Best Donor Prospect Research Software for Nonprofits

Last updated: July 18, 2023

The traditional donor research method of manually searching for donors (usually via Google) is an inefficient use of time and leaves money on the table because you don’t have reliable data to understand:

  1. A donor’s propensity to contribute to your mission. Asking for a donation amount that’s too large can turn donors off from contributing altogether and creates an embarrassing situation for both parties. Alternatively, asking for a donation amount that’s too small leaves easy money on the table.
  2. A donor’s affinity for your mission. You’ll use your resources much more efficiently by targeting people with a known love of your mission.. Alternatively, you can adjust donation requests for those who may have a vague affinity for your mission but aren’t proven believers. 

Even if you already have a donor database, many nonprofits struggle to keep their data up-to-date. As a result, you’ll struggle to accurately segment constituents in your database, effectively lowering your prospect lists quality.

Finally, most nonprofits are drowning in data, and it takes hours to segment, clean, and sort the data to extract insights

Below, we’ll discuss specific features to look for when selecting nonprofit donor research software and provide a detailed overview of various solutions you may want to consider during your research.

How To Evaluate And Select Donor Research Software 

Donor research software solutions often look the same on the surface. 

They all promise to save your team time by automating your donor prospecting process, and many also offer the same standard features.

It’s not until you dig deeper into the software that you discover nuanced differences between each one that impacts the quality of your prospect list and, ultimately, the ROI of your fundraising campaign.

So here’s a framework you can use to evaluate donor research software from a high level, and then we’ll discuss specific features to identify and evaluate. 

Target Use Case

Many donor research software solutions are designed for specific use cases. Here are three main use case categories to consider as you’re evaluating different solutions:

  • Donation amount: A nonprofit seeking small checks from local donors in their community will need a different solution from a large nonprofit soliciting six and seven-figure donations from international donors. 
  • Type of donor: Some donor research platforms target specific types of donors, such as individuals, foundations, or corporations. So if your ideal prospect is a corporation, don’t use a platform that only provides data on individual donors. 
  • Organization specialty: Some platforms are built for specific industries, like religious or political organizations, and have nuanced features for those particular users (e.g., church management features). However, keep in mind that some of these platforms are just generic donor research platforms with marketing messaging targeting specific industries.

Selecting a tool for the correct use case is critical because it will impact the list of donor prospects provided and various nuanced features that may or may not benefit your organization.   

Data Sources And Quality 

You can put the same prospect search criteria into two different donor research software platforms and generate two completely different lists of prospects due to differences in the platform’s data sources and quality.

The data quality used to determine prospect quality (e.g., their propensity to donate, affinity for your mission, etc.) directly impacts the ROI of your campaign, so consider the following criteria as you evaluate a donor research platform’s data:

  • Credibility: Are the data sources they use trusted and credible? For example, do they pay for access to high-quality, private data sources, or are they just scraping the web and using free, unverified data?
  • Quantity: Are they using multiple different data sources? The most reliable data is usually based on research from various credible sources using large data sets.
  • Depth: How many factors are they considering when qualifying prospects? For example, are they generating prospect lists and donation propensity and mission affinity based on vague data like a person’s income level and social media mentions regarding the cause, or do they have detailed (and accurate) insights into past donation activity?   
  • Recency: How old are the data sources they’re using? If the data is from several years ago, a donor’s affinity for a mission or financial status may have changed. As a result, you might waste time reaching out to uninterested prospects or make an unreasonable donation request.

While most donor research software provides similar features and deliverables (e.g., a list of prospects), the ROI you receive from each platform will vary significantly based on the data quality and sources they use to aggregate its results.

Actionable Insights

Plenty of donor research software solutions provide data, but data alone won’t answer critical questions like which prospects are most likely to give to your organization.

Instead, you’ll have to spend time manually searching that data to identify patterns and answer critical questions. 

In addition, using humans to assess and analyze data introduces the opportunity for human error. So even if you have the right data, you might still draw the wrong conclusions, negatively impacting your ROI.

So before purchasing donor research software, consider how easily you can transform data into answers your organization needs to make better decisions.

Must-Have Features For Donor Research Software

The criteria above can help you evaluate the general quality and relevancy of a donor research software solution, but there are also some specific features to look for when selecting a solution. 

We’ll discuss each of these features in detail and the specific nuances that differentiate the quality level of each feature. 

Wealth Screening

Wealth screening helps you gauge a prospect’s propensity to give by analyzing a variety of data, including real estate holdings, inheritance, stock holdings, business ownership, political contributions, philanthropic contributions, and other past donation history. 

A quality wealth screening feature should also provide metrics on the individual or organization’s affinity for your mission with data like organizations they previously contributed to and gift amounts.

