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I enjoyed sharing some of my somewhat "unglamorous" but critically important work in the trenches of nonprofit fundraising with Abby Jarvis of Qgiv on April 14, 2020. For more information about me and my work: carolynmappleton.com. For more information Qgiv: qgiv.com. Be sure to sign up for the Qgiv blog! You'll learn a lot.
Carolyn's Qgiv Webinar, "Prospecting: Finding Hidden Gems in Your Database"
FINDING HIDDEN GEMS
IN YOUR OWN DATABASE
Carolyn M. Appleton
April 14, 2020
Two degrees from The University of Texas
Experienced with research, writing,
publications, communications and design
The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi and
Meredith Long Scholarship in American Art
More than 30 years of hands-on major gift
Capital campaigns implemented successfully
with little or no additional staff: “never say
Communications go hand in hand with major
gift fundraising today (I do both, together)
DOES IT MATTER?
My academic training did help. So, semi-introverted
academic types can make pretty good major gift
But if you have a calm, methodical mind and are
willing to sit still without interrruption and conduct
research, you should be good to go.
FIRST THINGS FIRST … Read a little bit every day.
TOOLS FOR INQUISITIVE MINDS
Google News - set alerts to follow topics.
Self directed Internet search - there is no such thing as being
“bored” for a researcher today.
Candid | GuideStar profiles (which include private foundations):
read Form 990s.
Business media like Fortune, Forbes, Wall Street Journal,
Bloomberg and local business media.
TOOLS FOR INQUISITIVE MINDS
People Magazine, Look to the Stars and The Hollywood Reporter
can also provide insights into top issues from AIDS to gender
equality and coding education.
“Fluff” you say! Check out who is endorsing what and how they pitch
their causes to potential donors. Behind those campaigns are
messaging professionals from which you can learn.
Charity publications are helpful but look for what’s going on “now,”
which is often better than what is already “done.”
Sign up for PND Alerts and Newsletters (free):
Export Your Data and Take a Deep Dive
Where are you keeping your email, donor and “research” lists?
In a secure online gift processing platform like Qgiv?
In a constituent management database like Z2 Neon, Blackbaud
Raiser’s Edge NXT, Bloomerang, DonorPerfect and the like?
In your email platform like MailChimp, Constant Contact, iContact,
Emma, Gmail or Microsoft Outlook?
You may be using all of these, and more!
Export the data using Microsoft Excel or similar platforms.
Reformat and save your spreadsheet as a workbook – make the
typeface larger so you can easily read through each line.
Remove unnecessary information so you have fewer columns running
across the page.
Keep full name, address (including zip code), and the email address
(and any other information that is key for your nonprofit).
Get a cup of coffee and start reading …
WHAT ARE WE LOOKING FOR?
Open Google Search on your computer,
next to your Excel spreadsheet(s)
▪ Look at the URL to see if the
address originates from a
company or foundation –
“netsuite.com” or “cftexas.org”
▪ Gmail and similar platforms
can be challenging
@gmail.com – but see if the
name in front of the URL rings
any bells –
HOW I DO IT Head to Google Search and other search engines and start searching
on a variety of combinations – just the email address, the name as best
you can figure it out, organizational websites and more.
Company and foundation websites – search generally to see what
kinds of projects they fund and where their employees volunteer in
addition to specific people working there.
On your Excel spreadsheet, highlight the emails and names that look
promising so you can return to them later.
Jumping ahead … when you feel comfortable, reach out to that
interesting person on your list and ask if they would help your nonprofit
make an introduction to those in charge of community partnerships and
“Hello! Thank you for your support of our nonprofit. We really
appreciate your interest in our work. I notice you work for Costco. I
wonder, can you help me find the right person(s) in charge of
community giving and partnerships?”
Don’t forget, the person you may need to speak with may be the
person you are emailing. #CourtesyCounts #EveryoneMatters
WHAT ARE WE LOOKING FOR?
▪ Zip code map – search on Google
for, “wealthiest zip codes in Your
▪ Search on your spreadsheet for
those zip codes, and hone down
▪ Check for names in the news,
nonprofit affiliations, other interests
▪ Caution: some wealthy people live in
the same house for 30+ years and
that may not be in a wealthy “zip
▪ Caution: some are “house rich” and
PUTTING 2 + 2 TOGETHER
Once you begin methodically going through your lists, you will
naturally start honing down on prospects.
