Identify Prospects

Efficient funding focuses your energy on spending the most time with those potential funders most likely to support your program. Everybody (or every business or foundation) is not a prospect. The reality is that everyone is a suspect. Your job is to sort the bona fide prospects from the suspects and spend the majority of your time cultivating the former for a donation. How?

A prospect (individual) is typically someone who meets the following three criteria:

  1. A belief in the cause and in the mission.
  2. The ability or capacity to make a donation (of some amount).
  3. A connection to the campus, the program and/or someone who is involved.

To illustrate this point, you may know of a wealthy individual in your community, however, unless assisting foster youth is among her funding priorities (and you have a connection to her), this individual is not a bona fide prospect. Over time, that may change. But for now, it is best to focus on those individuals who are truly prospects.

Having identified prospective individual donors, think about the benefits you can provide them in exchange for their donation. First and foremost, there’s the benefit the donor receives in knowing he has helped a foster youth succeed in college. Think about other benefits you can offer, such as recognition, invitations to campus/program events, lectures and tours, and a tax deduction.

Identifying potential business and corporate funders is similar to identifying individual prospects, though with one important distinction. Businesses and corporations are often more motivated to give because they receive some kind of benefit. For example, a local retail store may be inclined to make a contribution because students comprise a large percentage of the store’s shoppers. Or a corporation with its headquarters in the same community as your college may be interested in supporting the institution and its programs because they hire graduates for employment. Other “benefits” you can provide to a business or corporation may be in the form of recognition, publicity, and community goodwill.

Foundations are different. Unlike individuals and businesses/corporations, which have no requirement to make charitable contributions, foundations are required by law to spend a certain percentage of their assets. To fulfill this mandate and effectively distribute their grants, foundations most often set funding priorities, such as by field or subject area (e.g., foster youth), type of need (e.g., scholarships), geographic location (e.g., state, regional, national) and other criteria.