I’m pleased to welcome back Bill Tedesco, founder and CEO of DonorSearch, my favorite prospect research tool. I love how easy they make it for nonprofits to do the research that helps you treat your donors well and raise the money you need to fund your mission. In this post, I’ve asked hime to recommend his top 5 prospect research tools. Isn’t it cool that he leads with the theme song from the show “Cheers”?! You can learn more about Bill at DonorSearch.net. And DonorSearch can be reached on Twitter @DonorSearch.

5 Killer Prospect Research Tools to Learn More About Your Current Donors

Bill Tedesco, founder & CEO of DonorSearch
Nonprofits could stand to learn something from the lyrics to the Cheers theme song. Yes, that Cheers. You know, the one with Sam and Diane and the whole gang.

The specific lyric that I’m referring to goes a little something like, “Sometimes you wanna go, where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came.”

What made the sitcom Cheers and the bar it’s named after so special was that it was a home away from home for the characters and the audience. It tapped into an innate desire we all have.

We want to be welcomed and recognized.

Your donors are no exception. They want to know that you know them. So, if you haven’t already, it’s time to get to know them.

How can you do that? You can do so through prospect research. This blog has already provided one informative article of top resources for filling in your donor profiles.

Here are five more prospect research tools to take your understanding of your donors to the next level and make them feel at home with your organization.

  1. FEC.GOV

    The FEC Political Giving Database is publicly accessible and contains nearly all political contributions of over $200 from the past few decades.

    Because the Federal Election Commission requires all campaigns to report any donations they receive, complete with donor name, occupation, address, and gift date, it’s easy to find an accurate political giving history on your donors.

    Why is this a great tool for your fundraising efforts? Political giving can say a lot about a donor.

    If the donor has made a large political gift, you know that supporter has the ability to make a major gift at your organization as well.

    In a bigger sense, political giving demonstrates that the donor is willing to move from consideration to action for a cause that he or she is invested in. That fact is best exemplified by the statistic that donors who give over $2,500 to political campaigns are 14 times more likely to donate to a nonprofit organization than an average person is.

  2. SEC.GOV

    Similar to the searchable database of political filings, you can also sift through the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Insider Stock Transactions.

    In a nutshell, you’ll be able to see a donor’s stock holdings in publicly traded companies, which should inform your understanding of their giving capacity. Details from this database can help fill out whether a prospect

    Although the SEC and FEC databases are separate sites, they’re so thematically similar that they naturally come one after the other. They are both government run websites with a deep wealth of valuable information about your donor’s giving tendencies and capacities. Both can provide key insights into whether a prospect may be a major or planned giving prospect.


    Marquis Who’s Who Biographies contains biographical information on more than 900,000 leaders across multiple professional fields. The collection of directories features biographies on important figures in the worlds of science, business, law, government, entertainment, and more.

    This database is perfect for uncovering valuable information about those sometimes elusive major gifts donors.

    Pick any kind of fundraiser. If you’ve managed to get powerful people to participate, Marquis Who’s Who is an ideal resource to build a working knowledge of all of your VIP’s histories. Starting a relationship with those prospects while equipped with background knowledge gives your team a huge advantage when it finally comes down to making a fundraising ask.


    Don’t overlook the research power of LinkedIn. Especially if your budget is limited, LinkedIn gives you a free window into the professional lives of your donors and prospects.

    Using LinkedIn, you can uncover valuable details about donors’ business affiliations. A quick search could reveal that one of your most loyal and active donors has close ties to a prospect that you’ve been extremely interested in building a relationship with. Now that you know that, you can ask your donor to make that introduction for you.

    From another angle, depending on how you acquired your donors, you might not have complete donor profiles on them. LinkedIn will be fast to show you the employers of your donors. Many of those employers are likely to offer corporate giving opportunities, which you should be making your supporters aware of.

    LinkedIn is not the best tool for bulk screening. But if you’re looking to fill in some professional blanks about a collection of donors, it is a worthwhile starting point.


    The How America Gives page is a curveball on this list. The first four prospect research tools were hyper-focused on specific donors. They teach you A, B, C, D, and so on about your prospects and donors, all of which are significant and necessary. This page takes a different approach.

    The site still teaches you about your donors, but from a new vantage point. It is an interactive tool that enables users to study charitable giving based on geography. It was built a few years ago, but the ongoing impact of this page is derived more from the trends it reveals than the exact specifics of the moment it was created.

    Whether you want to search by county, city, ZIP code, or state, you can get a complete picture of the giving trajectory of communities in the United States. This tool will help you make better informed predictions about the giving tendencies of your prospects and donors, using the geographic data.

    Oh, and it is really fun and engaging to use.

Research is an ongoing task

Why are you looking into prospect research tools? Maybe you’re new to the topic. Maybe your organization is not performing as well as you’d like it to be. Maybe you’re trying to reinvigorate your prospect research efforts.

No matter the reason, no matter which of these tools most caught your attention, the important takeaway here is that you should be researching your prospects — actively and avidly.

Make sure your donors know you know their names and that you’re always glad they came.

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