By chris

The Art of Writing a Prospect Researcher Job Description

People say that ignorance is bliss.  What about when you are no longer ignorant?  That bliss disappears in a hurry. Maybe you’ve been blissfully unaware of prospect research, but now you know. Or, you’ve known about it, but haven’t made screening prospects a priority. Either way, you’re desperate to make up for lost time and excited by the fundraising opportunities. You’ve decided to catch up quickly and you are ready to hire a prospect researcher.  One problem though, you’re new to the entire field of prospect research and don’t know where to start with your recruitment. We’ve got you covered!

Below is a four-point breakdown of the development position of prospect researcher.

Point #1: What is a prospect researcher?

Walk before you run, right?  Well, you can’t exactly recruit a prospect researcher if you don’t know what one is. Just as prospect research varies by organization type, the position is going to change slightly from organization to organization. In the context of this discussion, and a larger understanding of the role, a prospect researcher is a full time member of a fundraising/development team who provides deep background on high quality prospects. More specifically, the researcher will be looking into prospects’ histories with the organization, motivations for philanthropy, and recommendations for solicitations. Let’s unpack that definition a bit. The researcher will be responsible for taking potential major donors and delving into their backgrounds with your cause and philanthropy in general. The staffer will then take what he learns and curate the ultimate solicitation approach for each researched prospect. Prospect researchers should be major gift gurus. Dedicated prospect researchers are most commonly hired by educational institutions. Organizations with full time researchers are hiring those individuals because they’re seeking a good return on investment. At a large, educational institution, one major gift acquired by a prospect researcher can pay that employee’s salary for the year and then some.

Point #2: What will be a prospect researcher’s key responsibilities, duties, and activities?

A prospect researcher will be part of your development team.  We’ve already discussed the general outline of this point in the definition of the role in point 1. This section will serve as a multi-part breakdown of the various responsibilities, duties, and activities associated with a prospect researcher. This list consists of researcher tasks commonly included in job descriptions for the profession.
  1. Using a broad spectrum of sources, the employee researches, organizes, and evaluates a prospect’s financial capacity, ability to give, willingness to give, charitable interests, and connection to the organization
  2. Produces in-depth, well-written reports on prospects based on a combination of data from the donor database, available financial records, real estate ownership, and other markers of high quality donors
  3. Writes frequent prospect briefings for the use of the development team
  4. Implements new research techniques as they arise, striving to design the ultimate prospect research methodology
  5. Works with other development staff to improve the organization’s fundraising strategies
  6. May provide general support to development staff and work on special projects when called for
The job description is going to change based on the type of organization hiring the prospect researcher and the make-up of the staff already in place. Some prospect researchers will be the only ones on staff.  Others might be part of a team that has even more additional prospect research tools at its disposal.

Point #3: What are the respective recommended education and experience levels for prospect researchers?

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By donorsearch

Four Ways Universities or Colleges Use Prospect Research

Extravagant dorms attract new students, superior educational opportunities keep upperclassmen satisfied, and guest speakers provide students with unique experiences as only a place of higher learning can deliver. None of that can be accomplished without funding. Every college or university needs to fundraise to have enough money to give students the best educational experience possible. Fundraising is hard work. The business of convincing prospects to donate is a long game of building relationships and convincing people that their money will do a lot to improve your school. To be successful at fundraising, in general, colleges and universities need the tools that make fundraising easier, such as prospect research. There are many ways that prospect research makes fundraising easier for higher education institutions. We’re here to share four of the best strategies.  

1) Identify more major gift prospects

While prospect research can aid a bevy of fundraising efforts, the primary goal is to help fundraisers identify more major gift prospects. Small donations matter, especially when you consider that most major gift donors will begin by giving lesser amounts, but it is the big gifts that consistently lead to fundraising success. More often, a few major gifts are what lead to a fundraising campaign reaching its goal, as opposed to a large amount of smaller gifts carrying the load. Major gift prospects can be identified by a number of data points that you can find through prospect research.  