Keep in mind, some that seem like good prospects initially might
not necessarily be prospective donors themselves, but they might
lead your nonprofit to others who can become donors.
Donors and “influencers” are both important.
As you conduct this kind of thoughtful research, your mind will
remember names and facts. After many years at this, I can recall
information about people involved with prior nonprofits from
Focus and be patient.
▪ By reviewing the regular mailing
list of a conservation nonprofit, I
was able to find a member of a
foundation board, then giving
$25 a year (personally).
▪ Once properly approached and
cultivated, that person eventually
helped the nonprofit secure $5M
from the family foundation for
▪ What to do if you have no donor
list. At all.
▪ Not knowing any of the nonprofit
board members of a zoo - or who
they knew - I compiled a list of
area foundations and companies,
their boards and key players.
▪ I sent the printed list home with
100+ board members and asked
them to confidentially “check” any
people they knew and send it back
▪ We discovered our board members
were not major gift “donors,” but
they sure knew people who were!
▪ Put your Board members to work.
▪ You can create your own list, too.
▪ By reviewing the spreadsheet of a
small all-volunteer emergency
response nonprofit (approximately 60
records), I found an important
foundation board member who made
a personal donation of $100.
▪ I also discovered a billionaire in
another city had made a modest
$100 donation. Bingo!
▪ This group used GoFundMe after a
major flooding emergency. While
GoFundMe would not allow direct
access to donor emails, I was able to
search through 80 names and partial
emails – and I did spot promising
prospects for larger gifts.
▪ #CultivationRequired (and before you
start, make sure thank you letters are
up to date; put these supporters into
a cultivation plan).
▪ Finding promising prospects is exciting!
▪ However, once you find them, don’t jump
▪ Donor cultivation leading to major gift
giving is like a slow dance.
▪ Once you’ve found them, don’t ask them to
“marry” you on the spot!
Candid is now the parent organization of The
Foundation Center and GuideStar USA.
The Foundation Center online directory can be found
on many library computers free of charge.
In some cases, you can access the database from your
own portable laptop once you get inside the library
and login – or from one of the library computer
Call your local library and/or resource center to see
what options are available locally!
THE FOUNDATION CENTER
Narrow your search by topic,
location, funder and/or
Email yourself a pdf of the
results of your searches to
study them later.
Create a free account on GuideStar
and search on states, cities and
Private foundations are also
nonprofits! Read their tax returns
Candid | The Foundation Center | Cheap monthly plans are available
GrantStation | Join TechSoup to receive a discount
Grants.gov | They have an app, too (free)
360MatchPro | Matching gifts
HAVE MONEY TO SPEND?
SPEND MONEY TO MAKE MONEY
▪ Wealth screening can be very
▪ Narrow your search for
promising prospects by running
your spreadsheet through a
variety of publicly-available
▪ WealthEngine, DonorSearch,
iWave and more: request a
▪ Spoiler alert! If your prospects
own privately held companies,
you won’t be able to access
information online about those
▪ By paying a few thousand dollars
for professional screenings, I have
been able to find >$100M in
▪ Depending on how much you need
to raise – it may be worth paying
for this service.
▪ I have found the process also keeps
you from focusing on “names in the
news” and the same old prospects,
and instead on more likely but less
well known and oft-solicited
THERE’S A LOT YOU CAN DO
▪ Take the time to review your own lists.
▪ Hidden gems are likely to be found there.
▪ Even a relatively small list can yield dramatic
▪ Be a detective! Use the Internet and publicly-
available, ethically-sourced information to add
to your prospect list (and to your brain’s
database – which is useful for securing future
▪ You do not need an outside “consultant” to do
▪ Read often and multiple news sources so your
mind becomes familiar with who is who and
what is going on philanthropically in your
▪ Your brain is amazing: use it!
✓ Keep your research results secure and
✓ Clear your computer’s browsing history
✓ Invest in a VPN if you are going to do
serious online research and often.
✓ Some have paid to remove as much as
possible about them from the Internet.
✓ You may need to conduct verbal research
by inquiring via friends and professional
Carolyn M. Appleton
Thanks to Adobe Spark for several of the images shown herein
Carolyn can help you learn about and install Qgiv