Matchmaking 101: Matching donors to the right projects

By Julie Cotter, Consultant

Early on in my career, a friend gave me some good advice, “fundraising is a bit like matchmaking, you have to find the right fit.”  This sounds easy but it can be frustrating when a potential donor is “just not that into” a project that looks like “the one” on paper.  On the surface the prospect looks like the right fit.  Potential supporters could be alumni, donors, patrons, parents or interested community members.  However, attempts to contact the person for a meeting about the project go ignored.  Why? 

There are two important factors to consider prior to engaging a prospective donor.  First, do your homework about the person.  This could be as simple as checking a donor database and doing some basic research.  Has he/she designated their annual fund gift for any particular area of the organization?  Are there any special events this person attends?  Does someone in your organization (staff, board, cabinet member) know the person?  Then you have a better idea of their interests and affinity to the organization. 

The second factor is finding the right project to share with the prospect.  Many organizations raise money throughout the year which could include annual and/or capital campaigns, program support and special event sponsorships.  Finding the right “ask” or having several different options (such as multiple naming opportunities, price points or projects) for the donor to consider is the other part of the equation for a successful meeting. 

Lastly, if you don’t get the meeting or the project doesn’t resonate with the donor, it’s not a “break up.”  Every interaction with a prospective donor is important because there are many reasons projects are passed over for consideration.  Use these “passes” as opportunities to learn more about your donor.  There could be a project better suited for the donor down the road with the organization.  The adage rings true, “timing is everything” and that goes for fundraising too.