How to Make Funder Research as Painless as Possible

Everyone may have a different name for the first stage of the funding process – what we call lead identification – but most of us have the same issue with this essential step in the fundraising pipeline: It’s a chore.

We know research is critical, yet it can feel less critical than other stages of the process. There’s no relationship-building aspect and there isn’t the action of ‘the ask’. It’s merely a list of names or organizations on paper.

Much like flossing, it’s a necessary task that most of us don’t enjoy.

Why efficient lead identification is vital

The research stage is essential to ensure fundraisers have sufficient prospects to drive the rest of the process. Effective research helps us build enough relationships and make enough asks to secure enough funding commitments in the final stage.

In our previous post, we discussed how working backwards through the fundraising pipeline can help us plan our targets and ensure we have enough initial prospects  to eventually meet our fundraising goals. This strategy can also help to guarantee that fundraisers don’t spend too much time coming up with more names than necessary.

All fundraisers understand that the better their research is—i.e, the better they match funding prospects with their programs and a history of giving to organizations like them—the more likely those initial prospects will eventually say yes.

In fact, better research in this first step can mean more money for less effort.

For example: If 10% of initial prospects typically make it all the way through the pipeline and result in a successful ask, increasing that number through better prospect research, even by only a few percentage points, can generate significantly more funding for the same effort.

The four components of a successful Lead Identification Strategy

There are four clear requirements for successful lead identification, starting with what fundraisers are looking for, all the way through to the order in which you approach them.

  • Clear criteria: Fundraisers must start with a clear list of criteria for funders. This can include basics such as where those funders are based geographically, and what causes they typically support. This is especially important on teams, where consistency is key.

  • Clear sources: Knowing where to go to identify leads can cut down on time spent in this stage and increase the quality of prospects. A service such as Fundtracker can guide you straight to the kind of quality prospects you need, and save you from running countless (and often fruitless) Google searches to find leads.

  • Effective segmentation: Even if all leads meet the same criteria, there can still be a large amount of variation between them. These differences require tailored strategies, messages and approaches for the ask, follow-up, and relationship.

  • Effective prioritization: Working through a list of prospects alphabetically might sound practical, but it’s a good way to waste time on less likely funders. Instead, prioritize your outreach list by those who you believe are the best candidates. Keep the “80/20” rule in mind - 80%  of your funding might come from just 20% of your funders.

At Fundtracker, we understand that lead identification is often a major pain point for fundraisers. Our data-driven funder research service is designed specifically to make this step painless, quick, and easy.

We also like to give out free advice! For help setting up your own lead identification and research strategy, book a free consultation with the team at Ajah Fundtracker.

How backward thinking moves fundraising forward

There’s a growing trend in the fundraising sector (and in other sectors) towards being ‘data-driven’—and many professionals in the non-profit sector are feeling pressure to incorporate data into their work. Fundtracker is a great example, but data-driven service shows up in many other areas of fundraising and other work, beyond prospect research.

But, being ‘data-driven’ doesn’t necessarily mean being technical, or using giant spreadsheets. At its simplest, it means orienting your work around simple calculations, based on what works. A fundraising ‘pipeline’ is an excellent example of applying data-driven approaches to your work and enjoying its benefits - without learning how to code.

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Most organizations have a fundraising process, and the concept of using prospects, pipelines, and targets are already familiar. However, if you’ve been following the same strategy as always and aren’t seeing the results you need, it might be time to think backward.

We’ll show you how designing a data-driven fundraising pipeline can help your work—and it all starts with thinking backward.

We have previously discussed each of the stages in the fundraising pipeline, and how having a clearly defined set of steps can help coordinate fundraising efforts. Now, we’ll illustrate how to use those stages to design a data-driven pipeline—by approaching it backward.

This is a data-driven process that begins with the final stage of any fundraising pipeline—success. By starting here, fundraisers can use a numbers-based approach to determine how many prospects are required at each step to ensure a successful outcome.

Step one is to determine how many successful asks are needed in order to meet funding requirements.

Let’s keep things simple for now and say we need one successful asks.

The next step is to consider past experience to inform estimations about how many prospects fall out of the pipeline at each stage.

Perhaps prior knowledge suggests that for every prospect asked, 80% will engage in follow-up conversations, and of those only 25% will commit to funding. This means that to obtain that one successful asks, you’ll need follow-ups with 4 prospects, which means you need to make 5 asks.

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From here, it’s a simple process of using best estimates to continue backwards through the pipeline to reach the prospect identification step, and attach a quantifiable number required at this preliminary stage. In our example above, roughly 20 prospects must be identified at the first stage in order to land one grant.

As goals, industry knowledge, and pipeline stages are unique for each organization, these steps will differ from one fundraiser to another. However, the overall objective of this ‘working backwards’ system to the same—to determine an informed estimate of the number of prospects one must begin with in order to work forwards with confidence in reaching fundraising targets.

And for help creating a promising prospect list in the first place, Ajah is available to assist with Fundtracker—or with free advice through a free consultation. A well-designed pipeline will help to concentrate efforts where they are needed, and ensure you have the time to achieve fundraising targets.

