Prospecting is seen as the hardest thing we have to do, and yet it is the most important thing for our success.

Prospecting should be done constantly and on a regular basis. It should be made a part of your daily routine as an Executive Director. It should go on from the day your organization signs your 501c3 until the day it closes.

Once you fully understand the process of sales, and the sources you have for donors and sponsors that are encountered every day, prospecting will become your easiest activity.

Here are 6 easy ways to recruit new donors:

1. Prepare yourself

Not a lot of things can develop your skills in winning someone over and overcoming objections in the way that cold calling does.

You will obviously need to prepare a script that you are familiar with (but are not reading from) so that you can focus on key points in the conversation. Start by pointing out the top concerns, pressures or pains common in the industry that you are calling. You can do this through researching who their customers are and making sure that your non-profit organization can help them serve their clients and/or employees better. In other words, lead with the benefits that exist for the corporation you are calling.

Create a sequence of questions addressing their internal concerns. Ensure that you have sufficient knowledge of their industry and what their problems and challenges are. Remember that if the donor isn’t better off donating to your nonprofit organization, there is no reason for them to give.

Lack of sufficient preparation is the major reason for failure in prospecting for donors. It isn’t just about getting to the right person and having them promise they’ll donate sometime in the future.

2. Dialing for Dollars

Traditional prospecting done over the phone remains effective. Know that it’s not that cold calling is ineffective but that for most individuals its uncomfortable.

Although most personal lines are restrictive with their no-call list, the option to call commercial businesses is always open.

You should focus on the classes of business in which your organization creates a benefit and can add value. This would create a positive and conducive environment for building relationships through productive dialogue.

Professional telemarketers make about 100 to 120 connects each day. To make as many as you can, make 10 calls in a row, take a short break, then follow up with another stretch of 10 calls. Cold calling from a single day could create weeks of face-to-face interviews.

3. Prospecting based on referral

Take advantage of your existing relationships and use them to enlarge your prospect base.

Say to your current partners, donors, clients and collaborators, “Thank you so much for being part of the team. Based on the outcomes we’ve been able to achieve in helping XYZ types of clients, would you still partner with us in donation if you had to make the decision over again?” If they answer ‘yes’, the next question is: “May I ask a personal favor of you? Do you know John and Jane Doe?” John and Jane Doe would be other potential donors, collaborators and partners that would be a complement to those you serve.

The questions that follow would depend on how willing they are to help you. They could be:

Would you mind helping me with an introduction?

Would you mind me using your name and telling them that you’re one of our valued donors?

Would you help set up a meeting for the three of us if I paid for lunch?

Here, you are taking advantage of existing relationships to enlarge your donor base.

4. Centers of referral and influence prospecting

List your top 10 donor relationships.

Under each name, search through your list of donors for anyone who would complement them, a supplier or vendor (not a competitor), to them for instance. Each name on your top 10 needs to have at least 10 names under it.

Then repeat the same process as in the previous one: “Thank you so much for donating. Based on the outcomes we’ve created thus far, would you donate to our non-profit organization if you were presented with the decision again?” If all goes well, the next question is: “May I ask a personal favor of you? Do you know John and Jane Doe?”

By the time you are done, you should have at least 100 eligible donor prospects. Take advantage of your current inventory of donor and partner relationships.

5. Prospecting at public meetings

Having active membership in an association, your local Chamber of Commerce, religious institution, civic club, your lunch or after work crowd is a good way to network and create many opportunities.

An after-hours chamber function can result in at least 10 donor prospects to follow up with as long as you have done a good job in positioning your non-profit organization in a way that shows how it would benefit them. Make it a habit to keep your conversations brief, collect a card, and ask for permission to follow up in the days to come, say thank you, and move on. The wrong thing to do would be to cling to a particular spot or individual.

A veteran fundraiser once taught me that when trying to work the room, you should move around all the four sides, go straight through the middle, then work on the corners. If you work the room systematically, you’ll meet everyone there, simply because the average person clings to a single spot.

6. Prospecting via social media

Each and every organization should have its own website, this website should be robust and interactive, be connected to social media (ie. Facebook page, a LinkedIn profile, or), focused on your donors and volunteers with round-the-clock accessibility, a deep relationship with potential donors and a plan for multiple possible benefits for each donor.

Being accessible through social media enables organizations to remain visible and create connections such as “thumbs up,” “smiles,” and “likes.” A good number of successful nonprofit organizations use this means to seek recommendations and feedback.

Thanks to technology, social media is the “cold calling” of today; a place where you create your presence, and connect with your audience. It allows you to establish a foundation for trust and rapport, thus creating the relationship you seek to build valued corporate and other donor sponsorships.

It would be a big mistake not to mention the most important aspect of prospecting for potential donors that trumps all others: Failing to pre-qualify your initial list of donor prospects would turn all your results into pointless efforts. As junk in, junk out, so also quality in, quality out. Ensure you begin with a proper list.