The First Steps for Finding a Donor

As the president of Lincoln Center explains, identifying potential contributors for a non-profit involves a keen understanding of the cross section between their interests and the services the institution provides.
  • Transcript


Question: What are your initial steps in trying to find a donor?

Reynold Levy: So, donors are at the cross section between their interests and whatever your non-profit institution does. So, in Lincoln Center’s case that means that the potential donor universe would - could embrace an interest in a particular art form, could embrace an interest in a major civic institution that’s an economic engine on the Upper West Side, could embrace a major tourist attraction, could embrace an institution that cares a great deal about the education of kids, could embrace an institution that provides an enormous amount of free service.

So, you take a look at the spokes of that wheel that reach into various corporate foundation and individual communities. In Lincoln Center’s case that is pretty easily done because most people vote with their feet and find themselves in our concert halls and in our venues, so our donors are literally all around of us, many of them. And so, we do some research on them and then we go see them and talk to them about Lincoln Center.

QuestionHow do you approach these prospective donors?

Reynold Levy: Well, you do a lot of research into the other donors who support other institutions that do similar work. So, if you're trying to raise money for theatre, you look at a lot of theatre playbills and see who’s given generously to theatre, who’s on theatre boards, who are theatre producers. If you're raising money for ballet you’ll look at dance companies. If you're raising money on the Upper West Side you’ll look at people who live on the Upper West Side, care about the community that thrives. So, your research is very much a function of what you're raising for or where your institution is situated, functionally and geographically.