Get in touch for a free consultation so we can help drive your fundraising forward.

The 5 Critical Stages of Your Fundraising Pipeline

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In our last post, we explored the elements that make up an effective fundraising process.

We also introduced the concept of a pipeline as a way of visualizing and tracking your progress towards a specific fundraising goal.

In this piece, we’ll examine the stages of a fundraising pipeline, and the role they play in supporting the fundraising effort. By grasping the purpose of each stage, you’ll be better able to visualize and plan the layout of your own project’s pipeline.

1. Prospect Identification (Research)

This initial stage of the pipeline is where a fundraising team’s information and intelligence will be pooled prior to any outreach, with the goal of putting together the largest possible list of prospects with any realistic chance of donating.

If we think of the fundraising pipeline as a donor “journey,” then this stage is where provisioning and planning for the entire trip begins.

Fundraisers will use database tools (such as Fundtracker) to pull together lists of the most likely prospects from public information, review correspondence and emails for hints of interest or engagement, and search for giving patterns among their contacts.

By comparing the size of the donation target with the giving capacity of each prospect, we can determine the scale of the prospect pool that we need to build.

2. Qualification / Prioritization

Again, this stage is focused on planning and preparation, before any contact with a prospect.

This stage of the fundraising process consists of establishing how to qualify prospects identified in the first stage, and prioritizing certain prospects with the most potential—essential steps that will help support later efforts to establish interest and approach the right prospects at the most opportune time.

By assessing the pool of prospects, and the time available to spend on each prospect, we can establish important aspects of qualification. These include:

  • Does the donor have the annual giving capacity you’re looking for?

  • Is there a demonstrated pattern of giving to your sector or area of focus?

  • Do they give within your geographic area?

  • Do you have any established connections with someone on their Board of Directors or other key decision makers?

The priority planning aspect will ensure that qualification efforts are applied to the most likely prospects without delay.

3. Initial contact

The important work done in the two preceding stages have prepared the fundraiser for this next stage of the pipeline, where actual initial contact with prospects begins.

Now that the fundraising team has a pool of prospects and established criteria for qualification and prioritization, it’s time to start reaching out in earnest.

This stage consists largely of gathering the right contacts and building relationships.

It’s a relatively straightforward process – calling a prospect and establishing contact with a decision maker through polite questioning and persistent contact.

Scheduling regular call-backs will help drive the progression from cold calling to qualified contact or non-prospect. Likewise, working down through the priority call list will help qualify prospects in the most effective order possible.

4. The Ask!

Once you have a fully qualified prospect, the next stage in the funding pipeline is to approach for a material ask.

This stage is where the fundraising team shifts to the all-important question: is the prospect able and willing to donate as per the parameters of this project?

The ask could take the form of a proposal, a letter of intent, or a simply verbal request. The fundraiser must deliver their message in a clear, succinct, and productive way, and most importantly, in a way that addresses the priorities of the funder.

The message needs to be compact, yet cover the all the important aspects of the project in a compelling way. Asking effectively is a whole topic in and of itself, but the most important part is to make sure that you are actually doing it, and that your process ensures you send out enough asks to reach your targets.

Once the ask is made, the journey will not stop for a prospect. Even if the ask is not successful, your relationship with them has just started. They’ll need to be cultivated and then re-engaged for a future project – into the Prospect Research stage of another pipeline.

5. Relationship Building Strategy (Post-Ask Follow-up)

Once an ask is made of a qualified prospect, a prompt follow-up process should begin. Until funds have been received, fundraisers should follow up diligently, with a firm timeline in mind.

Finally, when a prospect fails to progress along the pipeline for whatever reason, don’t give up on them -- consider them possibilities for another project at a later time.

A Successful Conclusion

Once the process has been successfully completed, you can review your progress through the pipeline, and better judge the time and effort that each stage requires. Experience will help inform how you manage each stage.  

By grasping the purpose of each section of a fundraising pipeline, you’ll be better able to use this tool to strategically advance your relationships with prospects, and close more donations.

Are you looking for help in improving or restructuring your own fundraising process?

Get in touch with us to book a consultation—we’ll discuss your fundraising objectives, and provide advice on developing processes and adopting helpful tools that will help you reach those goals.

And as ever, happy fundraising!

Team Ajah

PS. Keep an eye out for an upcoming post where we’ll explore how to visualise your fundraising pipeline to make as effective a tool as possible.

The Six Critical Elements of an Effective Fundraising Process - An Overview

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In our most recent post, we discussed how a strong fundraising process can dramatically improve your organization’s ability to secure funds.

An effective process improves time management and use of resources across a fundraising team, while making it easier to identify issues and pain points.

In this post, we’ll look at some of the key components of a fundraising process, which you can use to build out a process for your own team.

1. Setting up a Pipeline

A funding pipeline is one of the most common and most effective tools for understanding and implementing a consistent fundraising process.

