Seven indicators of a potential donor

A great prospective donor...



Gave to your cause before

This is a no-brainer: what is the biggest indicator of whether or not a person will give to your cause?  Giving to your cause already.  Once you’ve gotten off the phone with your friends and family, you should immediately direct your fundraising appeals to anyone who might have contributed to your cause previously.  Each time a donor gives to your cause, their likelihood of making another contribution increases.  Never neglect past donors.

Is someone you know personally

The person most likely to donate to your cause is your mom.  Or dad.   Or siblings.  Or your best friends, coworkers, neighbors -- maybe even your hairdresser if you come in for a trim and a chat on a regular basis.  The most likely contributors on your donor list are going to belong to the people who know you best and want to help you succeed.  Every solid donor list begins with your Rolodex.

Gave to similar causes

The next best thing to having given to your cause before is having given to causes similar to yours.  While your potential donor hasn't made a gift to your organization, they've proven that they'll support related organizations.  If you're raising money to fund breast cancer research, look at past donors to a variety of cancer research foundations, as well as past donors to women's charities.  These donors are likely to share and support your cause.

Gave to or participated in unrelated causes

A prospective donor doesn’t need to have contributed to your cause to be a great candidate.  In general, people who have a history of philanthropic gifts are more likely to give to your cause than people who have no history of donating.  This is also true of people who hold positions or work for philanthropic organizations.  For example, a person who is a board member or trustee of a charitable group is more likely to appreciate the work your group is doing.

Gave to political campaigns or non-profits

A 2015 study by DonorSearch revealed those having given $2,500 or more to political campaigns and non-profits in their lifetimes are 14 times more likely to make a charitable donation than those who haven’t.  Even a total gift of $500 to a political cause makes a person five times as likely to give.  A history of political giving is one of the strongest indicators of donor potential

Owns real estate

The same DonorSearch study found that an individual’s wealth is also a significant marker for giving -- but only as it relates to real estate assets.  A potential donor is 17 times more likely to give if he or she owns $2 million or more in real estate.  That number drops to 4 times more likely if he or she owns $1-2 million worth of property, and 2 times if the donor owns between $750,000 and $1 million in real estate.  While total wealth is an important factor in whether or not a person can make generous gifts to charities, the correlation between real estate wealth and charitable donations is the strongest.

 Shares a link to your cause

It's difficult to motivate someone to give to your cause when they aren't interested, so it's important to identify potential donors who already share a link to your cause.  Let's say your cause is national park preservation.  Reach out to current and former park volunteers, members of your area's horticultural society, subscribers to nature, gardening, and wildlife magazines, and attendees of recent park special events.