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Case Study: Fundraising Strategy Components

A robust fundraising strategy is made up of several connected parts and systems. Stewardship plans, gift acceptance procedures, organizational strategies – these elements and more all contribute to overall fundraising strategy.


One crucial element of fundraising strategy is a prospect list.

A prospect list is a list of current, lapsed, and prospective donors – both individual and organizational – assigned to a member of the fundraising team. The team member is responsible for leading cultivation, solicitation, and stewardship activities for their assigned prospects.


Focusing each team member on a specific list of current and prospective donors ensures that strategic, personalized outreach happens and minimizes the chance that a donor will “fall through the cracks” and end up feeling ignored by the organization.  


Creating the list is the first step and entails taking a deep dive into your donor records.  


Your donor CRM should be utilized to pull various lists of donors and stakeholders. By looking at donor behavior (such as dollars given, number of gifts given, or hours donated as a volunteer), you can identify the individuals and organizations that have the strongest connection to your mission.


Depending on the needs of your organization, you might need to run multiple reports with a variety of criteria, such as:


  • Top donors by lifetime giving – looks at the total amount donated over a donor’s lifetime

  • Top donors by # of gifts – looks at the total number of gifts made to the organization, regardless of the amount donated

  • Key volunteers – including board members

  • Key donor groups – for example, monthly donors or members of a legacy society

  • First-time donors over the last fiscal year

Some donors may appear on multiple lists – and your process of collecting and collating the data may differ.

Once the primary list has been created, the names should be divided among the members of the fundraising team. Again, this division will vary based on the composition of your team. The organization’s leader (ED or CEO) should also be included in this process.

Staff assignments should be recorded in the donor CRM. Most systems will have a “solicitor” or “relationship manager” function that will allow you add staff assignments to a donor record. This, in turn, will make it easier to pull a list of staff members’ assignments.

Ideally, each full-time fundraiser should have 100 names assigned to them. Of those 100 names, 20-25 should be considered under “active management” – top priority names that require the most immediate action.

For part-time fundraisers, such as the CEO, a smaller list should be maintained.

Prospect lists should be periodically (for example, quarterly) reviewed and refreshed. This exercise allows team members to evaluate the status of the donor relationship, change the donors that are under active management, and add or remove names from the list.

Finally, the key element of a prospect list is record keeping. Using the donor CRM to record meeting records, donor activity, event attendance, etc. helps to sketch out the donor’s connection to the organization and gives future team members a chance to continue to maintain and build the relationship.

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