Past giving to your college or university

Some parents or alumni may have already donated to your school. When donors give consistently, they stand out as exceptional candidates to be converted into major gift donors. They care about your school and already give on a regular basis. Receiving bigger gifts may merely be a matter of time. Don’t rush the process, but always be on the lookout for when and how to approach loyal donors to give more. Many of your alumni aren’t current donors, and that’s okay. It’s never too late to get them started. Also, prospect research helps colleges and universities to identify which prospects have given to other nonprofits. Donations to other organizations are great indicators of a prospect’s desire to give philanthropically. Individuals who donate between $5k – $10k are five times more likely than the average person to donate elsewhere. Your prospects might not give to you yet, but they give to the causes they care about, and you can be the next cause to deserve a big donation.  

Current state of the alumni relationship

Whereas museums have members, and hospitals have patients, higher education institutions have years’ worth of alumni to reach out to for donations. No matter where people live, they permanently retain their bond to your school. However, different alumni are better to approach at various times. Your school has dedicated prospects, which could be approached at any time, and timely prospects, who are better to speak with at particular times. Dedicated prospects show signs of commitment to your school. Maybe the alumnus regularly attends public events on campus, goes to alumni events, or his/her child elected to go to your school and has continued a legacy. Prospect research can help to unearth records that demonstrate who remains actively engaged with your school and may want to give back in a big way. Timely prospects include the current class of graduates and alumni classes with reunions that year. Whenever a particular occasion pops up to reach out to a certain group of alumni, your fundraisers should take advantage. Some people might not typically consider giving to your school, but a big event, such as a 25th graduation anniversary, can provide the focus necessary to sway prospects.  

Causes that prospects care about

While unrestricted funds are typically preferred, sometimes the way to land prospects is by asking them to give restricted funds to specific campus initiatives. Alumni are a diverse bunch. They’re athletes, artists, and business professionals. They graduated with varying degrees and after having participated in a broad range of extracurricular activities. Play to their interests when requesting donations. A former swimmer might want to give a major gift to the swim team, but not to the school as a whole. A creative writing major might like to donate to the department on behalf of a particular professor. Gifts to Greek life are another popular way for donors to give a major gift to the cause they care about most on campus. Use prospect research to help identify alumni with strong ties to specific communities within your school and who exhibit the indicators of people willing and wanting to donate in a big way.  

 2) Develop more personal relationships

People can tell when they’re receiving automated messages. While your fundraisers don’t have the time to handwrite letters or personally craft individual emails for every prospect, altering a few sentences to make communications more personal can do wonders. To craft more personal communications, schools need to learn more about their donor pools. Thanks to prospect research, you’ll learn tons about donors, including:
  • Real estate ownership — Wealth markers help university fundraisers understand a prospect’s capacity to give. Real estate is one such wealth marker, and all signs of wealth can be analyzed to determine ask amounts that are tailored to individuals.
  • Business affiliations — Knowing where parents and alumni work, as well as the specific jobs they do, can help fundraisers. Knowing what people do for a living is an easy way to start a conversation and to know right off the bat what people think about on a daily basis, so you know how to approach them.
  • Personal information — Congratulations! You’ve found a major gift prospect. What’s the problem now? You can’t reach her because you have the wrong phone number and an outdated email address? Don’t waste time or miss out on good prospects because your donor database is filled with old information. Prospect research can provide updated contact information to make staying in touch with donors a breeze.
Parents and alumni want to feel like you know them. Impersonal fundraising appeals won’t resonate with most people. Take the time to learn about your prospects and reach out to them with appeals that let them know that you know who they are and that they mean more to you than just another donation.  

