The Cost and ROI of Prospect Research by Julie Assel, GPC

Recently, I taught a class on prospect research. It sold out in two days. Grant professionals, development directors, and non-profit leaders all wanted to know the best way to do prospect research and how to find time to do it well.

As a great consultant, we are often asked to conduct prospect research, and frankly, we do know how to do it well. But everyone should know that quality research isn’t done in a day.

Anyone can find great prospects using online databases like Grant Station, Foundation Directory Online, or Using fields of interest, population served, and geographic area, one can easily develop a list of prospects.

But I would never hand a client just a list. Our second step is to qualify each prospect on a 0-6 point scale from geographical disqualification to current funder information. We examine each funder website and 990s for guidelines, how much they are funding each year, and who and what they are really funding. This requires knowledge of the nonprofit’s programs, needs, and who they serve. It also requires time. There may be between 100-200 results. If we look are all the options, it may be 1-2 weeks’ worth of work. It may cost thousands of dollars. This makes may nonprofits nervous because the grants haven’t even been written yet.

But before time, energy, and money is spent on writing the proposal, a nonprofit should have an idea of the chance for success. This lets agencies focus their time and resources on the most likely prospects.

GPC Competency 1: Knowledge of how to research, identify, and match funding resources to meet specific needs.  Skill 3: Identify methods of locating funding sources. Skill 4: Identify techniques to learning about specific funders.  Skill 5: Identify methods for maintaining, tracking, and updating information on potential funders. Skill 6: Identify fundable programs and projects for specific organization. Skill 7: Determine best matches between funders and specific programs.

Want to learn more about prospect research? Join us on July 7, 2022, for Grants 201: Prospect Research, the first session in our Grants 201 Series! All of our grant training sessions are taught by credentialed grant professionals and are approved for continuing education units by the Grant Professionals Certification Institute and CFRE International. You can view our upcoming live trainings here, and our catalog of high-quality on-demand training here.