It’s purpose is to provide a framework for planning, managing, and understanding the process from stage to stage. Once it’s created, it’s also provides visual insight into what’s needed to hit a specific fundraising target - by charting the progress of fundraising prospects through each stage.

Let’s say that your organization is looking to support a specific project or funding campaign. A target has been set, so now it’s up to the fundraising team to get there.

This fundraising target is the end goal, and it exists at the end of your fundraising pipeline.

To achieve this, you will need to work backwards from the end-goal, and estimate, in numbers, what’s needed in terms of prospect numbers, employee time, calendar time and success rates in order to progress. The pipeline acts as your guide as to where any blockages exist.

It can act as a very effective way of adding structure to your overall process.    

2. Setting Roles and Responsibilities

An essential part of your process should include locking down roles and responsibilities within your organization.

Are the right people assigned to the right roles? Does everyone on your team have what they need to succeed? Are board members prepared to add their contribution and build relationships?  

Team members, respecting their other responsibilities and levels of experience, should be all working to help progress donations down the pipeline.

What matters is that you’re not wasting time and effort. Duties and resources should all be well-established prior to initial contact. Lessons learnt from your most successful previous drives can be used to inform this role-delegation.  

3. Utilizing Dependable Templates and Materials

Having a trusted set of templates on hand, including proposal documents, should form part of your adopted process.

Having these kinds of resources ready will more clearly outline the project for the potential donor, and better support the fundraising drive. More importantly, it helps you make more asks in less time.

In addition, it also ensure that you consistently use well-crafted and compelling messages across your team. The time spent ensuring the clarity, tone and, crucially, the messaging of these resources is well-spent.

Crucial documents, such as letters of intent, are what help a proposal progress from one stage of the pipeline to the next. By ensuring you are using trusted templates, progress can be more easily achieved, and you can factor the need to continually re-produce these documents out of your workflow.

4. Research / Lead Identification and Qualification

Funder research is the first step in your process, and is the foundation of your fundraising. This initial research is crucial in ensuring you reach your fundraising targets.  

This part of the process involves engaging with all the available information that you have. Previously successful campaigns, databases, networking (and Fundtracker, of course) - these can all be used to build a pool of prospects who may fund the project.

It pays to take the time to identify the kinds of donors that should be at the top of your list for any particular fundraising project.

Are you approaching the right funders? Are you sure the most promising and likely funders are prioritized in your team’s call list?  Are there a set of funders, who are publically approachable, who are likely to fund this project?

Similarly, have you ensured that your qualification process is sufficiently robust? Does it reflect real funder interest and is it providing enough of a base for progressing the ask?

5. Activity Targets and Scheduling

Fundraisers are some of the busiest people out there. They often work at organizations where resources and time are scant - and have to get the maximum out of their hours.

However, donations can take time to come to fruition. This can often take months or even years of sustained effort.

Your applied process should account for this, and ensure that it is clear on:

  • What is the funding required, and what scale / number of donations needed to reach that amount?

  • What is the timeline? What should be achieved by what date?     

  • What is the amount of time team members can put towards each activity?

Once this has been ascertained, you will be better able to break down the activity rates (e.g. number of letters of intent per month) that need to be achieved in order for the project to be viable.

Ensuring that scheduling is both realistic and regular enough to achieve this is another important aspect of the process.

6. Technology and Tools

As a fundraiser, you should take advantage of all of the tools that are at your disposal.

This includes the tools that can provide you with better intelligence and outreach regarding likely donors, and those that will better support your overall organization and time-management.

Those background tools can range from completely free resources, such as adopting collaborative online spreadsheet sharing for better collaboration, to more advanced cross-team use of advanced CRM-style applications.

These tools can help inform your process, letting you know exactly where a donation prospect is in the pipeline, when to follow-up, and what was achieved.

FundTracker is just  one example of those tools, as it enables the research and identification pieces of the process..

Through its donor-centric "Follow the Money" approach, it’s been developed to help ensure your initial prospects include all applicable prospects, so you stand a far better chance of achieving your end-goal.


The above are some of the most important elements of building a good fundraising process.

However, there is of course variation and differences between how different organizations tweak and set-up their processes to achieve success.

Are you looking to develop or improve your own fundraising process?

If so, get in touch with us to book a consultation—we’ll discuss your fundraising objectives, and provide advice on developing processes and adopting helpful tools that will help you reach those goals.

And as ever, happy fundraising!

Team Ajah

The Benefits of Building a Fundraising Process

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Why should your busy organization take the time to establish a fundraising process?

Because doing so will result in more efficient planning, and more success in reaching your fundraising goals.

A dependable process will add structure to your efforts, allowing you to better budget time and resources, plan your activities accordingly, and get everything done!

Better understanding your process will also allow you to create your fundraising pipeline (a topic we’ll explore later), a crucial tool to help you keep your multiple fundraising efforts organised.

Here are some of the benefits of implementing a good fundraising process:

1. More Effective Time Management

Fundraising can be a time-consuming process, and securing a single donation can take years.

Establishing a fundraising process provides you with better perspective on the time required for each step, from prospect research to securing funding, helping you allocate sufficient time to meet your objectives.