3) Manage your fundraising budget

Prospect research is affordable, and typically provides more than a return on your investment. If you don’t leave money in the budget for prospect research then you’re probably leaving money on the table. What’s more, university major gift officers need prospect research to perform their work as efficiently and effectively as possible. You don’t want major gift officers wasting time and resources on prospects who can’t or won’t give major gifts. Prospect research not only allows fundraisers to quickly identify major gift prospects, but it allows them to approach more of them in less time and with personal pitches that can leave memorable impressions. Reduce your research time, get detailed donor information fast (and info that’s easy to use!), and gain new insights into your prospect pool while receiving a great value for your money spent.  

4) Equip fundraisers with powerful tools

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By donorsearch

How does prospect research vary by nonprofit cause?

The first little pig needed straw. The second little pig required sticks. The third little pig sought bricks. And that big bad wolf? He needed enough breath to blow all those houses down. Depending on who you are, what you need to succeed varies. No two types of nonprofits seek the same prospects. An education-based nonprofit won’t build its fundraising campaign from the same prospects as a healthcare organization, which will differ in prospects from fraternities and sororities. Like a home, you build your life out of the materials at hand, and you hammer away at your work until something stands upright that you can be proud of. While the various types of nonprofits use prospect research to unearth similar information, they’re doing so for different types of donors and for a wide range of causes. We’ll talk about eight different nonprofits that use prospect research:
  1. K-12 Education Organizations
  2. Higher Education Institutions
  3. Healthcare Organizations
  4. Greek Organizations
  5. Arts and Cultural Nonprofits
  6. Community Foundations
  7. Faith-Based Organizations
  8. Advocacy Groups, Social Service Organizations, and Environmental Groups
jQuery(window).on("hashchange", function () { window.scrollTo(window.scrollX, window.scrollY - 200); }); Keep reading as look deeper at these types of organizations and how they can use prospect research to their advantage.

K-12 Education Organizations

Unless they’re prodigy pop stars or the lucky inheritors of a family fortune, young adults tend not to have the funds to give major gifts. This leaves their parents as the prime major gift prospects. Each year, new students arrive, old ones leave, and parents come and go with their children. It’s important for schools to screen their lists of parents at certain times throughout the year in order to identify who to pursue with their limited fundraising resources. Good screening times include:
  • the beginning of the school year
  • the end of the year around graduation
  • in between semesters
It’s important to space out screening prospects so as not to overwhelm your fundraising team with too much information at once. Most parents remain involved with schools for multiple years, so time is on your side, but you want to make the most of it.

Higher Education Institutions

As with K-12 schools, parents are a primary focus, but they’re not the only focus. Alumni networks are filled with wealthy folks eager to support their alma maters. Many colleges and universities use telefunds to reach out to their alumni networks, and telefunds are most efficient when they organize prospects according to certain criteria, such as a specific calling pool for major gift prospects. This allows schools to keep track of their most important donors and call them at the right times of the year with specific ask strategies. If you’re interested in learning more expert advice on how colleges and universities can raise funds, check out our university fundraising guide. Keep in mind that reaching out to current students and recent graduates may not be fruitful, especially in terms of landing major gifts, but it’s important to plant the philanthropy seed early. That way, when these people do make big bucks they remember to give back to the place that set them on the right path. Learn more about prospect research for education-based organizations.

Healthcare Organizations

People get sick, people feel better, and people are constantly coming and going from hospitals. This leaves healthcare organizations with little time to discover who among the masses is a major gift prospect. Hospitals can bulk screen patients daily, weekly, or monthly, according to their schedules. It’s important to stay on top of the constant influxes and departures of patients, as cultivating relationships takes time. You don’t want to miss out on your chance to begin dialogues with the people most likely to give large donations. Many nonprofit hospitals run grateful patient programs, which consist of teams of doctors, fundraisers, and other staff who use prospect research to pursue donations from the major gift prospects either staying in or recently departed from their hospitals. Grateful patient programs work best with daily patient screenings, as you don’t want to miss out on a single opportunity to pursue a donation

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