Skip to Content

How to Build Powerful Charity Donor Profiles

By August 2, 2019

It helps to do a little preparation to build a charity donor profile.

By Jennifer Liu-Cooper, Communications Manager, DonorSearch

“Good fortune often happens when opportunity meets with preparation.” – Thomas Edison

The best preparation you can have for major donor fundraising is a detailed profile of a potential donor to your charity, complete with key information and strategic talking points. Empowered by the right briefing, a gift officer like you can go into a prospect visit with the ability to seize the opportunities that lead to successfully cultivating a major donor.

Good Profiles Make the Best Conversations. A good profile tells the prospect’s story: Who they are, what they care about, and the plan of action to get to the ask. It also describes the past, present, and future of their relationship with—and investment in your mission.

Elements of a Powerful Charity Donor Profile

Your prospect profile should be packed with the information that the field fundraiser needs to effectively engage the prospect, guide the conversation toward an ask, and shape lifelong affinity to your cause.

How to Reach Them. It may seem obvious, but the major gift officer needs to know how to contact the prospect for the conversation. At the very top of the profile, include:

  • Name and Spouse Name
  • Contact Information – Address, phone, email

An example donor profile with contact information

Who They Are. Illustrate who the prospect is to your organization —whether it’s their degree and major, their status as a patient admitted to your healthcare institution, donor or subscriber, or if they’re a key volunteer. More importantly, data that shows who the prospect is today, such as:

  • Business information – Title, company, profession
  • Wealth Indicators – Business revenues, property holdings, cumulative political contributions of $5,000-10,000+. (Industry research shows that political giving is not only an indicator of wealth and political leaning, but a flag for major donors who will give 5-, 6- or 7- figure gifts charitably.)
  • Relationships and affiliations

Example donor profile with affluence, relationships, and affiliation information

What They Care About. Include information that demonstrates the causes and issues they invest in with both time—as volunteers—and treasure—where they’re giving:

  • Giving History and RFM (Recency, Frequency, Money) Ranking
  • RFM is a loyalty ranking derived from how recent, often, and how much the prospect is giving compared to your other donors. This measure of affinity is a proven approach to prioritizing action – The prospects who have given consistently over time are more invested in your mission.

  • External Charitable Contributions – Highlight the gifts causes like yours.
  • Nonprofit Board Membership and volunteer status with your organization – Show their affinity for philanthropy and their influence in the fundraising community.

Interest/inclination information about a donor.

The Plan of Action. Provide the ‘inside scoop’ or executive summary as talking points that inform the gift conversation. This should include things like:

  • Summary of recent contacts/conversations with the prospect
  • The planned ask amount and initiative the prospect will likely respond to.
  • Key relationships that can influence the giving decision

xample executive summary/talking points to prepare for a donor conversation.

Best Case Scenario: Set Up Profiles with the Push of a Button Within Your Donor CRM

The strategic information in your charity donor profile should be accessible to field fundraising staff. Ideally, they should have the capacity to edit and retrieve (print and take) the profile directly from your fundraising CRM – at their convenience. This gives them the ability to have accurate, current intelligence at their fingertips as they shape the solicitation strategy, and close the gift.

The prospect profile is where fundraising data connects to the human insights from your fundraising team. Prepare your fundraising team for opportunity with a powerful and accessible prospect research profile, and good fortune (i.e., successful asks) will happen.

For more detail on technology to improve your fundraising across channels, check out this e-book on direct mail fundraising for Salesforce. It includes some handy tips on segmentation, reporting, and more.


AppExchange partner image


DonorSearch is a AppExchange Partner that helps nonprofits succeed with Nonprofit Cloud. Find their app, 360io – DonorSearch on the AppExchange.


About the Author

Jennifer Liu-Cooper

Jennifer Liu-Cooper

Jennifer is the Communications Manager at DonorSearch. Jennifer is a thought leader in Prospect Development who leverages 25+ years in the nonprofit industry to translate best practices into the products and services that help DonorSearch clients drive successful fundraising outcomes. Jennifer’s work reflects her belief that success in fundraising comes from the gathering and strategic application of data that illustrates a prospect’s motivations, in addition to financial capacity.