An organised process lets you understand and chart the progress you’re making—you’ll know all the things you need to secure a gift, and give yourself the time to do them.

2. Better Visibility into your Performance

With a dependable process in place, you can map out all the steps you need to take and gain visibility into what you’re doing, and how well you’re doing.

You can better identify pain points where your efforts are stalling, identify patterns, and take steps to address any specific issues that may be hindering your success.

A good process is a yardstick for assessing your performance and progress, and where extra resources or a new approach may be required.

3. Better Resource Allocation

Your organisation may have many individuals working on different aspects of your fundraising--prospect research, initial donor approaches, preparing grant proposals, and so on. Beyond your team, you might also be lucky to have some dedicated board members at your disposal.

Once you have an established process, you will gain a better insight on how to manage a fundraising team and allocate their time efficiently and effectively.

Establishing a good fundraising process allows teams to be more organized and provides structure to the team’s efforts, using team members’ strengths in a more effective way.

4. More Consistent Application of your Best Practices

Once you have a process in place,  it also helps ensure that the best tactics are being consistently applied across your entire team.

Strategies such as a timely presentation of an impact story, media coverage, or even sending out thank-you cards can be applied at the right time to be most effective.

The process help ensure these practices are applied smoothly and almost automatically. Making the right move at the right time will be ingrained in the process, rather than just one individual.

Looking to develop or improve your own fundraising process?

Here at Ajah, our fundraising experts have the knowledge and insights on how to establish and maintain a successful fundraising process, and we’d be more than happy to share them with you.

Get in touch with us to book a consultation—we’ll discuss your fundraising objectives, and provide advice on developing a process that will help you reach those goals.

The best part? We offer these consultations completely free of charge, no strings attached.

As ever, happy fundraising!


Raena Marder

Customer Success Lead @ Ajah

Launching the Global Register of Nonprofit Data Sources (GRNDS) and hosting the NGO Data Workshop


This week we’re launching a new collaborative initiative to create the first comprehensive catalogue of national data sources on nonprofits and charities. Many national governments require nonprofits to register and file annual reports. That information can be a valuable tool for policy-makers, researchers, and nonprofit practitioners, as long as it is made available to them. In collaboration with Dr. Elizabeth Bloodgood from Concordia University, we are launching the Global Register of Nonprofit Data Sources (GRNDS) to track what information is collected by each national government and what - if any - of the collected information is made public.

Why us? Canada is a leader in this space (the detailed collection and sharing of data about its nonprofit sector), and here, at Ajah, we’ve been using that info to power our online fundraising service, Fundtracker, as well as custom business intelligence applications since 2009. We’ve been working to harness the potential of open data and open government policies to increase the availability of data and about the nonprofit sector since we developed Powered by Data in 2013.

We’ve been working with Dr. Bloodgood and her students over the past year and we’ve catalogued on the data collection and sharing practices of nonprofit registries 25 countries. We’re launching the project publicly this week because we’re fortunate to be hosting experts from around Europe and North America to gather their input on the project.  These experts come from academia, government, and the nonprofit space, and will discuss how GRNDS can play a supporting role in the ecosystem of information infrastructure being created about, and for, the nonprofit sector, as well as common needs that exist across the various projects participating. These projects include research-focused initiatives like Open Data for Nonprofit Research and practitioner-focused projects like the International Aid Transparency Initiative. (For more information about who is attending, their projects, and the workshop agenda - click here)

GRNDS is just a small part of the larger information infrastructure for the nonprofit sector. We’re excited to use an open data, collaborative approach to this work and we’re appreciative that the participants of this workshop are bringing their expertise as leaders of other national and sector-wide data projects to advise this new collaborative initiative.

We will be tweeting during the workshop using the hashtag #GRNDS2018. If you don’t use Twitter, we will also be posting the key learnings from the workshop here next week.

3 Ways the Ideal Funder Research Solution Delivers

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A funder research service is an important tool for professional fundraisers looking to secure more donations.

When you're looking at getting a service, it's important to evaluate the tools to find one that will be most effective for you.

But, these tools have lots of different features and approaches—how do you evaluate which one will work best for you?

Below, we outline some of they characteristics you should look for in a tool. These aren't necessarily obvious at first glance, but fundraisers find that these aspects make the biggest difference in the long term.

1. It Helps You Follow the Money

First, and most crucially: How effective is the tool in helping you find and connect with the prospects most likely to support your cause?

Many tools provide lots of general information along with large databases of donor organisations and individuals.

But if these don’t produce actionable leads for a fundraiser, the tool’s value is questionable.

The most useful tool will facilitate you in a “Follow the Money” approach -- that is, it will allow you to identify and prioritize funders who have donated to organisations just like yours.

Any tool that can't help you find funders based on who they fund (not what they say they fund), may be more of a burden than an asset.

2. It Provides Key Insights into Recipients as well as Funders

At a minimum, the ideal tool should provide the complete listing of all Canadian foundations, including the estimated 50 percent that do not maintain a public profile. Partial or curated lists won’t be as helpful as a complete listing of all potential funders that exist on record.