The benefit of wealth screening is that you don’t waste time reaching out to prospects who don’t have the propensity or affinity to contribute to your campaign. In addition, you’ll have data to guide your donation size ask so that you don’t leave money on the table with an undercooked ask, and you never have to worry about the embarrassing situation of making an overinflated ask. 

As a result, your conversion rate will be higher, and you’ll be able to reduce donor acquisition costs.

Intelligent Search 

Data is only useful when it’s transformed into actionable insights that can guide strategic decisions.

Unfortunately, manually identifying the right data to analyze, segmenting it, and drawing conclusions is time-consuming and prone to human error, costing your organization time and money. 

To solve this problem, some nonprofit donor research software now offers AI-powered intelligent search features that make it easy to extract actionable insights rather than raw data.

For example, you should be able to generate a detailed prospect profile in seconds based on specific parameters or simultaneously search various databases to quickly identify specific information on a particular individual, foundation, or company.

This functionality significantly reduces the time your team spends manually combing through large volumes of data, allowing you to re-allocate those resources to higher-value tasks, like talking with warm contacts.

Predictive Modeling And Analytics

The traditional method of identifying the best prospects to contribute to your campaign was searching for people who previously contributed to similar causes. This process is time-consuming, and it isn’t always entirely accurate. 

For example, even if a donor contributed to a similar organization in the past, they might have done so simply because they were friends with someone in that organization. It doesn’t necessarily mean they have an affinity for that mission. Similarly, there may be potential donors with an affinity for your mission that don’t have historical gifting records and therefore won’t show up in your research.

So working with limited data usually lowers the general quality of your prospect list. 

Now, some software leverages AI to aggregate various current data points to create more targeted prospect lists and uncover hidden gems.

For example, AI-based predictive modeling features allow you to segment and match ideal prospects based on a variety of data points, including annual giving, capital campaigns, and major giving. You can also target lookalike audiences by finding prospects similar to your top-performing donors. As a result, you can increase conversions and the average gift amount.

AI can also provide more insightful analytics by providing details like donors most likely to leave a legacy gift.

These insights allow you to maximize the average lifetime value of any donor while reducing acquisition costs.      

Smart Alerts

Timing plays a major role in converting prospects into donors, and a high-quality donor research platform can help you identify the best time to reach out to prospects with alerting features.

For example, if a donor makes a new donation to a parallel organization or purchases/sells property, a quality alerting feature will notify you of their recent activity. Then, you can evaluate if it’s an opportune time to request a donation. 

By improving your timing, you’ll be able to increase conversions and prevent leads from turning stale.


Donor research software provides the data you need to understand who and when to reach out to, but you’ll need other tools to take action on this data.

To avoid manually transferring data, which is both error-prone and time-consuming, make sure that the donor research software you select offers integrations with your core tech stack. 

Some specific tools you’ll want to make sure it offers integrations for include you:

  • CRM platform
  • GNPL Solution
  • Data Management and Analytics Platforms 
  • Admission and Advancement Platforms 
  • AI-Powered Fundraiser Enablement

Integrating your donor research platform with these tools means you’ll never have to worry about manually transferring data, and you can use the combined insights from all of these platforms’ data to make the best strategic decisions possible.  

The Best Donor Research Software For Nonprofit Organizations

We’ve evaluated most of the major donor research platforms, and below we’ll provide an analysis of the ones we found most suitable for various use cases.

  • iWave – Best Donor Research Software with Fundraising Intelligence
  • Instrumentl – Best Easy-To-Use Donor Research Software
  • Tessitura – Best Donor Research Software for Art and Culture Organizations 

If you have a unique use case, here are four other honorable mentions we recommend: 

  • Salesforce
  • Fan Data Insights
  • Slate

iWave – Best Donor Research Software With Fundraising Intelligence  

Plenty of donor research software platforms provide basic data points on your prospects. 

However, iWave is unique because it doesn’t just deliver data – it delivers insights.

For example, instead of just providing segmentation capabilities, you can build advanced prospecting lists with lookalike audiences, find hidden major gift prospects, and identify potential donors most likely to leave a legacy gift.

It also provides detailed insights into a prospect’s mission affinity and propensity to contribute to your mission. These insights help you avoid making embarrassing, overinflated asks, or leaving money on the table with undercooked asks. 

iWave’s insights are also more accurate than the average donor software because we use AI to pull data from 40 different vetted, high-quality sources and update the data on a weekly and monthly schedule.

In fact, we have an entire proprietary giving database, Verigift, which is the industry’s largest database of charitable gift donations, recipients, and donors, containing over 185 million gift records. You can also verify all data as we link every record to the original data source.

