3 Steps to Building a Sustainable Prospect Pool

By Raena Marder, Customer Success Lead @ Ajah

To reach its fundraising goals, an organisation must start by identifying and compiling a host of prospective funders. Here are a few things that we’ve found have worked best for many of our clients as they establish a dynamic, diverse, and sustainable pool of funding prospects.

1. Consistency is Key

Building your prospect pool is an ongoing exercise that works best if it’s part of a weekly routine.

Try to establish a dedicated time in your schedule for prospect research. Some fundraisers like to do it on a specific day of the week, others prefer to do a little every day.

Choose what works best with your schedule and your organisation's—the important thing is that prospect research is a regular and consistent item on the weekly calendar.  

2. Evolve and Diversify

A prospect pool is an organic and dynamic list. It should grow and change over time. There is no “correct” number of prospects to have, and your pool is never final.

Funders can often change their focus, new funders may appear on the scene, and your own organisation’s needs and priority areas may change. Prospect research as an ongoing process because in reality the funding landscape is fluid.

That’s also why we strongly recommend ensuring diversity within a prospect pool:

  • Be open to funders with different funding interests beyond just  those that seem most obvious at first. An organisation’s work may address issues beyond its core mission—for instance, an organisation focused on “education and youth” programs might find additional funders by highlighting their work’s impact on “community health.”
  • Some funders are more interested in supporting organisations in a specific geographical area rather than tackling any single issue.

  • It’s important to seek out different types of funders, including foundations, corporations, and individuals.

Finally, we recommend casting a wide net—a prospect pool should be a bigger and broader list than first seems obvious. Think of ways to identify any and all funders who may be interested in giving to your organisation:

  • Who’s funded you in the past?

  • Who’s funding other organisations similar to yours?

  • Who else is funding other charities your own funders are also giving to?

  • Which prospective funders have the most recipient charities in common with your current funders?

(For more please see our Tip Sheet on finding funders you’ve been missing)

We also recommend ensuring that your prospect pool has a good mix of individuals, companies and foundations, and enough of each, so that you can generate adequate funds from a diversity of sources to make your organization sustainable.

3) Pick, Prioritize, Plan

Finally, you’ll want to refine your list and prioritize the prospective funders in your pool.

First consider how to “qualify” your prospects to be sure it’s worth your time to reach out to them:

  • Does the prospect’s financial capacity match your project needs?

  • Does their recent giving history suggest an interest in your organisation’s work?

  • And of course, have you made certain your organisation meets all of the funder’s eligibility requirements?

Once you’ve figured out which prospects you want to approach, we recommend establishing a system of tiered priorities to stay organised and manage your time in a way that lets you make all your most important asks.

Here are some questions to ask yourself when prioritizing funding prospects:

  • What is the schedule for each funder’s application process? Any looming deadlines?

  • Are there any “volunteer connectors” that could leverage their relationships to give you a better chance at funding (e.g., a member of your Board with a connection to someone on the funder’s Board)?

  • How likely is this prospect to fund your organisation? For instance, have they provided funding to you in the past, or to many organisations similar to yours?

  • Is there anything coming up on your organisation’s schedule—new programs, capital improvements, anniversaries, or special events—that would appeal to particular funders?

I hope you find these ideas useful! If you’d like help building or refining your prospect pool, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me or my fellow fundraising experts at 514-400-4500 or info@ajah.ca.

You might also be interested in downloading our more comprehensive Funder Research Guide (it’s free!).

And as always, happy fundraising!