However, it’s just as important that a tool provide a complete listing of Canadian charities and the donations they’ve received, allowing the fundraiser to make connections to potential funders based on their donations to organisations similar to theirs.

Complete listings of donors and recipients will help ensure all ideal donors can be identified, but also enables you to more accurately and efficiently identify and prioritize the right matches for your organisation.

3. It Saves You Time

As a fundraiser, what type of work eats up most of your time?

Given the sheer number of potential funders out there, digging through funder lists and profiles can often take far more time than it’s worth.

Your prospect research tool should do some of that digging for you.

It should bring together all the relevant information, but also help you make sense of that information so you can more quickly focus on the right potential funders.

Once it’s helped you make important connections to both potential funders and charities similar to yours, your tool should also monitor any changes to your fundraising landscape and alert you to any important developments.

The right tool should mean less time researching and more time asking.

To sum up, a charity or nonprofit operating with limited funds and time should look for these characteristics when weighing possible funder research solutions:

  1. A donation-oriented “Follow the Money” approach that prioritizes useful donation patterns.

  2. Complete listings of all donors and recipients on public record in Canada.

  3. Data-driven, time-saving features that allow you to spend less time being more effective.

Here at Ajah, we’ve carefully designed Fundtracker Pro and Benefactor, our primary funder research solutions, to satisfy these needs.

They put all the essential information on both donors and recipients at the fingertips of Canadian fundraisers.

For more information on FundTracker Pro, simply download our comprehensive Funder Research Guide (it’s completely free).

And as ever, happy fundraising!


Raena Marder - Customer Success Lead / Team Ajah

The Fundraising Trends That Are Taking Off in 2018

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With the busy fall fundraising season about to commence - it’s an ideal time for Canadian charities to take stock of new trends in the fundraising sector.  

Below, we’ve outlined three emerging trends that effective nonprofits are pivoting towards. 

Strikingly, these trends include small changes in the use of resources and new tools that can translate into major boosts in donor engagement. 

1. Increased Use of Digital Solutions

Workers at nonprofits are squeezed for time - and prospect research is especially draining. However, many organisations are making use of digital solutions to lighten the load. 

In July, James Plunkett of UK nonprofit Citizens Advice outlined how newly adopted digital tools and databases are offering a path to real time-saving, and ultimately help staff by slotting in alongside traditional engagement. "You invest in digital to make all your services better, because ultimately it’s about people.”

Nonprofits using digital solutions to help with fundraising can rely on a faster, more efficient way to identify ideal partners, as well as organizations similar to themselves that are landing donations.

Tools like Fundtracker Pro can help fundraisers cut through this workload, giving front-line staff more time to successfully engage donors. 

2. Better Supporting the Donor Journey

The complete donor experience is increasingly referred to as a "journey". Fundraisers that examine how previous journeys began will be better informed on how to portion out the resources needed to support successful future donations.

“A lot of the work we do focuses on creating user experiences and designing supporter journeys that engage people across advocacy and fundraising campaigns” stated Eugene Flynn, digital strategist with NGO 54 Degrees at the beginning of the year. 

“The data that large organisations have gathered on their supporters [can be used] to learn and predict what actions and asks are going to be most relevant to supporters, and elicit the best responses” notes Flynn. 

An effective fundraising tool helps identify the previous donation patterns of a donor in a simple and informative manner - proving an invaluable help in supporting the donor life-cycle.

 3. Recruiting Millennials While Retaining Older Donors

The way that Canadians give is changing. 

The “Millennial” swing towards online giving is only increasing. This generation of donors is more likely to give to a modernized, digital-savvy organisation that is committed to efficiency. 

Meanwhile, a report just released this summer by Indiana University cements the concept that individuals who establish a pattern of making charitable donations before retirement are just as inclined to keep giving post-retirement. 

This means that those organisations who want to engage both emerging donors, and retain established ones will be facilitated through the intelligence provided by effective prospect research tools.

A organization will do well to continue to engage with its champion donors, while considering ways to track the new generation of donors through digital means. 

So what does this have to do with Ajah?

These trends indicate that Canadian fundraisers can benefit considerably from: 

  • Choosing the right prospect research solution that actively eases the prospect research workload.  
  • Assessing the data patterns behind individual donor journeys to better support those journeys. 
  • Tracking emerging and long-term individual donors on an ongoing basis.  

Here at Ajah, we’ve worked hard to incorporate these important points into the design and latest updates of our core products, FundTracker Pro and Benefactor

These two solutions will help any Canadian fundraiser better grasp the trends outlined above, having been specially designed help meet the needs of the nonprofit sector. 

For more on how Canadian charities can best position themselves in the current donor environment, download our free Funder Research Guide or simply sign up for a free demo of these tools.  

And as ever, happy fundraising!

Raena Marder - Customer Success Lead / Team Ajah

Grasping Open Data with Both Hands - How Canadian Charities Are Capitalizing


Powered by Data is a nonprofit that was started by Ajah’s founders (and is now part of the Tides Canada Shared Platform), and works to help the nonprofit sector benefit from data.

