Quick Tip: Uncovering Wealth Among Your Prospects & Donors

In the last six months, I have been spending anything from a few minutes to an hour or so each week looking up lost I-House alumni in the hopes of being able to reconnect with them. During this year’s Association of Donor Relations Professionals NYC Regional Conference, one of the presenters mentioned that one of the wealthiest counties in her state was not too far from the metropolitan area in which her organization worked. After the conference, I looked up that county and started checking for any alumni who lived there just to be sure that we were not overlooking any particularly well-off constituents. With this in mind, I encourage you to check the wealthiest counties in the United States each year and confirm whether any of your prospects and/or donors reside in any of them; any of those who you identify can be marked for additional research. Here’s to uncovering some wealth in your own database!

Top 3 Reader Favorites from 2013

In case you missed any of them and to be a bit reflective as we proceed into 2014, I wanted to share the top three posts that were written last year.  They cover a few of the different areas and concepts that were discussed here on The Good Steward last year and I hope that you find them helpful in your efforts this year.

  1. How One Web Search Led to a $20,000 Gift
    I shared how some smart web searching led me to a strong prospect for a fundraising effort focused on I-House’s retiring Board Chairman and the true serendipity that led to a $20,000 contribution. The title alone seems to have grabbed readers’ attention!
  2. Are You Making the Time to be Creative?
    I wrote this post while at the 2013 AFP International Conference after an especially insightful talk by John Legend. Please feel free to share in the comments how you keep those creative juices flowing!
  3. Telling Your Nonprofit’s Story in the 990 Report
    This post provides some quick food for thought around how fundraising staff can collaborate with their colleagues in the Finance Office to better tell their organization’s story through the annual 990 charitable filing.



How One Web Search Led to a $20,000 Gift


As International House’s Board Chairman retired last year, the Board announced that it was designating an endowed fund to  benefit programming and resident scholarships named in honor of the outgoing chairman.  In addition to the funds designated by the Board, my office was charged with raising additional monies in support of this named fund from the contingent of our major donors who are particular fans of the chairman.

After reviewing our donor files to confirm all of the recent donors who should be solicited for this special named fund, I did some online sleuthing in the hopes of uncovering a few more people who would want to honor the Chairman by supporting the fund.  After a particularly revealing search on Muckety (a useful site that details personal, corporate and non-profit relationships for some of the more connected people in the U.S.), I found a gentleman who used to work with the Chairman in one of his past careers and after confirming that he had a private foundation, he was added to the list.  Now, let the record reflect that we had not previously contacted this prospect, as he was not in our donor database which dates back to 1986.

Based on the name of this post, I think that you can see where I’m going with this . . . we sent this cold prospect an ask for the named fund and after a phone conversation with our president, he sent in a check for $20,000 from his private foundation!!  Let this be a lesson, dear reader, that a cold ask can easily be warmed up with the right relationships already in place.  It also reminds us of the value of doing thorough research before any major solicitation effort.

Do you have any success stories like this one where solid research and the right relationships made a measurable difference?  Please share in the comments!


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Quick Tip: Bank of America Grants Search


While attending last month’s Fundraising Day in New York, I sat in on a session focused on understanding family foundations.  During the conversation, one of the panelists reminded me of a very useful resource that some fundraisers may not be aware of: the Bank of America Philanthropic Solutions Grant Search.  On this site, you can do some quick prospecting among a group of foundations for which the Bank serves as a trustee or co-trustee.

This is another resource that I wanted to be sure to share with you, dear readers.  Please let me know if you come across any good prospects and especially if you end up building new relationships with potential funders (or get a grant!).


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Why Fundraisers Should Use Twitter — Reason #1: Prospecting

Every now and then, I will share a quick anecdote that can serve as a reminder to all of you wonderful fundraisers out there why you should be taking part in the ever-expanding community of fundraising and non-profit professionals on Twitter.  Here’s my first one, so please do enjoy . . .

When I first joined Twitter almost two years ago, I really had no idea that other fundraisers were using it, let alone how they were making use of it.  Now I never imagined that I could end up using Twitter as a source of prospect research, but it turns out that I did earlier this year.  While checking the latest tweets of the day, I stumbled upon a link to an article from Bloomberg Markets magazine entitled “Hidden Billionaires: Eight Really Rich People You’ve Probably Never Heard Of.”  Now if you know me (which some of you dear readers do, if only through this blog, LinkedIn and/or Twitter), you know that I see this sort of list as a bit of a challenge; when I see things like this, I always check the names on the off chance that someone is in our alumni database or is perhaps related to someone who is.  Occasionally I find a connection and this was one of those great times — it turns out that one of the billionaires on this list is married to an I-House alumnus.  Now I can say with great certainty that there is very little possibility that I would have stumbled upon this information at a later date, because we did not even know that this alumnus was married.

I say all of this to strongly encourage you to join Twitter, to start following your fellow fundraising & non-profit professionals (along with those news sources that interest you), and to join this dynamic community!  And when you join, be sure to tweet me @dan_blakemore.


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How Often Do You Knock On An Open Door?

While on a recent trip to Austin, I read an article in The New York Times about how New York City Mayor (and uber-philanthropist) Michael R. Bloomberg and George Soros are providing $60 million to the city government to support an effort to improve the circumstances of African-American and Latino male youth — with the rest of the funds provided by the Bloomberg Administration.  This particular passage caught my attention:

A few weeks ago, Mr. Bloomberg called Mr. Soros, who has spent millions of dollars on programs to help black men in Baltimore and other cities, and invited him to lunch. The mayor asked the financier to match his donation for a program in New York, and Mr. Soros quickly agreed.

“When the mayor approached us,” Mr. Soros said, “he was knocking on an open door.”

In this instance, Mr. Soros meant that because he has long supported programs focused on these demographics,  this new initiative was a perfect fit for him.  I know that most fundraisers are happy just to keep the funders that they have on board in this rocky economic climate, but this article was a nod to the critical job of identifying and cultivating new donors.

Earlier today, the live broadcast of The Michael Chatman Giving Show reminded me of the importance of knocking on these open doors.  April Northstrom, President of Jigsaw Communications, was the guest on the show with guest host Ian “On-Air” Adair; they reviewed the show’s Top 10 Foundations List (see here for April’s recap of the show and for more on the  list) and later discussed the importance of actively seeking out those funders who would be logical partners in your organization’s work.  April and Ian were particularly emphatic when it came to being proactive about sharing your organization’s work with prospective funders and seeing where it leads (especially in situations where you can capitalize on the relationships that your board members may have).  As fundraisers, it is our duty and responsibility to identify those prospective funders who could support and further our organization’s respective missions (a point that I make regularly here at The Good Steward).

With all of this in mind, how often do you go knocking on an open door?  How many open doors need to be knocked on for your organization?  And how many closed doors can be opened with some effort?

You should check out April on Twitter and her Grant Savvy blog!  You should also be listening to The Michael Chatman Giving Show every Thursday at 11:30 a.m. — you can stream it live here and/or follow the #GivingShow hashtag on Twitter.  You never know what you may learn from this informative 30-minute show!

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