Guest Post by Jennifer Filla, Prospect Research Institute & Aspire Research Group LLC
Whether you are a solo prospect research professional or work within a team, we all have a few things we struggle with. Following are the top three issues I see prospect researchers struggle with and hear people talking about most often.
When I was seeking out researchers for a project last year, “How do you know when to stop researching?” was one of my interview questions. To be a successful independent researcher one must be able to manage time well. I also explored the question in a blog post here: “Avoid the Rabbit Hole! When to Stop Researching”. The answer is deceptively simple: When you have answered the question!
Every research project starts with a question. How well you understand that question will determine how quickly and effectively you can complete the project, from prospect profiles to analytics. Especially in prospect research we can become distracted from the question, focusing instead on the profile template or the information sources in our tools.
If you stay focused on answering the question, gain experience researching, and use subscription tools effectively, you will be able to discern when to stop researching and which tangents to follow.
Prospect research professionals are self-taught. Perhaps it is this that makes us prone to self-doubt. We cobble together our education gleaning a piece here and a piece there from webinars, workshops, and conferences. Research tools such as iWave PRO provide valuable content to help us improve our work by combining the tool with sometimes overlooked best practices.
At the Prospect Research Institute, our courses provide structure on which to apply learning, but we recognize the power of peer learning in the field, too. Our peer practice programs create the opportunity to see what and how others are researching.
But you don’t need a program to start creating a network of colleagues who have specialty knowledge.
At your next research conference, make a point of shaking hands with the presenter and getting a business card. Add them to your LinkedIn network with a tag indicating area of expertise so you can find them easily. And then reach out. Flatter the individual by saying you consider him/her an expert (after all it has the benefit of being true). Validation of your research technique from a colleague will do wonders for your confidence!
A lot has been written about real estate, but occupational information is underrated. With the rise of LinkedIn, occupation is easier to find than ever before. And unless there is family wealth, occupation is most often the primary way in which wealth is accumulated. So why do so many fundraising researchers give such cursory attention to occupation?
Beyond name and title, likely income and/or ownership interest are key items to include in estimating net worth and capacity to make a gift. Perhaps many researchers shy away from this because, unlike real estate, there is no go-to source that provides a meaningful dollar figure for wealth derived from occupation.
I was pretty thrilled when iWave PRO added the Dun & Bradstreet dataset to their product. Although I don’t take too much stock in the revenue estimates Dun & Bradstreet provides, those estimates give me a solid head start on how likely a business is to provide my prospect with significant wealth.
There is plenty of competition in the fundraising research field – a healthy sign for nonprofit consumers – but there is also extraordinary collaboration. Vendors don’t push their products and then disappear. They listen, tweak, and continuously improve their products and they provide education and create learning communities.
And practitioners themselves have been creating ever more vibrant live and virtual communities. And that has spilled over into writing. An Amazon.com search on “prospect research” yields at least ten relevant book choices. And new prospect researchers continue join the blogosphere.
It’s a great time to be a prospect research professional!
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About the Author: Researcher, consultant, author, speaker and educator, Jennifer Filla is on a mission to provide prospect research professionals with the power to perform their work with excellence, lead with research, and make a difference! Jen is CEO of the Prospect Research Institute and President of Aspire Research Group LLC. Connect with Jen on Twitter: @jenfilla