They’ve just released a new report, produced in consultation with stakeholders of Heritage Canada, that recommends ways the government could use its data to enable its stakeholders (namely, the nonprofit sector).

The recommended approach is to engage with charities directly to build their understanding of Heritage Canada’s available data, identify the needs of the charities, and then work on publishing open data to address those needs.

The report is interesting for charities because it allows them to better understand the motivations of major government funders like Heritage Canada, and offers another avenue for charities (Heritage’s open data efforts) to engage with them.

What are Stakeholders Concerned About?

  • A real need for government to provide more open research and statistics that could inform program and operational needs—for example by releasing data on successful funding applications and amounts.
  • The need to make data and information easy to find, rather than requiring users to scour different areas of government websites.
  • A need to move beyond open data sets and make data searchable and filterable through a web application, allowing the organisations to easily pull out the requisite information without having to do much data-crunching themselves.

What does this have to do with Ajah?

The report focusses on how Heritage can enable data-driven solutions to the immediate needs of the nonprofit sector, its grantees.

Fundtracker, Ajah’s dedicated prospect research tool, is exactly that type of solution. We built it to solve the immediate fundraising needs of charities by bringing together all relevant public-domain data on funders and recipients, and making that data searchable and filterable, allowing fundraisers to quickly and easily find out who is funding organizations just like yours.

We believe there are many other opportunities for applying data-driven solutions to the needs of the nonprofit sector, especially with government data. That’s why we started Powered by Data—to help the sector take advantage of those opportunities.

If you’d like to dig a little deeper into Powered by Data’s findings and recommendations, please click here to see the full report.

And for more information on FundTracker, please download our comprehensive Funder Research Guide (it’s completely free).

And as ever, happy fundraising!

Team Ajah

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

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

And as always, happy fundraising!

Find Your Benefactors!

Did you know estimates suggest individual donors account for up to 80% of donations to charities?

What’s more, high net worth individuals are responsible for almost 90% of that total.

Major gifts and planned gifts are among the largest sources of fundraising dollars for most organizations, and are typically the largest grants that an organization receives.

Even if you don’t yet have a major gifts strategy, your organization’s potential benefactors are out there!

These are vital relationships and funding that are just waiting for you to make that initial connection. Having a plan to find and solicit them will help make sure you’re not missing out.

Because with the right tools and strategies, you can find those individuals and unlock your biggest source of funding.

On that note, we’re very proud to announce the launch of our new funder research service, Ajah Benefactor.

Benefactor brings together relevant information from multiple sources to help you identify high net worth individuals connected to your networks.

As Ajah founder Michael Lenczner explained in the official press release, “Benefactor will help fundraisers at map the connections between the people they know and those they’d like to meet. They’ll discover who to ask, and how to approach them.”

You can learn more about Benefactor’s features here, or get in touch with us with any questions: 514-400-4500 ;

While we’re on the subject, we’ve pulled together a few more useful resources to help you make major gifts a bigger part of your fundraising strategy:

In this video from the Chronicle of Philanthropy, five major-gift fundraising veterans offer some great tips to fundraisers in the early stages of developing a major gifts strategy.

And this article from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education is full of information and serve as a handy guide to any fundraiser interested in establishing a plan to solicit more major gifts.

With hope that these will help, happy fundraising!

The team at Ajah


What does “data capacity” mean for fundraising?

We wanted to share a resource developed by Powered by Data, a non-profit initiative we launched to work with nonprofits, funders and governments to help them better use, share and learn from data.

How would you rate your organisation’s “data capacity”?

Simply put, data capacity refers to the ability to use data effectively within an organization.

Building data capacity doesn’t just happen on its own -- it requires the right tools, skills, policies and workflows. And more broadly it means adopting a data-informed culture across the organisation.

But the benefits it brings make it an important opportunity for your organisation’s success: better institutional memory, improved operations, and the ability to experiment and adapt much more quickly.

For fundraisers, it can mean improving your ability to target the right funders, increasing the effectiveness of your asks, and better communicating the impact to funders and other stakeholders.

In fact, fundraising can be a great place to start the “data conversation” within your organisation.This was one key takeaway from discussions on data capacity held during Transform the Sector, a conference that Powered by Data held in February that aimed to highlight how the Canadian social sector can harness the opportunities of digital data.

You can learn a bit more about data capacity by watching this 5-minute video produced after the conference:


And here you’ll find a complete report based on the data capacity discussions.

Finally, if you’re interested in digging even deeper, this page compiles all the resources that we’ve produced following Transform the Sector 2017.

We hope you find all these resources informative and useful, and we’ll be sure to let you know about the next edition of Transform the Sector.

And as always, happy fundraising!

Your friends at Ajah

Ajah and Foundant partner to build Canadian Grants Management API

May 29th, 2017 - Today, Ajah launched its Canadian Grants Management API (Application Programming Interface), developed in partnership with Foundant Technologies. The API is a tool for grants management systems that automatically checks the current charitable status of grant applicants and returns information about them. This helps grants officers by reducing the time they spend on assessing compliance.

