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Looking for Potential Major Donors? Here’s How to Find Them in Your Database

12 min read
June 04, 2024
Alex Huntsberger
A woman sitting in a chevron-striped chair, wearing a black sweater, and covering her face with her hands.

For many nonprofits, major donors are the driving force behind big, high-impact projects and initiatives—the kind of work that can really take your organization to the next level. But one of the hardest parts about engaging major supporters is, well, simply locating potential donors in the first place.

You might be surprised to learn that the best place to find new major donors for your nonprofit is amongst the accounts already sitting in your donor database. With the right strategies and tools, you can identify potential donors hiding right in plain sight.

Let’s go!

Understanding Major Donors

Major donors are individuals who contribute a significant amount of money to your nonprofit. Simple, right?

Not so fast. Now, exactly what amount of money is “significant”? Well, it depends! That threshold is going to be determined, in part, by the size and budget of your organization. 

For a larger nonprofit, a gift of $5,000 or $10,000 might be awesome, but it’s hardly a game changer. For a smaller organization, though, that same donation could fund an entire new program. 

Regardless, major donors can profoundly impact your nonprofit’s ability to achieve its mission. 

Not only can their contributions fund large projects or provide matching funds for fundraising, but they can also bring increased credibility and visibility to your organization, attracting other supporters and resources.

One thing to keep in mind about major donors is that they are more than just their pocketbook (if you’re under the age of 30 and don’t know what a pocketbook is, look it up). A major donor will also have a strong connection or interest in your cause, and they will almost certainly be actively engaged with your nonprofit’s activities.

That’s why it’s very likely that tomorrow’s major donor is already sitting in your donor database today. 

Using Your Donor Database to Identify Major Donors

Your nonprofit’s donor database (which you might also refer to as your CRM) is the essential tool for tracking and managing your interactions with supporters. 

It’s where you store detailed information about your donors, including their contact details, donation history, and engagement activities.

A robust database will allow you to do the following:

  • Organize Information: Keep all donor information in one place for easy access and analysis.

  • Track Interactions: Log interactions with donors, such as meetings, phone calls, and emails.

  • Analyze Data: Use data analytics to identify trends and opportunities.

  • Segment Donors: Categorize donors based on various criteria, such as giving capacity and engagement level.

A good donor management system (that’s another common term for donor databases) will allow you to pair these tools with a wide array of features covering events, memberships, email, donation forms, and more.

The more your database can do—and the more data you can store in a single system—the more easily you can identify and engage potential major donors (or potential donors of any size, for that matter).

4 Research Techniques to Identify Potential Major Donors

Cultivating major donors is a painstaking process. The email you send today might not bear real financial fruit until a year from now. The last thing you want to do is add even more time onto the journey by taking forever to identify prospective givers.

That’s why you should leverage the following tools and strategies within your database to identify potential major donors as quickly and efficiently as possible. 

1. Utilize Wealth Screening Tools

In order for someone to become a major giver, first and foremost, they need to have the capacity to make major gifts. It’s right there in the name.

That’s why wealth screening tools are the number one method for identifying potential major donors. 

These tools analyze publicly available data, such as real estate holdings, stock transactions, and philanthropic contributions, to estimate a donor’s capacity to give. 

By integrating wealth screening into your donor database, you can quickly identify high-potential donors in your records who have the capacity to make a significant gift.

Neon CRM, for example, offers a deep integration with Windfall Data that pulls in tons of wealth information right into a donor’s account.

If you want to get a better idea of how wealth screening tools and your donor database can work together to find potential donors, check out this great story from one of our clients, Great Old Broads for Wilderness, about how they used Neon CRM and Windfall Data to do just that!

2. Analyze Giving History and Patterns

A donor’s past giving behavior can provide strong clues about their potential to become a major donor. 

Use your donor database to look for donors who have consistently increased their contributions over time or made occasional large gifts. 

Key indicators to watch for include:

  • Frequency of Donations: Regular donations suggest a strong commitment to your cause.

  • Donation Amounts: Increasing donation amounts over time can indicate growing interest and capacity.

  • Lapsed Donors: Donors who have given large gifts in the past but have lapsed might be worth re-engaging.

By analyzing these patterns, you can identify donors who are likely to respond positively to major gift solicitations.

Bonus Tip: Create a Recurring Giving Program

Rather than trying to convert these engaged donors into major givers, you could also try recruiting them to join a recurring giving program! 

In fact, recurring donors are actually one of the only groups of nonprofit donors who have increased their giving over the past half decade.

How do we know? We looked at transactions from over 100,000 recurring donors to more than 2,000 organizations over five years (2018-2022) and wrote a whole report about it!

To learn more about why recurring donors are the future of nonprofit giving, download The Recurring Giving Report: Data-Backed Insights for Sustainable Generosity today!

3. Research Philanthropic Interests and Affiliations

Understanding a donor’s philanthropic interests and affiliations can significantly enhance your approach to engaging them as potential major donors. 

Start by looking for information about that donor’s involvement with other nonprofits, participation in community events, and publicly stated interests. This data will help you figure out which potential donors with major gift capacity best align with your organization’s mission and values.

For instance, a donor who has consistently supported education-related causes might be particularly interested in funding your nonprofit’s new scholarship program, while a donor who frequently participates in environmental conservation events could be inclined to support your sustainability initiatives. 

A donor’s affiliations with other organizations—stuff like a seat on the board of a prominent foundation or frequent attendance at high-profile fundraising events—can also indicate both a capacity and a willingness to give.

