Prospect research creates a foundation for all fundraising programs.  An active prospect research program produces a pipeline of qualified prospects and donors.  These qualified prospects and donors are the most likely to give or increase their current giving. As a prospect researcher taking full advantage of metrics cannot be emphasized enough. Using data can save you both time and money.

Beyond the money

Yes, money provides the measurement of ROI.  Dollar returns are the bottom line, but there is more to the picture that fundraisers need to evaluate.  Consider your donors’ quantity and amount, new donors, gift increases and the percentage of prospects becoming donors.  These numbers give you new insight to where your efforts are leading and how you can better focus your time. 

Is it worth it?

Without a doubt.  Prospect research not only helps you build and target a qualified donor pipeline but it allows you to focus your efforts, time and money on qualified prospects and donors.  Instead of wasting time and resources on people who are not going to give, you can focus on the ones who will.  Driving your costs – research, staff, time – down and bringing your revenues up.  Prospect research will drive a higher rate of return.

Date Acquisition Rate Cost to Raise a Dollar
Fall 2014 (pre-screening) 0.8% $1.18
Spring 2015 (pre-screening) 0.65% $1.51
Fall 2015 (first use of screening) 1.5% $0.80
Spring 2016 0.8% $1.05
Fall 2016 0.9% $0.50
Example: Direct Mail Acquisition Campaign

Prospect research can aid all fundraising operations – regardless of size and type.  If you are trying to raise money, you should have a comprehensive prospect research plan.  Prospect research enables organizations to raise more money, more effectively.

So, I should use Prospect Research to maximize my ROI?

Yes.  Prospect research influences multiple projects.  When managing your qualified leads, your prospect research can be segmented for each project.  The research is done once but allows you to direct it to multiple sources, like annual giving, planned giving and major gifts.  This research will lower your costs, drive your revenue and increase your ROI.

When calculating your ROI, prospect research will be considered an expense.  This will allow your organization to take a meaningful look at the impact the research is having on your pipeline and revenue.  You may worry that the additional expense will reflect negatively on your ROI.  Actually, the opposite is true.  With a substantial prospect research program in place, you will find that prospect research will increase your organizations effectiveness and fundraising efforts, generating positive results.

Want to learn more?

Download Measuring Fundraising Return on Investment and the Impact of Wealth Intelligence for sample worksheets for calculating fundraising ROI and more information on how to maximize your effectiveness and ROI.

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