One of the hot topics in the prospect research field is whether we researchers are going to be replaced by all of the great software products out there. With the click of your mouse you can search multiple public records databases and spit a profile out of your printer. Even data analytics has become more accessible with easy software interfaces. When it’s that easy, you’d be crazy not to do your own research! Right?
Well, nothing involving people and the parting of their money is ever that simple, is it? Yes, you can find raw information about your prospects and have it formatted into a printable document or have key items seamlessly imported into the donor database record. No, a software program can’t verify that information for accuracy or provide useful insights into donor motivation and wealth.
But there’s way more to the fundraising role of prospect research than donor profiling.
Prospect research is about managing information in a manner that leads prospects toward a gift. In that sense, everyone in an organization plays a prospect research role at some level. Program staff record accurate contact and participation information. Gift entry records the gifts. Frontline fundraisers record information about face-to-face contact.
The professional prospect researcher uses her skills in process and analysis to corral all the information and produce actionable insights, leading to solicitations and stewardship.
Are you confused? Let’s use an analogy.
Fundraisers expect everyone in an organization to participate in fundraising and they work to create a culture of philanthropy. From the janitor to the program staff, all the way up through leadership, everyone is responsible for representing the organization and giving people the opportunity to give in a meaningful way.
The fundraiser uses her skills to coordinate all those messages and contacts with donors and prospective donors, leading to solicitations and stewardship.
Fundraisers focus on messaging and people-to-people contact. Prospect researchers focus on information. They both work together make sure fundraising goals are met.
So, should you do your own research after all?
Of course! In this world we have to be constantly learning and using new tools. There are very few excuses anymore for not making use of software tools that provide you with critical information on your donors at the click of a mouse.
But a professional prospect researcher can take you way beyond prospect profiles and into a world where the power of your fundraising information is harnessed and used to drive your fundraising up to a whole new level of success.
With a prospect research professional your fundraising “shop” becomes a fundraising “machine” – persistently methodical, lean, and more productive.
Jen Filla is president of Aspire Research Group LLC where she works with organizations worried about finding their next big donor, concerned about what size gift to ask for, or frustrated that they aren’t meeting their major gift goals.