Are you making one of these 5 common mistakes during your donor research?

Donor research is a crucial step of the grant cycle, and it is very important to implement it properly. Even though many organizations realize this, there are still many mistakes that NGOs make during the process of donor research. In this article, we will look at the five most common mistakes and how you can avoid them.

Not dedicating enough time and resources to the research stage

Many NGOs don’t consider the research stage of the grant cycle as very important. When sending out proposals, they plan to go for quantity instead of quality and thus do not put too much emphasis on research. This is a big mistake. The chances of your proposal succeeding are much higher when you have a good match with your potential donor. The only way to find the best matches is to invest in donor research.

This investment can be time, a subscription to a newsletter that shares opportunities or a budget for the fundraiser to attend conferences and workshops. It is critical that the entire organization understands that researching donors is one of the most important steps of the fundraising process.

If you send a bad proposal to a donor, that is a perfect match, you might still get lucky, and they might see potential in your organization and want to work with you. If you send a perfect proposal to a donor that is no match, you will receive a rejection with certainty. Of course, we do not want to propagate that the proposal is not important, but research should come first! Do your research with enough care and time and make sure you have the necessary support and resources for it!

Not embedding the research within a broader fundraising strategy

Research is important, but it should always be viewed as part of the fundraising strategy that your organization is following. It is one step of the entire process and should be embedded in it. In your strategy, you should determine who is responsible for it, how much budget you can allocate for it, and by when it should be done.

If the research process is not embedded within a broader strategy, its results will have much less influence on the fundraising outcomes. If nobody feels responsible for implementing the tasks that have been identified in the research process, nothing will get done, even if the research shows a clear path. If the results of your research do not get translated into the timeline of your fundraising strategy, milestones and deadlines will still not be met.

Not using all the available channels

There are different ways fundraisers can gather information about potential donors, like google searches or databases. Nevertheless, many times, not all open channels are used. Fundraisers tend to focus their donor research to desk research. Sometimes this makes sense, but networking and using existing contacts and channels can be much more productive than research on the internet only. Don´t forget that there is more than one way to find out, what a donor wants – and sometimes the most direct one is the easiest. Don´t be afraid to ask if you have a good question.

Not looking deep enough

If you want to be successful in your fundraising, you have to realize that the research phase is important and you should put enough attention to it. Many NGOs just skim the websites of possible donors though and don’t do deep enough, missing crucial information. While this might look like saving time at the first glimpse, you will pay for it further down the line – either by investing time later or by risking failing with your proposal. Not looking deep enough is one of the most common mistakes in donor research.

Not using any system to organize research

You can lose yourself in research. If you don’t set a limit for yourself, you can research forever – and with no good system to organize your results in place, you will not be able to focus on the most important factors of your research.

If you do not organize your research, you will research the same foundations over and over without noticing and lose your time. You will not be able to keep track of deadlines and to-do lists and will not focus your fundraising strategy on the goal that you want to achieve. Whichever system you chose to organize your research, make sure it works for you and makes it easy for you to stay on track.

Are you making any of these mistakes? Well, at least now you know how to avoid them and how be more effective with your donor research. But do you still have any doubts? We might just have the right thing for you.

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