【海外からの特別寄稿３】あるプロスペクトリサーチャーの1日 Lindsay Plattさん（原文）
A Day in the Life of an American Prospect Research Analyst
“What is it that you actually do each day?” I recall being asked while working at the United Way of Central Indiana, in Indianapolis, Indiana. I was the Prospect Research Analyst for three years and each day was a new experience, as it brought new challenges and successes. This article will discuss a prospect researcher’s daily activities through my personal experience, best practices for working as a fundraising team and challenges for the future of fundraising and prospect research.
●What is prospect research?
Prospect research is the systematic way of identifying and qualifying prospects. But what is a prospect? A prospect is any person that might donate to your cause or organization. (For the purpose of this article, we will include first time donors and current donors that could increase their gift, in the term “donor prospects”.) Though this may sound simple, prospect research often includes maintaining and programming databases, researching individuals, corporations, foundations, and more. No matter how many roles a researcher may have, his or her primary responsibility is to fundraise for their organization.
Prospect research is a dynamic field; it continues to change as more public information and resources become available. Prospect researchers add value to the fundraising team by helping fundraisers strategize, raise money and meet potential donors effectively. They help provide a “road map” on a prospect. Information that is acquired is often sensitive so prospect researchers follow a code of ethics, provided by the Association of Prospect Researchers for Advancement (APRA).
●What is the difference between identified and qualified prospects?
As prospect researchers we identify prospects every day. They are in the news, on your street, or even your in-laws! Just because you found person to donate to your organization doesn’t mean that they are likely to donate. Qualifying prospects includes some quick research to determine why they are good prospects. Have they donated to your organization before? Do they have any significant wealth? Does one of your volunteers know them? Qualified prospects are not just a name in your donor database; there is information to support why they are good prospects for your organization.
●Is there a typical day in prospect research?
Each day in prospect research can be drastically different. We have new ideas, new names, new deadlines and new projects. There can be similarities; each day I researched individual and company prospects, attended meetings, wrote reports and managed the inevitable short-term request. Good prospect research includes finding new prospects for a first time gift and identifying current donors to increase their gift.
A daily (personal) goal of mine was to complete proactive and reactive research each day. Proactive research is any research that the prospect researcher initiates. It commonly includes reading the newspaper or local business journal to find new prospect names, but could include anything that helps identify new prospects. Reactive research is exactly what it sounds like – reacting to others’ requests and questions. Reactive research can easily fill an entire work day and it’s important for a prospect researcher to find a balance between the two.
●What kinds of information does a prospect researcher look for?
Prospect researchers look for personal, professional, social and financial information. Each prospect is different however, so the specific information found may vary. Think of building the prospect profile as painting a portrait. The human face has many parts: eyes, nose, mouth, eyebrows, ears and hair. The artist cannot paint the eyes and mouth at the same time; the artist must start painting one feature, perhaps the eyes. There is no telling where the artist may be inspired to paint next. The order of painting does not matter, but completing the entire face does. Prospect research is similar. It may not matter where you start or finish, but accounting for the entire picture is important.
Personal information includes birth date, education, family and interest information. Can you, your staff or volunteers relate to the donor at this level? Maybe they went to the same university, or perhaps their children attend the same school. Any connection a researcher makes may be one step closer to a fundraiser reaching the donor.
Professional information may range from current (or past) employers, professional memberships, volunteer affiliations, board memberships and awards. Has the prospect been mentioned in the local newspaper lately? Maybe a fundraiser could send a letter of congratulations to a prospect that recently received an award. Researching a prospect via the workplace may also be helpful. Through professional information we can also establish social networks. Who knows or works with the prospect? Does the prospect attend similar meetings as one of your volunteers? In essence, where do they like to spend their time?
Financial information is the final key. It may also be the most difficult one. Does the prospect have wealth? How much? Determining home value, other assets and political and charitable contributions help paint the portrait of the person. Perhaps you learn that the prospect gives $10,000 annually to the local symphony. The prospect has capacity; but does he/she have an interest in your organization and its purpose? The idea of a prospect portrait is essential. All the parts come together to paint a prospect’s picture.
