Degrees of Separation: How to Know if a Prospect is for You

If I had a dollar for every time someone suggested Bill Gates as a potential donor, it feels like I’d be richer than him!

Just because someone is wealthy, it doesn’t mean they’re a prospect.  

And, while we may theoretically be just six degrees of separation from everyone in the world, most of us would be hard pressed to get to Mr. Gates.

But, sometimes it’s hard to convey that to your executive director, board members, or volunteers.  Oftentimes, they will be certain that an angel donor is just one or two degrees of separation away.

Perhaps they’re telling you to find the “movers and shakers,” the “sugar daddies,” or the “new tech people in town with all that money.”  Sure, it would be nice to find those folks, but you know it’s not enough.

Here’s a checklist of the four indicators that can tell you whether an individual is truly a potential major to your cause:

  • Propensity – An inclination to give to charitable organizations. If a person isn’t generous already, you can’t expect to change that.
  • Affinity  A general interest in your subject area. Whether it’s education, conservation, civil rights, health care, or whatever, it’s important that they care about it already.
  • Capacity  The ability to make a financial contribution. Of course, if you’re going to ask for a major gift, it helps if they can actually afford it!
  • Connection – You have a way to get to the prospect. Major gift fundraising is highly personalized. You simply must be able to sit down with them and have a conversation.

The trick is that all four indicators must be in place in order to consider a prospective donor truly viable.  

Additional prospect research on capacity and giving history will fine tune your approach, but you must start with these qualifiers.

So, next time you’re talking about identifying prospective major gift donors, make sure everyone understands that they can be most helpful to the cause by identifying people they already know and who already care.

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Category: Major Gifts, Uncategorized
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About Ann Goldman
With more than 25 years in the field of fundraising, I've experienced first-hand how to bring people and ideas together to create social solutions and build stronger communities. Fundraising is a joy when you realize you're helping people fulfill their own dreams for a better world. Learn More About Ann...