Thanks to these automated insights based on reliable data, you save time prospecting, generate a higher ROI from each prospecting list, and reduce the average cost per fundraising campaign. 

It also helps protect your brand’s reputation, as you’ll reduce the chance of making asks to people with no linkage to your mission.

To give you a brief overview of the feature set that allows iWave to provide these insights, here are just a few of them: 

  • Comprehensive wealth screening
  • 360-degree donor profiling
  • Robust modeling, analytics, and reporting tools
  • Three types of alerts to keep you in the loop
  • Integrations with software commonly used by nonprofits.

iWave is a great fit for various nonprofit organizations with databases of all sizes.

Customers also say that it is easy to use and requires minimal onboarding, so your team can spend more time on high-level activities, like donor communication, and less time learning how to use the tool.

It has also led the donor research software category on G2 for eleven consecutive quarters, winning three Titan business awards and three Stevie awards.

Here’s what iWave customers have to say about the product:

“To me, one of the best things about iWave is that it gives you a solid idea of a donor’s capacity to give… it’s not a magic bullet… just because your donor has a large capacity doesn’t mean they will give that maximum gift… you still have to do the work… but, iWave does give you a pretty good idea of where to start your ask… and where it might be able to go over time.”

Bill, Small Business Owner

Instrumentl – Best Easy-To-Use Donor Research Software  

Instrumentl is an easy-to-use donor research software that specializes in finding, tracking, and managing grant opportunities.

Nonprofit organizations that apply for and manage grant funding will find these features valuable:

  • Grant-seeking software that combs through over 200,000 funders and delivers 990 reports so you can analyze their giving trends.
  • The prospecting tool promises to save nonprofit grant-seekers at least three hours per funder per week.
  • Grant management software that keeps information organized into projects.
  • Assign individual tasks and collaborate with the team via the software.
  • Get alerts for tasks and key dates. Never miss a deadline.
  • Use one single platform to manage multiple grants.
  • Centralized, simple grant tracking system.
  • A grant reporting tool that can generate reports with a click.

Here’s one review from G2 that highlights some of the key benefits of Instrumentl for users:

“The grant matching feature saves so much time searching for funding sources. Having all of the important information in one place is very efficient, and I love being able to visually see all the grants I am working on. Being able to collaborate with team members by assigning tasks and deadlines is also very helpful.” 

Tessitura – Best Donor Research Software for Art and Culture Organizations

Tessitura is an all-in-one platform for arts and culture organizations that offers a CRM and features to manage ticketing and admissions, fundraising, memberships, online and mobile fundraising, education programs, marketing, payment processing, retail, and business insights.

It is ideal for larger art and culture organizations with full teams dedicated to fundraising. 

To aid your donor research process, it offers a database of prospects with information like assets, philanthropic giving history, education, prospect ratings, and mission affinity. It also integrates with iWave to offer wealth screening data.

Prospects can make donations in seconds through the easy-to-use app, which helps boost conversion rates.  

It also offers reporting capabilities that provide revenue metrics, event attendance, and other KPIs critical to your fundraising campaigns.

Here’s what customers have to say about Tessitura on G2:

“Tessitura was built with performing arts organizations in mind. It is a completely flexible program to mold and shape to any performing arts center big or small. The customer service is outstanding and tons of resources are available in order to learn more about the program.”

Alternative Options

If you’re looking for a different approach to donor research, here are a few options that satisfy various edge cases.

  • Salesforce – The popular business sales intelligence software has a nonprofit platform dedicated to fundraising activities. Like its business counterpart, the platform has robust reporting capabilities for your donor and fundraising data. You can integrate it with donor intelligence software (like iWave) for a more holistic solution.
  • Fan Data Insights – This platform gives you data on existing donors and fans so that you can maximize donations from your existing community. Its ideal users are collegiate athletics groups, university advancement programs, and performing arts organizations. 
  • Slate – This is a CRM platform designed for higher education organizations. From managing admissions to alumni engagement, you can use it for outreach tasks, application processing, travel management, gift management, and more. Slate integrates with iWave for more comprehensive donor research and intelligence.

Start The Donor Research Process Today

Plenty of donor research solutions provide data, but mining this data to figure out which prospects are most likely to give and determining an appropriate ask is time-consuming, and your analysis might not always be correct.

iWave was built to solve these problems. Instead of simply  providing a generic donor database for you to sort through, iWave gives you detailed, actionable insights in seconds.

As a result, you can improve your conversion rates, maximize donations, and reduce the time spent prospecting. To see for yourself if iWave is the best fit for your organization, you can schedule a demo today.

Written by Admin

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