To learn if a business is philanthropic, research local and corporate information. Local statistics such as number of employees and sales are helpful, but so are the anecdotal parts of the company. Many companies choose to share on their websites or brochures the types of philanthropy they support. This not only promotes a good company image, but may also attract a specific type of employee. Do your organizations’ priorities match? If the company is a branch office, consider the researching (or even contacting) headquarters. Sometimes working with another city, where the headquarters are located, can be helpful to establish patterns of corporate behavior and expectations.
●Who asks for the information?
Anyone in the organization, from the president to an administrative assistant, may request research. It is most common however, to have the actual fundraisers ask for information. They are dealing directly with donors and prospects. Arming the fundraisers with information to best contact, cultivate, solicit and steward prospects is essential to doing their best work.
Volunteers also benefit from research. Though a volunteer may not receive the same in-depth research as a staff member, they can provide appropriate peer connections to prospects. Preparing your volunteer with information about the person he or she is meeting with can create a more comfortable atmosphere for your volunteer. Imagine meeting to discuss a $5,000 donation to your community organization. Would you be more apt to listen if a staff member came to speak to you alone or with a renowned colleague? The peer and professional connection is invaluable.
The prospect researcher also requests information. An inquisitive nature is essential in this field. Often times, a request from a staff member will trigger questions in my mind “Who does this prospect know?” or “I didn’t realize that person was on the board with our volunteer.” Being aware and inquiring naturally creates leads. I felt that I did my job best when I was actively contributing information to the team.
●How do you find this information?
Finding the information on individuals and corporations is the creative part of prospect research. There are no formulas, just guidelines. Each prospect or donor will be different and will often require different resources. Sources vary in material: from the internet, to paper periodicals, to other organizations and external vendors. Some are free while others have monthly or annual fees.
Free resources are a great place to start. The internet has opened up the world of prospect research. Not only do reporters and the government share information about a prospect, but the prospect themselves may share information. American websites that have information on salary, birth and contact information are wonderful starting resources. If one is to really engage in prospect research however, a few more resources are helpful. In America many libraries have newspaper archives on their websites. The news is a great way to learn about prospects. If you are looking for information on the company, start right at the source – the company website!
Another favorite resource of mine is other non-profits. Recognition is one of the reasons people are charitable. Organizations like to honor gifts placing donor names (often by gift level) in programs, websites, brochures, and plaques. This is a great place to begin proactive research for prospects. Be mindful that even though a prospect may give a large amount to another organization, he/she may not be willing to give to yours at that level initially. Studies like these may give you a better perspective of the people in your community.
Finally, don’t forget about your fundraisers! The reason you meet with them is to discuss their prospects and goals to find out what they need. Don’t forget to ask them if they have any new leads.
Paid resources can help a prospect researcher research more efficiently. There are companies in America that compile information from various sources, then share it with prospect researchers via the internet for an annual fee. Common American companies are Wealth Engine and Lexis Nexis. These resources combine news, property value, federal election contributions, charitable contributions, board memberships, volunteer activity, wealth and many other items in one place. They help to make your research time more productive.
The internet is not the only place where an organization can pay for information. Newspapers, local magazines and business journals are also good places to complete more proactive research. Business journals also often comprise lists of the “top companies” in a particular sector. From that, a prospect researcher could create a report showing these companies and how they donate to your organization. Sometimes those results are very surprising!
Finally, what if you could look up 50, or 100, or 500, or 5,000 prospects at a time? There are American companies that provide data appends and analytics. A data append adds information to multiple prospects and data analytics find trends in your donors and prospects. These are great tools to help segment prospects and prioritize your work.
●What do you do with it when you find the information?
Once you have started to find information about a prospect it MUST go into your donor database. This orderliness is for your benefit, but is essential for your organization. If the information is not stored systematically, it will not help anyone. The information must be easily accessible for the short and long term.
●How do you disseminate information?
You may think this is the most important step. But if you have not entered it into the donor database, you’ll never be able to access it again! So before you go sharing your exciting prospect information, be sure it’s been stored.
