4 ways to dig deeper for foundation and corporate prospects

October 7, 2014       The NonProfit Times      

Are you tired of seeing the same list of players come up when you run searches on funder databases and search engines? Do you feel like the well is dry and you’re running out of ideas?

Holly Thompson, contributing editor for The Grantsmanship Center in Los Angeles, Calif., advises grant seekers to get out of the rut of old-fashioned funder research and take more initiative. “Good prospect research is more than running key word searches. It requires a proactive approach to finding opportunities,” she said. “If you don’t stay in touch with what’s happening outside your office walls, you might miss out.”

Thompson suggests using four proactive methods to boost your chances of finding prospects you’ve never heard of before:

  • Read more. Get in the habit of reading about your field every day.Spend the first or last 30 minutes of your daysurfing online newspapers, philanthropy journals, funding digests, and social media sites. Set up alerts so that you receive daily emails on topics related to your work. Track funding trends and get to know the names and faces of important people and groups in your field.
  • Get out more. Put that grant proposal aside for a day for some face-to-face contact with funding prospects at conferences, panels, networking meetings, and fundraising events. Research the events ahead of time to ensure that people who you want to meet will be there, and bring plenty of business cards.
  • Widen the search party. Find other sleuths in your organization who will keep their eyes and ears open for prospects. Program staff, HR staff, finance staff, and volunteers travel in different circles, follow different news sites, and know different people. Encourage them to flood your inbox with ideas.
  • Pick more brains. Reach out to program officers for ideas on other funders who would be a good fit for your organization. Better yet, ask them if they will provide an introduction.

According to Thompson, good prospecting is fundamentally about knowing the landscape and building relationships. “You can’t wait for prospects to come to you, you have to go out and get them,” she said. “Do your research regularly and keep at it. Knowledge of your field and steady perseverance can take you a long way in widening your prospect base.”

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