Highlighting these connections in your outreach can demonstrate that you’ve done your homework and genuinely understand their philanthropic priorities, increasing the likelihood that you’ll secure their support.

4. Integrate External Data Sources

External data sources, such as social media profiles, news articles, and industry reports, can provide additional insights into a potential donor’s capacity to give as well as their philanthropic interests. 

Take something as simple as LinkedIn profiles, which can reveal professional achievements and affiliations. Meanwhile, local news articles might highlight philanthropic activities. 

Many donor databases—including Neon CRM—can integrate with tools that provide this external data. Neon CRM offers integrations with DonorSearch and Kindsight.

By adding this information to your donor database, you will gain a richer understanding of your supporters and be able to tailor your engagement strategies accordingly.

Introducing Neon CRM’s Generosity Indicator

Even with all the tips and tools at your disposal, searching for potential major donors in your database can still feel a bit like looking for the proverbial needle in the haystack.

That’s why profiles in Neon CRM now sport a Generosity Indicator with five different scores that indicate how (among other things) a supporter’s potential interest and capacity to support your nonprofit! 

The Generosity Indicator works by evaluating someone’s activities with any organization that uses Neon One products and producing an overall generosity score (on a scale of 1 to 5) plus individual scores for the following four areas:

  • Affinity: How deeply is someone connected to your cause? 

  • Recency: When was the last time this person supported a nonprofit?

  • Frequency: How frequently do they support their favorite causes?

  • Monetary value: What’s the size of their financial gifts?

Before you ask: Yes, we keep the actual data itself strictly confidential. To learn more about how the Generosity Indicator can help power your donor prospecting strategy, check out the article below:

Building Detailed Major Donor Profiles

Once you have all this information about potential major donors, what are you going to do with it?

You’re going to build out the donor profiles in your database, of course! 

Comprehensive donor profiles are the essential bridge between researching major givers and engaging them. They should include detailed information about, well, everything we discussed in the previous section: the donor’s financial capacity, giving history, personal interests, and engagement with your organization. 

By compiling and regularly updating these profiles, you can ensure that your outreach efforts are well-informed and targeted.

Key Elements to Include in a Major Donor Profile

To build an effective donor profile in your database, you should make sure to include the following key elements:

  • Donation Amounts: Track the size of past donations to understand their giving capacity.

  • Frequency of Donations: Regular contributions suggest a strong commitment to your cause.

  • Designated Purposes: Note if donations were unrestricted or earmarked for specific projects or programs, indicating particular areas of interest.

  • Pledges & Planned Giving: Information about any future commitments or bequests can also be valuable.

  • Event Attendance: Record attendance at fundraising events, galas, and other activities to gauge their interest and involvement.

  • Volunteer Activities: Note any volunteer work they have done, indicating a deeper commitment to your cause.

  • Employment History: Details about employment status can offer additional clues about their capacity to give.

  • Communication Preferences: Track their preferred communication channels (e.g., email, phone, in-person meetings) and frequency of contact to personalize your interactions.

  • Engagement Metrics: Monitor how they respond to your communications, such as opening emails, clicking links, or visiting your website.

In addition to those key elements, you should consider adding the following information to create a more complete portrait of your donor. 

  • Real Estate Holdings: Property ownership can indicate significant financial resources.

  • Stock Ownership: Information on stock holdings can provide insight into a donor’s liquid assets and financial stability.

  • Publicly Available Financial Information: Data from wealth screening tools and public records can help estimate a donor’s net worth and overall financial capacity.

  • Hobbies & Interests: Information about their hobbies and personal interests can help tailor your communication and engagement strategies.

  • Philanthropic Interests: Knowing the causes they care about allows you to align your proposals with their values.

  • Professional & Social Affiliations: Memberships in professional organizations, social clubs, or networks can also provide context for their interests and potential influence.

If you include all these elements in your major donor profiles, you will have created a comprehensive view of your major donor prospects that will allow you to micro-target your engagement strategies to each individual donor.

This holistic approach will not just increase the likelihood of them making a significant contribution—it will also increase the likelihood that they’ll stick around to offer long-term support.

How to Build, Use, and Maintain Donor Profiles

Your donor database will be your primary tool for building and maintaining donor profiles. The key is making sure that you’re using that tool effectively. 

To start with, you should regularly update profiles with new information as it arrives. A truly robust donor management system with tons of built-in features and integrations will save you a boatload of time and effort here. 

A system like Neon CRM will automatically update information on emails, transactions, event attendance, memberships, and volunteer activities in donor accounts. 

Furthermore, Neon CRM’s integrations with donor intelligence tools like Windfall and DonorSearch mean that information from those systems will be automatically synced to your accounts as well. 

Even better, Neon CRM offers automated workflows that schedule things like donor thank-you calls and follow-ups, post-donation event invites, special appeals based on specific user activities, and more. 

Manually maintaining donor profiles is a lot of work. Look for a donor database that lets you offload as much of that work as possible so that you can stay focused on what really matters: building relationships.   

Level Up Your Major Giving With Neon CRM

The better you get at identifying potential major donors for your nonprofit, the more successful you will be in turning them into active major donors. Leverage the tools and integrations available in your donor database to build comprehensive donor profiles and set your major gift strategy up for success.

Of course, none of this really works if you don’t have the donor database in your corner. That’s where Neon CRM comes in. With a wide range of features and integrations, Neon CRM has everything you’ll need to supercharge your fundraising and build lasting relationships with your donors. 

If you’d like to learn more about Neon CRM, join one of our regularly scheduled group demos! These 30-minute sessions provide a thorough overview of the system’s capabilities—all with zero pressure to buy. We’ll see you there!

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