5 ways to spot an “under-cultivated” prospect

5 ways to spot an “under-cultivated” prospect

November 4th, 2010

By Kris Kindelsperger


It has struck me how many times we have begun work with non profit clients only to find that their list of “top donors” is populated with prospects for which they know very little.  The “Top 50” or “Top 100” turns out to contain more “suspects” than prospects.

If you believe that major gift fundraising is about building relationships, engaging donors with your organization, and bonding prospects to your cause, then watch for these telltale signs that you may not be pointed in the right relational direction.  Do you find yourself saying any of the following about your prospects?

1.  “Mrs. Jones is a close friend of one of our board members.”  Yes, but will this friendship translate into a potential relationship with your organization and is the board member willing to broker the relationship on your behalf? 

2.  “Our president/CEO/ED met with Mr. Smith just last year.”  Fine, but a year is a long time.  What has happened in the meantime?  Was there any follow up contact or have you dropped the relationship ball?

3.  “I see the Johnsons in attendance at our events all the time.”  A good sign, but does anyone from the development team engage them or are they simply attendees?

4.  “We’ve heard that Mr. Smith’s business is doing very well. ” Better than hearing that the business is doing poorly, but do you have any specific knowledge to back this up?  Have you done in-depth donor research on the individual or peer screening that would match the observation with potential support for your organization?

5.  “Mrs. Simpson has been a loyal $1,000 donor for more than ten years.”  Loyalty is great, but has anyone taken the time to personally cultivate this prospect and determined if there is greater potential than the same give year after year?

These are all telltale signs of under-cultivation, but this is not an exhaustive list.  What are the signs you look for that tell you that you should be doing more to cultivate your prospects?

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