Lesson 11

Identify prospective donors and match them with your needs

Step 1. Decide what is needed to help fulfill your archives mission

  1. What is the total amount you need and what do you need it for?
  2. How much do you need to raise from the private sector?
  3. Who can you think of that might be interested in this project?
  4. What level of support can you expect from prospects?

Step 2. Identifying prospective donors

The most important thing to remember when identifying prospects is to first look at who has a natural interest in your archive. People closest to the archive could be:

  • Board members
  • Volunteers
  • People who use the archive for research/former researchers
  • People who have cntributed material to the archive
  • Historians
  • Writers
  • A local business person with an interest in history and archival material
  • A local corporation who might want to have its archives housed with you
  • A community foundation that recognizes the importance of your archive
  • A private foundation whose directors are amateur historians
  • A local person who is known to be philanthropic
  • Donors who support the local museum
  • Donors who support local organizations that have a similarity to your archive

TIP: You can find the names of donors by looking in annual reports on websites or on the donor lists displayed inside an organization. This is public information so feel free to use it.

Step 3. Creating your prospect list

The important thing to remember when creating your prospect list is not to leave anyone off the list because you think they don’t have any money. Making a charitable gift is an individual decision that should be left up to the individual and not made by you leaving them off the list. Remember you will be offering people a wonderful opportunity to support something they really believe in so please let them make up their own minds.

First: Think of everyone who fits into the categories listed in Step 2 above and write them down on a Prospecting Sheet.

Donors Prospects Name/Company Maximum Capacity Interest in Our Archive Your Relationship Willing to Visit?

Download Word Doc 4: Prospecting Sheet

Second: Ask your board members and volunteers to take a look at the prospecting sheet and rate each person on the list according to a rating scale. A sample scale appears below and is downloadable and you may make adjustments as you see fit.

Also be sure to ask everyone to add anyone else they can think of who might be a potential prospect and also rate them.

This exercise can be done in a group or individually. Make sure people put their names on the sheets.

Sample Prospect Rating Key 


(Base Solely on your best guess of the Prospective Donor’s Means)

Enter number 1 to 8 based on your best guess. Leave blank only if you have no knowledge whatsoever.

  1. $30,000 or more 3-year pledge (10k a year)
  2. 10,000 or more 3-year pledge (3.3k a year)
  3. 7,500 or more 3-year pledge (2.5k a year)
  4. 3,000 or more 3-year pledge (1k a year)
  5. 1,500 or more 3-year pledge (500 a year)
  6. 1,000 or more 3-year pledge (333 a year)
  7. 600 or more 3-year pledge (200 a year)
  8. Less than $500 a year pledge potential


Enter letter A through E based on your best guess. Leave blank if you have no knowledge of the prospect.

  1. High level of interest in our archive
  2. Moderate level of interest (probably donates or attends organization activities)
  3. Low level of interest but with potential for cultivation (doesn’t give or participate yet but is interested in the goals )
  4. Little known interest in the goals of our archive but has demonstrable civic pride
  5. No interest and no concern for community


Enter number 1 to 5 to indicate the phrase that best describes your relationship.
  1. Best of friends, relative, or close business associate
  2. Acquainted and friendly
  3. Met once or twice
  4. Never met
  5. Hostile relationship

Download Word Doc 5: Prospect Rating Key

Third: Review the list to see who knows who and rank the list according to which prospects your reviewers have the best relationship with

Step 4. Refining your prospect list

Do some research on your top prospects to see what their interests are and what kind of things they donate to. Use this information to refine the ranking of prospects.

Write a Prospect Profile Sheet on your top five prospects. This will ensure that you have all the basic information you need to proceed or will show that you need to do more in depth research. Similar information is required for foundations, businesses and individuals.

Download Word Doc 6: Sample Prospect Profile