How to Find New Donor Prospects with LinkedIn

Siobhan Aspinall

By Siobhan Aspinall

(This post originally appeared on Siobhan Aspinall’s blog : 
F is for Fundraising.)

Yes, I’m on a bit of a tear for using social media to fluff up your fundraising efforts…and I can barely figure out my i-phone! All I’m saying is, this stuff is not nuclear physics. Trust me and give it a whirl.

So there are lots of ways to look for new prospects, but they can vary from the really daft (let’s find the list of our city’s richest people!) to the really expensive (let’s subscribe to a batch of research databases at $2K each a year!). LinkedIn is free and is a great source for finding corporate and foundation prospects in particular.

As you’re digging around, remember this fundraising basic – we need prospects with Linkage, Ability and Interest. That is: Can we reach them? Are they wealthy and generous? And are they into our mission?

First: Check your own LinkedIn connections with a fundraiser’s eye 

Scan your connections for the following:

  1. Good-sized companies that are likely to have enough money to give away (or that at least have some sort of community engagement or CSR activity).
  2. People at those companies with the fancy titles. Skip contractors as they usually lack the influence needed to get you in the door.
  3. Foundations. Although really, if you were connected to a foundation you’d already have a relationship in play, right?

Do a bit of research on the people and organizations that you find to make sure they’re Givers. Look up their websites and search their names along with keywords like “donation.” Discard the cheapos and send a message to the selected ones asking for a brief meeting to discuss your charity. Or, better still, ask your board members (or any well-placed volunteers) if they know the prospect and could make a real-world connection.

Second: Check your board members and senior volunteers for their connections

You need to connect to your volunteers first, and then you’ll have access to see all theirconnections. Do the same scan detailed above. The good news here is that you already have your volunteer in place to open the door to the prospect. Keep in mind that the volunteer might not be comfortable reaching out to everyone you identify. Give them a list and ALWAYS limit them to a short list of prospects – maybe three at a time max – or they’ll feel overloaded and never get the job done. (Personal experience here people!)

Third: Research your offline prospects 

You probably have some Dream Prospects on a list somewhere. Maybe you gathered them at an event, off someone else’s donor wall, or even off one of those “richest people” lists I warned you about. Often, the easiest part of prospecting is finding people who are wealthy and interested in your cause. The tricky bit is finding someone to make that connection.

Grab your Dream Prospects list and run each name or organization through LinkedIn. Check the little visual on their page that shows which people you have in common. Bingo! Once you spot someone in common, talk to the potential connector offline about getting you in touch with the prospect. Yes, you can click a button and request an introduction on LinkedIn, but you’re drifting into a schmoopy way of contacting people that is easily ignored. Pick up the phone instead.

This is one of the simplest ways to give your board members a delicious, pain-free fundraising role. Some of them won’t be on LinkedIn yet of course, but encourage them to do so and to proudly list your organization and their board service in their bios.

Siobhan Aspinall, CFRE has been fundraising for over 15 years for non-profit organizations including Canuck Place Children’s Hospice, the Canadian Cancer Society, the David Suzuki Foundation and United Way. She teaches two fundraising courses at BCIT, consults, and is an active member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. She holds a BA in languages from UBC and an Associate Certificate in Fundraising Management from BCIT. She obtained her Certified Fundraising Executive designation in 2013. In her spare time, she writes for her fundraising blog and surfs in Tofino.

Siobhan Aspinall
Sand Dollar Consulting
siobhanaspinall@gmail.com
www.siobhanaspinall.com

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