The API is based on a similar service that already exists in the US. It will leverage the world-class open data Canada possesses about its charitable sector to create a practical solution for Canadian philanthropic professionals.

“Thanks to the new Canadian Grants Management API,” said Daren Nordhagen, President of Foundant Technologies, Inc., “we are able to offer new services that leverage public information and open data. We have integrated the API into our grants management services to help philanthropic professionals inform their work. This is a great example of how open data can offer practical solutions for the nonprofit sector.”

“This API represents an important piece of basic infrastructure for the Canadian nonprofit sector,” Michael Lenczner, CEO of Ajah, Inc. said. “We believe that having access to relevant information is what will help the sector increase its effectiveness, and we expect this API to be one part of a vibrant and interconnected tools that can enable new services for Canadian non-profits.”

Foundant Technologies provides software to maximize the impact of the philanthropic community to more than 1,200 charitable organizations. Foundant’s rant Lifecycle Manager (GLM) solution makes it easy to receive and evaluate online grant applications, record decisions, and measure outcomes using philanthropy's most user-friendly and affordable online grants management solution.

Ajah is a Montreal-based company that develops data-driven solutions for Canada’s charitable and philanthropic sectors. Ajah builds uniquely useful products by combining its technological expertise with its first-hand experience leading social impact organisations. Ajah believes in the power of new technologies and information sharing to transform Canada’s social impact sector, which is at the heart of its work.


An exciting new resource for fundraisers and prospect researchers

We just received our copy of Prospect Research in Canada: An Essential Guide for Researchers and Fundraisers. It looks great. We were happy to sponsor the publication of this invaluable resource intended for fundraiser and researchers getting their start in prospect research. The launch coincides with the 15th anniversary of the Canadian Chapter of the Association of Professional Researchers for Advancement (APRA Canada). Here’s more on the book from APRA Canada:

“In this book, 30 skilled contributors share their front-line experiences in the field of prospect research. Through their words and knowledge they reveal why Canadian researchers are not only specialists in their field, but also passionate about ethics and standards and continually improving a profession that they love.”

You can order it here.

We are opening up our doors to the Montreal startup community

Here at Ajah we have always been passionate about openness. Our software tools use open data to offer the nonprofit sector unique insights into their funding environment. So we get the value that openness creates. That is why we are excited to be opening up our doors on September 22nd as part of Startup Open House Montreal.

Startup Open House started back in 2013. Originally it was a unique kind of career fair that allowed participants to visit startup offices to experience the work environment and products they would potentially be building. It has since evolved into an opportunity for the startup community to showcase their products and talent to investors, job-seekers and the broader public.

With diverse backgrounds in community development, software development and web entrepreneurship, Ajah’s founders have always considered themselves part of the Montreal startup community. We are proud to be supporting this awesome event and the broader community. We are also looking forward to showcasing our great team and our innovative approach to building software tools to support the nonprofit sector.

So join us Thursday, September 22nd from 3pm to 8pm. Our address is 1124 Rue Marie-Anne #11. We’ve got some fun stuff planned. 


More than just a program: Some (not so) big secrets to finding more funders

We all know how it feels to run out of suitable funders for our cause. With the usual approach — looking up funders whose stated interests match our programs — we always seems to find the same small pool of funders. Why is is that research so limited? The reason is because of two (not so) big secrets we want to share:

Secret #1: Funders don’t fund programs and projects.

They fund outcomes and issues. Funders are trying to solve big problems, like “youth leadership” or “helping the community.” They aren’t looking for specific programs to support, but they are interested in supporting programs that address the issues they’re interested in. Take the example of capital projects — very few funders have a passion for constructing buildings for the sake of buildings. But, they are interested in supporting buildings that enable the work that addresses the problems they care about.

Secret #2: Funders do a bad job at communicating their funding interests.

Some of them use the wrong words. Some of them don’t publish any information at all (or haven’t even figured out, for themselves, what they fund). Some of them even say the opposite of what they actually fund. So, if you exclude funders based on what they say, then you are actually excluding yourself from new funding.

Ok, so now what?

To get around these two (frustrating) facts, we have to see our organizations as more than our mission, and change how we look at funders.

1. See yourself as more than your mission: Finding more funders outside of the usual circle requires looking outside of the normal areas - thinking really outside of the box. Let's say you are fundraising for a food bank. Only 27 funders were included in a recent assessment of food philanthropy by Community Foundations Canada — a pretty small pool if you’re only looking for food funders. But food banks work on way more issues than just delivering food to the needy. Let’s look at just a few program examples:

  • Community kitchens teach people about nutrition and improve community health
  • Production gardening supports environmental responsibility
  • Partnerships with schools and workshops provide education as well as support for youth

The same goes for any charity — there are plenty of funders interested in all of those issues — we just have to make it clear to them how our work affects the areas they work on.

