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DonorSearch: a robust prospect research tool.

SEVERAL RESOURCES are on the market for performing prospect research. DonorSearch ( is one such useful tool. In operation since 2007, DonorSearch provides nonprofits with comprehensive, accurate data for fundraising and outreach. The DonorSearch website claims that it uses proprietary algorithms to help find prospects. It also says it's the only company that can predict both capacity and propensity to give.

The philosophy behind DonorSearch is that knowing how wealthy your prospects are only tells you how much they are capable of giving--knowing their actual past philanthropy will help predict how likely they are to align their support with your organization.

DonorSearch serves myriad industries: Advocacy; Arts and Culture; Community College; Conservation and Environmental; Faith Based; Community Foundations; Greek (college-campus organizations); Healthcare; Higher Education; K-12 Education; PACs; and Social Services.


You can use the DonorSearch product to screen prospects against a variety of databases to generate executive summaries and in-depth reports, validate information such as identities, and calculate ask amounts and likelihood of giving. DonorSearch even helps build feasibility studies and customized reports.

It draws on the following databases:

1. DonorSearch's Annual Report philanthropy database

2. GuideStar Foundation Trustees

3. JGRA (an older dataset of charitable giving, primarily in the Philadelphia area)

4. Annual Reports Charitable Donations Database (covers 2008-2012)

5. FEC Political Giving Database

6. DonorSeries Charitable Donations Database (Waltman's)

7. Reuters Insider Profiles Market Guide

8. LexisNexis Real Estate Property Records

9. Marquis Who's Who Biographies

10. GuideStar Nonprofit Boards of Directors

11. D&B (Dun & Bradstreet) Business & Executive Information

12. EDGAR Online Insiders (insider trading transactions as reported to the SEC)

13. FAA Aircraft Owners

14. Larkspur SEP/Keogh Pensions

15. IRS 527 Political Donors

16. IRS 527 Directors

17. U.S. Coast Guard

18. Biographical Records Archive

19. FAA Airmen

20. IRS 7806 Exempt Organizations

21. IRS 990PF Profiles

22. CorpTech Business Profiles

23. DonorSeries Directors Reports (Waltman's)

24. Who Knows Who

25. RW Athletes Database (Woroniecki Athlete Database)

26. Zillow

DonorSearch provides online tools, which include Integrated Search and ProspectView Online; Screening; Planned Giving Prospect Identification (PGID); and Social Intelligence+.

Some products and features that DonorSearch recently implemented include the following:

* Integrated Search: Provides an in-depth report on prospect giving, real estate holdings, nonprofit involvement, and a "who knows whom" at other nonprofits

* Executive Summary: A report that gives such information as with whom you're competing for donor dollars, how many strong prospects you have, and the wealth and prior giving of your prospects

* Planned Giving Modeling: Helps with targeting ask amounts and best prospects for planned-giving efforts

* Summary of Outside Giving by Interest: Helps identify what types of causes a prospect supports with philanthropy

* RW Sports Database: An industry database of professional athletes, including birthplace, age, team, position, and salary or annual earnings for athletes in the MLB, NFL, NHL, NBA, the PGA Tour, the LPGA Tour, ATP WTA, and the Sprint Cup NASCAR Series

* One-Click Detailed Profiles in Raiser's Edge: A function that makes DonorSearch information instantly available from within the Raiser's Edge program


With Integrated Search, you enter information about a prospect and receive a report, generated by DonorSearch, that provides insight to the prospect's wealth and giving information (income, real estate, relationships with other nonprofits, and stock transactions).

The ProspectView Online tool includes a Prospect Generator, to help identify potential donors; a Wealth Search, with access to databases that hold asset information (business, real estate, political, pension); and Who Knows Whom, identifying possible names of those who might have served on a board with the prospect.

Electronic screening services offer a variety of wealth and giving factors to help you narrow your focus to a more-likely-to-give prospect. DonorSearch says its machine-generated data is 70% accurate. Manual review by DonorSearch research specialists, an added service, raises the accuracy to 90%, the highest rate in the business, according to DonorSearch.

