Social media and high net worth individuals

twitter-top-hatAlthough more people are piling into an ever-growing array of social media (SM) outlets every day, it’s still fairly rare to see a Klout score or Twitter summary on a prospect research profile. Maybe it’s because we major gifts specialists assume that it’s only Xers and Millennials using these platforms, and they’re not yet ready to make large gifts.

But according to Ledbury Research, which studies the habits and demographics of high net wealth individuals (HNWI) in the United Kingdom, at least 75% of HNWI use social media regularly.

The largest group actively uses LinkedIn (47%), which makes sense since so many are businesspeople, but Facebook (42%), Google+ (17%) and Twitter (13%) are also used regularly.

They report that 33% of the wealthy use three or more social media outlets.

A potential discovery rate of one third! I’d like to have those odds more of the time when I’m researching hard-to-find folks, how ‘bout you?

So if our wealthy constituents are posting publicly on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+, shouldn’t we see what they have to say? Maybe they’re talking about us! (at least, don’t we hope so?)


Recently I was researching a wealthy individual for a university client of ours, and as usual I found information on LinkedIn and saw in the contact information he shared that he also had a Twitter account.

In browsing his Twitter feed, I discovered that the donor not only had a keen interest in a particular professional football team (who knew he was a sports fan?!) but verifiable personal relationships with the owners and certain players: Instagrammed photos! I wondered, “Could that be beneficial in some way for relationship building between the university’s athletics program and the pro team? Or might the donor be interested in athletics scholarships?” I don’t know much about the legalities of pro/college relationships (and that’s for the university to work out), but I do know that athletics scholarships are always welcome.

I also noticed a theme emerging in the type of information the donor shared and re-tweeted. It indicated a strong likelihood that he would be interested in a new philanthropic priority area at the university that isn’t going to be announced for another six months. Could there be the possibility of a lead gift opportunity?

Finally, I saw in his feed several mentions of the university itself. The donor re-tweeted several of the communications department’s broadcasts, and added his own comments. I know that in many cases a university’s communications department is completely separate from the fundraising office, and these expressions of interest might go unnoticed. It was certainly worth my noting it in the profile.

What I like about Twitter for prospect research is that it provides us with ideas about a donor’s possible philanthropic interest areas and even inclination information. If they’re retweeting or commenting on stories about your organization, what are they saying? Good things? Or are they critical? Either way, there’s an opportunity for a conversation.


Quite frankly, I was surprised to see such a high percentage of HNWI on Google+. But it’s not a surprise to the smart folks at Forrester Research, who found in a survey that 22% of online adults visit G+ each month, about the same number that use Twitter.

Perhaps one reason why they like G+ is the opportunity to be more free with the length of their posts (compared to Twitter) in an environment that still feels professional (compared to Facebook). It’s sort of the business casual Friday hangout place of social media.

And because it’s a Google product, searching for people who are on G+ is pretty simple. On the down side, as with Facebook, most people don’t have a public Google+ stream (although I’ve been surprised with grip-n-grin snaps on G+ and vacation-home photos posted on Facebook every once in a while!). It’s a 99:1 bet that you won’t see most peoples’ feeds, but hey – there is always that 1%.


Reading through the last six months or year of a prospect’s social media feed can give you a good sense of the themes and interests that they have. Try adding a social media summary to your next profile when you notice useful cultivation-strategy ideas that could be communicated to a frontline fundraiser.

Where in the world to find exactly what you’re looking for

When you’re researching donors that live internationally, it can be hard to know whether you’re looking in the best, most up-to-date places for information.

Working in partnership with researchers all over the world, we’ve been building up a resource that is now available to everyone, for free, no matter where you are.

Over the past 6 months, the Helen Brown Group Research Resources list has been updated weekly (sometimes daily!) and it contains only the most reliable resources used by the HBG team and our friends in the research biz.

No fluffy fill here. Just the best curated resources that researchers across the world actually use on a daily basis.

And watch this space! The list is growing and whole continents and regions are already starting to splinter off. Much like Pangaea when continental drift started to happen.