2. Change how you look at funders: It’s rare (though still great) to find funding criteria that matches our organization perfectly. Instead of evaluating the match between funders and our organization, we can get better results by figuring out how to describe our organization according to the language and criteria expressed by funders. Take an education charity, for example. You might find a foundation whose mission is to build a healthy and creative society. They don’t mention education, but it's still a great fit — education leads to a healthy society. All you have to do is explain how your work is relevant to the funder’s issue.

Find more prospects, get more support

These two approaches are great ways to expand your circle of potential funders and find more prospects. Raising that number is really important, because fundraising is basically a numbers game — it takes lots of requests to get money coming in. Limiting research to narrow categories decreases the amount of potential funding. So start writing those requests, and be prepared for that first “no” — that’s when the relationship with a new funder really starts.

Proud to be Sponsoring Montreal's Social Innovation Challenge

We at Ajah are happy to be sponsoring Montreal's Social Innovation Challenge, May 12th-13th, hosted by the United Church of Canada and organized by the team at Percolate. This event invites community members from all sectors to pitch their ideas for a better society. As their website describes,

"The Social Innovation Challenge is an opportunity for people with ideas to meet with funders who want to support people and projects that are committed to making changes in their local neighbourhoods and communities." 

While we are always excited to be involved in events that bring new people and ideas to the non-profit sector, we are particularly invested in the themes of this event: transparency, innovation, and collaboration.

Toronto's Social Innovation challenge was this past weekend, May 6th-7th.  Check out the third place winners from that event, The Canadian Challenge.  Also, you can watch participants from other city's events pitch their ideas on Social Innovation Challenge's YouTube Channel.

 If you have an idea about how to make the Montreal community a better place, or want to hear from people who do, then you can register here.  

Collaboration FTW!

As fundraisers, we all think about the stack of application on a funder’s desk -- well, more accurately in their grant management software.  We ask ourselves: how can we make our application stand out?  One way is by collaborating with other organizations.  Not only does partnering with another charity or nonprofit demonstrate to a potential funder that you understand your communities needs, it lets them know they are not funding redundant projects.  It provides them with the added assurance that two organizations will use their expertise to overcome problems, create innovative strategies, and share what is learned more broadly.

In the spirit of collaboration, we invite you to take a look at Landscape.  It is an innovative online tool we developed with Powered by Data, the nonprofit initiative we started in 2014.  Landscape was launched at the Community Knowledge Exchange to demonstrate how open data could be harnessed to map who is working on what.  Still very incomplete and in its beta stage, the data is collected from among those major funders who publish their grants online with descriptions such as Environment Canada, the Ontario Trillium Foundation, the McConnell Foundation, and Citizenship and Immigration Canada.  Take a look around!  The database can be filtered by issue, region, funder, organization and keyword.  Although limited in scope now, we’re excited to work with Powered by Data and the inaugural community philanthropy fellow, Alex Draper, from Edmonton Community Foundation, to take Landscape from a pilot project to indispensable tool used by nonprofit executives daily to facilitate collaboration.

We’d love to hear from you if you have any questions or comments!

Come say hello: Ajah at CKX

We are excited to be attending the CKX Summit in Toronto this week. The three-day event will host a variety of speakers that will tackle four main themes;

  • how nonprofits can use research to make informed decisions
  • how we can turn data into knowledge for change
  • how we can use stories to communicate our impact
  • and how we know if we are making a difference.

Most of the work fits within our PoweredbyData initiative. Our nonprofit arm that wants to increase the quality and quantity of data in the non-profit sector.

Before the event starts, guests will have the chance to meet the Ontario Nonprofit Data Strategy Working Group with PoweredbyData and the Ontario Nonprofit Network, where we will continue to develop a data strategy for the province.

On Thursday, Michael will be joined by Jake Hirsch-Allen from Functional Imperative and Gena Rotstein from Dexterity Ventures Inc to discuss open philanthropy in a session called Can Open Data Unlock Fort Philanthropy? A Case Study in Three Parts:

You’ve probably heard about Open Data and Open Government. But have you ever considered the radical idea of Open Philanthropy? What would happen if you applied the principles of open data to philanthropic institutions such as foundations, funders and grant-makers?

In this session you’ll be introduced to three open data initiatives that are doing just that.

During this session, we will be launching a new public tool (codename: Scryer), which repurposes funder data to help nonprofits gain insight.

Later on, Michael will be hosting a participant “jam” session entitled Building a Data Strategy for Ontario’s Nonprofits: again with Heather Laird from the Ontario Nonprofit Network and Jamie Van Ymeren from Mowat NFP

What’s a data strategy? And why do we need one for the nonprofit sector in Ontario?

This workshop is a chance to discuss the data nonprofits use, what we need access to, and the core elements of a strategy that is being developed by dozens of organizations across Ontario. After a history of who’s in the picture now and where the work is heading, this session will provide participants with starting points to put data to work for their organizations, and a chance to share perspectives on next steps in this strategic work to support Ontario’s nonprofit sector.

There are a ton of other exciting discussions at the summit that we are excited to attend. We hope to see you there!

If you cannot make it to the event, follow the event at #CKX