding information about your prospects can sometimes be a case of feast or famine. With one prospect, you may struggle to uncover the material you need. With another, you may be worried you’re spending too much time panning for gold with heaps of data. So, how can you qualify your prospects with more confidence and spend less time doing so? Searching for charitable donations data may be your answer.

Donations data, also known as charitable giving data, can be looked at from a number of perspectives: charitable gifts to nonprofits from individuals, charitable gifts to nonprofits from foundations or corporations, and affiliations with foundations and public charities. Stay tuned – we’ll touch more on foundations in a later post.

There is also political giving. Though not considered charitable donations, political contributions are positively correlated with charitable giving.

Making sense of charitable giving records is a critical step toward achieving your prospect development goals. As we’ve mentioned before in a previous post, past giving can be a great indicator of future giving. Below, we’ve compiled five strategic tips to consider when researching philanthropic information:

1. Source new prospects by searching who is giving to other organizations.

WHY: Analyzing your own donor database is a great start, but you can also identify new major gift prospects by searching for donations to other organizations. These organizations could be in your field or pursue other causes. Search for gifts from individuals, corporations, and foundations. This demonstrates a history of philanthropy regardless if these prospects have given to your specific organization or not.

After you learn about their donations history, these prospects could become great candidates for your cause as well. You can find this information by analyzing the annual report of a competing organization or searching the organization in your prospect research tool. You may be surprised at how many new prospects you can find with this strategy.

2. Build a list of people with affinity to your cause using a reverse search.

WHY: If you followed the first tip, you’ve analyzed a few annual reports from other organizations in your area. But is there a faster way of finding people with an affinity or linkage to your cause? If you use a prospect research tool, you can try a reverse search. Let’s say you work at a nonprofit focused on environmental causes. Instead of searching for individual names, you can search for anyone in a certain geographical area with a history of giving to environmental organizations.

From those results, you can build a list of prospects who truly believe in your cause. You can create an even more detailed list by filtering the type of gift. Search for different kinds of contributions including annual gifts, event sponsorships, and volunteering. “People who are involved are more likely to give,” says Jen Filla in her own post, How To Find Giving History.

3. Predict future giving with historic donations data and philanthropic trends.

WHY: Past giving can be a great indicator of future giving. Identifying a prospect with wealth is great, but identifying a prospect willing to donate their wealth to your cause is of course better. Search records of your prospects’ past giving to estimate future giving.

For instance, VeriGift has millions ofcharitable donations records dating back 20 years, but you can also dig through more recent history from the last two to five years. Consult reports like this to research giving patterns over time. Then, consider the following questions: What trends can you identify among your prospects? When do they tend to give? How much do they give? Has their giving been increasing or decreasing over time? What does this tell you about their potential to give right now?

4. Complete your prospect’s profile with political giving information.

WHY: Political giving is sometimes overlooked, but metrics have shown that researching an individual’s political giving history can give you insight into their potential giving capacity to nonprofits like yours. In addition to this, a political giving record will often list the person’s employment and address (useful for tip #1), as well as the gift amount, year, and recipient. This information is useful to complete the prospect’s profile as well as hint at your prospect’s interests and capacity to spend.

5. Verify records to have confidence in your data.

WHY: Have you ever discovered that some of your prospect information is inaccurate or mismatched? It’s critical to be confident in the accuracy of the records you research. Look for records that are linked to the original data source for easy verification. This way, you can cite references to back up the records within your prospect’s profile. And you never know, that annual report or news article may highlight the names of new prospects you can research.

Charitable donations data presents a great opportunity for efficient, insightful research because some of the hard work is already done for you. Prospects who have given in the past are more likely to have an established paper trail, or (if you prefer), a trail of bread crumbs.

Try including charitable donations data when researching your next list of prospects, and see what you can learn about them beyond traditional research strategies. As Helen Brown mentions in her own blog, using different research methods focusing on different criteria is an excellent way to balance your prospect list. There are many ways to exercise your personal creativity in your research.

What are your top five research strategies? How do you use donations data to learn more about your prospects?

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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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