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:http://www.authorstream.com/Presentation/HelenBrownGroup-2204575-searching-social-media-helen-brown-group/

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...]

Why Most Prospect Research Profiles Are Dead On Arrival

Buried treasure

Imagine that it’s 10 am on a Thursday morning and you have just discovered a new seven-figure prospect for your organization.

This prospect is an active volunteer and a recent donor.

She’s expressed a firm endorsement of your organization’s mission in the press, and she has undisputedly significant wealth.

You’re going to run down the corridor and tell everyone, right?

[Read more...]

Four secrets for speedier prospect research

Powerful Laptop Computer

As a fundraiser constantly on the go, sometimes it might seem like it takes a long time to get a research profile back from an in-house prospect researcher or consultant.  When you’ve got a meeting coming up or you need to prioritize your prospect pool in a hurry, I know that you really haven’t got a lot of extra time to wait.  Here are four secrets to getting information back faster from your research partner:

[Read more...]

One-stop shopping: Prospect research links

Why reinvent the wheel? Prospect researchers the world over have created gorgeous pages of useful links to the best sites for finding information. There are more prospect research-centric pages out there, but the ones included on this list have been updated in the past year and seem to be well maintained. If you know of others please let me know by clicking on comments and sharing your favorites.

HBG’s own Research Links page     http://www.startme.com/page/50281/hbg-prospect-research-links

APRA Missouri-Kansas     http://www.apramokan.org/links.html

Michigan State University Library     Prospect Research Resources

Northwestern University     Research Bookmarks

Prospecting For Gold:      Recommended Reference Sources

Stanford University Development Research     http://www.stanford.edu/dept/OOD/RESEARCH/

Supporting Advancement     Prospect Research tab

University of Southern California, University Advancement     Selected Sites for Development Research on the Web

University of Vermont     Prospect Research and Reference Tools

University of Virginia     Portico – Web Resources for Advancement Professionals


Other useful links


Our own great list of Wealth Lists from around the world

Four Great Free Firefox Add-ons and a New Crush

I spend a lot of time in my web browser, and I’ll bet you do, too. With the amount of time I spend there, I need widgets and add-ons that make my life easier and add value.I wanted to share these four time-savers and life-enhancers with you. They take just a few seconds to click and download – enjoy!

CLICK&CLEAN clickclean
Clearing your cache, cookies and browsing history is something we all know we need to do regularly, but unless you’ve clicked your settings to do this automatically, navigating through a bunch of windows to clear your cache means it doesn’t happen very often. Free add on Click&Clean lets you do it all with one easy click.

Everything you do on the web is being tracked. The pages you look at, how long you stay on each page, and where you move on to based on what you learn. Those sidebar advertisements that have the very shirt you just searched for an hour ago aren’t just a happy coincidence. As a professional researcher working with confidential data, I have to protect my client’s information. So I use Ghostery, a free add-on doesn’t allow sites to install web bugs, cookies or other tracking devices unless I exempt them. Ghostery works in the background and shows me who would have tracked me if I didn’t have it. When one of my usual go-to sites generated a list of 14 trackers and web bugs, my eyebrows nearly hit my hairline.

I love my Kindle, but sometimes it’s a real pain to get non-Amazon things on it. Enter SendToKindle, a Firefox add-in that allows you to grab blog posts, articles, and other web things onto your Kindle for easy reading when you’re on the beach, a plane, or anywhere else that doesn’t have web access…yet.

This app is called Awesome Screenshot, and if it was working perfectly at the moment it would be completely awesome. Once you load the app, Awesome Screenshot allows you one-click access to grab all or part of a web page to highlight sections, draw arrows and circles around text or pictures, blur out sensitive or confidential information, and save a copy of the image. Normally it allows you to save a copy of your work right to your hard drive, but until they upgrade it you will need to save your work at their site. You simply visit the link they provide and right-click on the image to save it. It’s a small workaround for such a great, free app. I used it to capture the screenshots of add-ins for this blog post.

You’ll have to visit HBG’s Facebook page to find out! If you’re a Google Reader or iGoogle fanatic like me (and even if you’re not), I think you’re really going to like it! (And speaking of ‘Like’ing things, why don’t you ‘Like’ our Facebook page while you’re there? We use our FB page to post quick tips, useful links and other great stuff!)

12 Great Ideas for Prospect Research in 2013

Resolving to make better use of prospect research in 2013 – or just interested in some new ideas for the coming year? Here are some suggestions to inspire you!

Januarybeach view

Are your organization’s fundraisers taking trips to warmer climes for events and meetings with snowbirds next month? Now’s a good time to do some simple data mining to find great prospects for fill-in visits while there.


Now is a good time to do an electronic screening of some or all of your organization’s new donors from the previous year. Which ones have the most potential to be major donor prospects? Develop a strategy to engage newly identified prospects by May.


What did your fundraising division do exceptionally well in 2012? Where do you need to do some work? Use analytics in-house, or have an independent audit done to measure last year’s fundraising/research performance. Set targets for using research throughout the year based on the priorities and needs you identify.


Tax season is here! Which of your prospects have giftable stock options? Several free and fee-based sources allow you to create alerts to keep current throughout the year on directors and executives of public companies who are required to report their stock and options holdings and sales.


obama posterTake a lesson from political fundraising: Targeted emails based on click-throughs and web usage have meant huge gains in involvement and donations during the last two presidential campaign cycles. Can you use market research techniques for prospect research purposes to discover what your annual fund donors are specifically interested in supporting?



For many educational organizations, June is the time to research parents of incoming students. How well do your data transfer systems integrate for ease of access to allowed information? Do you have a plan to manage this time-sensitive research? Create a process document for this important activity so that your best practices are repeated every year.

Julyrevere old north

This is the month to declare independence from all of the prospects in your tracking system that have not budged (despite your best efforts) on the pipeline in the past year. All of the great new prospects you identified back in February should now be in your relationship management system. Draw up plans for new ways to engage them in the fall.


The beautiful waterfront of Baltimore, Maryland will be the location for the annual conference of the Association of Professional Researchers for Advancement on August 7-10. The APRA conference is the place to be for prospect researchers and front-line fundraisers who want to learn cutting edge techniques and resources. Come prepared to learn – this is a no-fluff conference, and every aspect of research is covered, from the ABC’s through complex algorithms.


Back to school means making sure you have up-to-date information on your very top prospects, and on all of the new prospects you’ve identified over the year. Get ready now for those year-end solicitations so you’re not faced with a December research profile queue crush.


Find creative ways to use social media and relationship mapping to identify potential board members and other top volunteers. Who amongst your constituents have high Klout scores? Which ones are hubs on a relationship map? Find and use tools that help you pinpoint influencers who can be advocates and help you engage with a new circle of donors.

party balloons1November

Does your organization put on a lot of events this time of year? If event briefings are part of the research priorities that you set back in March, now may be the time to update your event briefing template(s) and policies for information access – not overload. Plan now so that the right people are getting the right amount of information on time and within budget.



Before you renew research subscriptions for the coming year, take a look at the fundraising operating plan and talk with colleagues about priorities ahead. Will the chief fundraising officer be traveling internationally to meet with donors? Maybe it’s time to look into international research resources, training, or outsourcing options. Are you about to launch a campaign? You might need to budget for screenings or analytics now.

What resources will you need to be successful next year? Great success with prospect research is all about being prepared. Happy New Year!