Information dissemination may occur in various ways. If a fundraiser, superior or volunteer makes a specific request, send the information directly to them. It’s best to be succinct, as the fundraiser doesn’t always have time for extra details. If he or she has asked a specific question, “Where did the prospect go to college?” don’t answer it and add on two more pages of research. Save yourself and the fundraisers some time.
For new prospects found in a newspaper, business journal or analytics screening, I learned that a weekly newsletter is helpful. I can share the names discovered, where it was found and why I think they are prospects. I would send this newsletter to the entire fundraising team on a weekly basis. It became an efficient way to disseminate information to many people at once.
●How does a prospect researcher participate in meetings?
Attending meetings with fundraisers can be challenging, as they want to share their successes. The prospect researcher can find the difficulties more helpful. Where is the fundraiser having trouble? Who can’t they get a hold of and why? Paying close attention during the meeting and asking questions can help you feel involved and help fundraisers.
Another way to be involved in the meetings is to come with information. Share what you are doing with your colleagues. Also consider sharing new prospects during the meeting. You don’t need to be the only one coming out of a meeting with new assignments!
Finally, since the researcher will use the donor database with a high frequency, be sure to promote what you have put in and encourage others to input their information. A simple meeting with a prospect, even one who could not decide to donate, is valuable! Encourage everyone in the organization to work together by entering information into the database.
●How does the prospect researcher manage stress?
As you may notice, the prospect researcher manages various kinds of research, projects and people. How does one manage the endless barrage of requests and deadlines? One of the first things a good prospect researcher will implement is a research request form. The form may be as simple or complicated as you like, but be sure to include the who, what, when, where and why of the request. Who needs it, what does he/she need, when does he/she need it by, where should he/she access the information after compilation and why does he/she need it? When it comes to the what I have found it helpful to list general topics (education, family information, address, board memberships, home value, etc) to help the requester think through his/her request.
With that said, a prospect researcher often faces multiple deadlines in the same day. Being able to prioritize is essential! So don’t just collect research requests, figure out how to catalogue them, so that you can prioritize who asked for what when, and how soon they need it. At professional review time, this can be a helpful tool to document your work.
●How do I know if I would be a good prospect researcher?
A prospect researcher must show initiative, creativity, organization, a questioning nature and critical thinking skills. Though there is no formal collegiate degree in prospect research, a college degree and/or a business background would be helpful to an applicant. Being able to write well and effectively communicate information is also fundamental.
●Working as a fundraising team
There are a few things that you can do to help your fundraising staff work as a team. The first is to communicate. This can be done in multiple ways, but be careful to communicate efficiently. Copying the entire team on each email you send may not be efficient; but entering your notes into the donor database accurately is advantageous. Secondly, speak up at meetings! Share what you are working on and where your successes and challenges lie. Others may be able to assist you. Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for help or clarification if needed. I have found that when people feel like they are part of a team, they want to see one another succeed.
Organize your team meetings in an efficient way. As a team leader, you must determine what your goals are and how you plan to attain them. Keep your goals as the structure for your meetings and try to stay on topic. Everyone has a busy life, in and outside of the office. Meetings are a place to share success and challenges as well as to congratulate and assist your team members.
Other members of fundraising teams are the volunteers. These community leaders that support your organization are champions for your cause. Don’t take that away by burdening them with too much of your job. Keep them informed of progress pertinent to them. Ask for assistance when you cannot reach a prospect. Encourage volunteers to provide prospect names and solicit prospects. Keeping them engaged can be tricky, but when done properly can assist the organization in ways unimaginable. Volunteers aren’t bogged down by the paperwork and office politics you may have to endure. Volunteers are excited about your cause and want to share that with their peers. They help propel your organization forward if you guide them.
●Challenges and the future
A continual challenge for all non-profits is technology. There are three ways it tends to affect non-profits. First, the organization has a donor database but it is not used to its full capacity. This can create gaps in the data. Second, the organization may not have a donor database, leaving all employees to keep their own records. This is also not efficient. Finally, a lack of technology education can create problems. The ability to store information electronically, mass produce emails, look up information and even utilize Microsoft Office products is impressive and can make our jobs easier. Jobs will not be made easier however, if only a few people understand how to use that technology. Having management that encourages use of a donor database and actively educates its staff is important. This creates a culture of accountability and information sharing amongst all departments.