Click here to visit our list page


Prospect identification: Grow Some Feet

Working Girl meme

These days, prospect research is seen as a fairly cerebral task where you sit at your desk gathering information using a computer while trying not to snack (or maybe that’s just me?).

Back in the day, though, being a researcher meant never needing to say “boy, I really need a gym membership.” Typically, a journal entry for a day would go something like this: [Read more…]

Prospect Identification: Going beyond the same old same old

The theme for our HBG September blog is prospect identification and, because it’s one of her favorite activities, I asked Senior Researcher Jennifer Turner to give us some creative ideas for finding new donors.  Over to you, Jen!

Ideas - Creativity

Your usual prospecting assignment: Find high net worth individuals (HNWIs) with the capacity to make a gift in a specific target range and with a likely interest in your cause.

Sounds like Prospecting 101, right?

Your usual method might be head to donor lists of organizations similar to yours to see who is giving, and at what level.

But what if you took some slightly unusual approaches – ones that shake up the traditional ways you normally prospect? Might that result in viable new prospects as well? My experience says yes! [Read more…]

Getting Through: 3 Easy Tips to Avoid Communication Death Traps

Sydney Harris quote

I got an email like this* the other day which just cracked me up:

To: Helen Brown
From: XYZ Company
Subject: The Master List of DNS Terminology


XYZ Company is passionate about internet performance, particularly when it comes to DNS. We realize that DNS, ISC and BIND can be difficult to understand when the terminology is unfamiliar. It’s easier to get the most cost efficiencies from your DNS provider and services if you know the basics. That’s why we’ve created “DNS, ISC and YOU.” This essential e-Book lists the need-to-know terms that you’ll frequently hear when DNS is discussed. Download now and start saving your company money!

Best regards,

The XYZ Company Team

Ummm, yeah.

[Read more…]

Effective Web Searching – social media search tips

Are you including social media searching as part of your prospect research?

Today’s blog post is a slide show featuring some tips and tricks for getting the most out of searching Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.

Make sure to turn your speakers up if you’re solo (or plug in your headphones) and click on the little speaker in the center of each slide to listen to the audio.

Let me know if you have found other ways to search these great resources!

Having trouble viewing the presentation in this window? Go here:

iPad and iDevice users: I’m sorry – The audio may not work for you. It’s a Flash thing, apparently. Come back later and view this post on a laptop or desktop.

The Field Guide to Efficient Searching

Let’s just dive right in, shall we? Here are my top five tips for efficient web searching.

Tip #1: Use Quotation Marks

Bing Council on Foreign Relations

If you want to get the best results for an exact name or phrase, always put your search string in quotes. This works really well for names, for example, of a person or an organization.

Searching on Bing for Council on Foreign Relations got me 18,700,000 hits. Searching for “Council on Foreign Relations” narrowed down the hit count to a mere two million.

This might not matter when you’re searching for something like the COFR, but what if you’re looking for a name? [Read more…]

Search Strategies – The hunt begins


I admit that sometimes I cringe a little bit when I watch [some] other people search.

Not all people, mind you. Not professional (and natural-born) researchers. I actually love seeing how they search differently than me – the terms they use and how they use search engines and deep-web sources. I always learn something. It’s fun to share techniques and watch them get from point A to point B efficiently. [Read more…]

6 Reasons Why Real Estate Matters to the Savvy Prospect Researcher

Driveway of Traditional Craftsman HouseEvery so often, the topic of “Should we or shouldn’t we include real estate as one of the factors we use to determine a prospective donor’s gift capacity” comes up in the prospect research community.

Some folks have this logic: “Well, our prospective major donor is never going to give us their house (or sell their house and give us the money), therefore we shouldn’t include it.”

Which is absolutely true. (<stage whisper>: I won’t mention “planned gift” at this point, okay?)

[Read more…]

3 Ways to Build a Great “Gold Guide”

Easter Egg HuntProspect researchers tend to grab great information sources with the zeal of kids let loose onto the lawn of the White House for the annual Easter Egg Roll.  

And for good reason: well-curated information sources are really interesting and offer valuable time-savings. Especially because (for most of us, anyway) the pile of pending research requests is always a foot high.

[Read more…]