Planned Giving Prospect Identification (PGID) is DonorSearch's method for identifying, via modeling and analytics, who is most likely to give a philanthropic gift to an entity.

DonorSearch also screens social media to help develop and identify prospects. Social Intelligence+ analyzes online activity and the number of followers and connections to gauge the likes and dislikes of a potential prospect. The aim is to identify prospects who might never show up on prospect researching radar.

DonorSearch offers useful reports (sample Executive Summaries; ProspectView Screening profiles; and DonorSearch Totals reports) and white papers (Annual Giving: Prospects and Approaches; Major Gifts: Prospects and Approaches; Planned Giving: Identifying Prospects; and Prospect Research: Importance and Impact). These are free to download.


To test DonorSearch's claims, I took a spin through its offerings. It's a robust site, so to explore all of DonorSearch would take hours. I narrowed the tour down to the ProspectView Online product.

ProspectView Online includes Gift Search; Prospect Generator; Integrated Search; and Zillow. The latter is only a link to

I started with Integrated Search. In the First Name and Last Name boxes, I typed in Bill and Joy, respectively, and then entered CA in the State box. I wasn't concerned with a full address and so I clicked on the Search button--ignoring the "Search White Pages for Full Address" button also presented to me.

The resulting profile for Bill Joy, co-founder of Sun Microsystems, suggested that the range of money I should ask for, based on his wealth, was $25,000 to $99,999. The targeted ask based on giving, however, was $0. DonorSearch's results suggest that I should pass on asking Bill Joy for any money--while he may have it, he doesn't seem to be a likely prospect for donating it.

That didn't sit well with me, so I started to play around a bit. From Wikipedia, I discovered that Bill Joy's full name is William Nelson Joy, and he now lives in Colorado. I used the DonorSearch White Pages to find an address for him, and then plugged that data into DonorSearch's Integrated Search.

The results were considerably different. I felt a wee bit better; the man donates money, albeit to mostly political causes. Lesson learned: Make sure you are searching with the correct and most up-to-date information.

Searching on Dean White, a philanthropist local to my hometown, brought up understandably different results from Bill Joy. According to DonorSearch results, Mr. White would be a viable source for a donation--especially if the donation pertains to higher education.


DonorSearch also boasts a Prospect Generator. Performing a search there, I chose the subject of Autism, in any state, from the year 2009 to present. The result was a list of gifts, sorted by year. Clicking on any of the column titles will sort on that particular column (and clicking a second time on the same column will reverse the order).

From the generated DonorSearch list, reordering the "Sum of Gifts" column to present the highest dollar amount first indicated that Autism Speaks had the highest dollar sum of gifts.

Further clicking on any of the listed items--I chose Marcus Autism Center--presents the breakdown of donors to that center, in the form of a list of donors and their donations. Such information would be quite useful in generating a list of prospect resources to target for donating to like-minded organizations.

Additionally, from the list generated, clicking on an individual's name will bring up a detailed summary of what donations to other organizations that person made.


From these examples, DonorSearch proves to be a robust research tool. It gives the user an interface to search several dozen databases. The White Pages/Full Address search option is presented right there on the search page, making it handy to get more targeted location information about the searched subject. The Prospect Generator further breaks down the detailed information about a prospect, giving a more granular view of the prospect's giving amount and to what other entities the prospect has given.

DonorSearch is a strong place to start one's research for developing donor profiles, and it can often prove to be a tool that can save the prospect researcher both time and money.

DonorSearch Functional Details

A 12-month subscription to Integrated Search currently costs $1,000. ProspectView Online costs $2,000; with Screening added, the cost rises to $3,500.

Data from DonorSearch can be exported into Excel or many of the popular donor management software programs. Reports can be downloaded into Word documents.

Joann M. Wleklinski ( owns Wleklinski Information Services.

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Author:Wleklinski, Joann M.
Publication:Online Searcher
Article Type:Company overview
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2013
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