Another challenge for prospect researchers is integration into the fundraising team. The prospect researcher can sometimes feel forgotten or seen as a reactionary resource. A researcher’s creativity, intuition and inquisitive mind are valuable to the entire fundraising team. If you feel like you’re being left out, or that you could provide more, ask to attend meetings. Providing proactive research and ideas at meetings will help you to feel like an active team member.
Prospect research staff can also be an issue. In the United States, many community and arts non profits have one researcher or a part-time researcher. That’s one researcher for sometimes five to fifteen fundraisers. That can be a lot of work! The university setting is often different; many universities in America have a prospect research staff from five to twenty researchers. In my experience, as a part of a one-and-a-half person research team, it was a challenge. That challenge however, created an environment where the fundraisers valued the researchers’ time and did not take us for granted.
Finally, a challenge for all non-profits has to do with the civic culture. I am a trained musician, so I want to donate to the arts: the symphony, opera, museum or ballet. I also feel charitable to my high school and college alma maters, wanting to make sure other students have the opportunity to attend and share in my positive experiences. That often raises the question from colleagues, “Why should I give to the symphony when people are hungry or homeless?”
Civic issues such as poverty, hunger, health care, addiction, elementary education and children are continually a part of our world. It is hard to say that one philanthropic cause is more important than another, let alone say that a college education is more important that a child eating dinner. I don’t think that it is a fundraisers’ place to decide. I do think an organization’s ability to recognize, learn and appreciate what is important to your prospects is crucial. A future donor’s philanthropic interests are often rooted in personal experiences. So get to know your prospects, find out where their passions lie and always, always record it in the database.
●Where can I learn more about prospect research?
Many of the topics discussed in this article were learned over years. Research techniques and practices were constantly being improved as I worked. For the most part, I have APRA (Association of Prospect Researchers for Advancement) to thank for that. They provided wonderful workshops, conferences and colleagues to further my knowledge in this field. Other fundraising organizations, such as AFP (Association of Fundraising Professionals) also held conferences and webinars to help me better understand my role in the organization and how I could best help the organization achieve its goals.
For more information on prospect research, fundraising or the United Way, here are some additional resources:
• Association of Prospect Researchers for Advancement (APRA) – www.aprahome.org
• Prospect Research: A Primer for Growing NonProfits by Cecilia Hogan
• Major Donors: Finding Big Gifts in Your Database and Online by Ted Hart, James M. Greenfield, Pamela M. Gignac & Christopher Carnie
• Fundraising Analytics: Using Data to Guide Strategy by Joshua Birkholz
• Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) – www.afpnet.org
• The Major Gifts Report (Newsletter) by Stevenson Inc.
• The Chronicle of Philanthropy – www.philanthropy.com
• The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University – www.philanthropy.iupui.edu
• United Way of Central Indiana – www.uwci.org
• United Way of America – www.liveunited.org
●About the author
Lindsay Platt earned her Bachelor of Science in Arts Administration (concentration in music) with High Honors from Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana. During her years of study, she was an intern with The Cleveland Orchestra, learning about artistic programming, management, ticket sales, fundraising and education.
Ms. Platt was the Prospect Research Analyst at the United Way of Central Indiana (UWCI) in Indianapolis, Indiana. UWCI serves the community through specific programs and acts as a “parent” to more than 100 community agencies. There she served as a member of the fundraising team, raising over $39 million dollars each year for the community. She was awarded the Peer Recognition Award in 2007 and was the chairwoman of the internal Technology Team.
Currently, Ms. Platt is the Music Teacher for the Children’s Program at All Souls Anglican Church in Okinawa, Japan. She also maintains a private studio of voice, violin and piano students. Ms. Platt is married to Joseph R. Platt, DDS. Dr. Platt is a Lieutenant in the US Navy Dental Corps. He completed his doctorate at Indiana University and his undergraduate degree in Piano Performance at Butler University.