Donor Prospecting: Meet Your Neighbours


Photo caption: Donated building in Wellington with donor Susan Price
Photo credit: Dominion Post, pg. 1 (16 Feb 2019)


Fundraising textbooks don’t usually tell you to be nice to your neighbours, but I have known neighbours of schools, universities, and research centres to leave cash and real estate to the institutions next door.


Why does the neighbour who complained for years about school parents parking across their driveway leave their house to the school? Why does a real estate investor leave blocks of residential units to a university for sale or for student accommodation?

Perhaps there was something about the institution they grew accustomed to and learnt to appreciate; people who live next door to a school will naturally feel its daily and annual rhythm.


When donor prospecting, lots of charities suggest that funds can be raised from the neighbours of their supporters, but few charities realise that the neighbours of the institutions themselves are also potential supporters (or “prospects”). So, what can you do to develop the links with your neighbours that might eventually lead you to that gift of a house or residential units?

  • Invite the neighbours to your special events. Some schools have special hospitality for neighbours on significant days such as Open Day or ANZAC Day. Use name cards at events so you can record the attendance of guests (following all privacy requirements)
  • Deliver the institution’s magazine to the neighbours (personally, if possible)
  • Include neighbours in annual appeals and keep track of who responds
  • Compile all general information about your institution’s charitable status, mission, and need for facilities

There is even a Neighbour Day in some parts of Australia and a Neighbours Day in New Zealand – what more excuse do you need to invite your neighbour in for a cuppa?


A similar opportunity exists with — not only your staff, but — people who are connected to your staff, such as, relatives, neighbours, and friends. I learnt this lesson from US Clothing company Abercrombie & Fitch. The company makes apparel for people aged 21 to 24, and sometimes the clothes are emblazoned with controversial slogans.  Recognising that much of their workforce is in their twenties and thirties, the company had not a “bring your son/daughter to work” day, but a “bring your parents/grandparents to work” day. The place was packed with people who all wanted to give the company (mostly unwanted) advice and they formed social media groups and kept in touch with the company.


The opportunity exists for non-profit organisations with young demographics (including some research institutes) to have a “bring your parents/neighbours/loved-ones to work” day. This is a great way to expand the prospect pool. Many parents become very invested in the firms (and in this case, the non-profit organisations) that employ their sons or daughters. Once these parents, grandparents, neighbours, and friends visit your facility and give you their details, you can contact them directly. It is not the same real-estate focussed opportunity as a physical neighbour, but it is a way of growing your list of potential donors.