This week we welcome my colleague, Tara McMullen, to the blog-stage to talk about a type of data that’s particularly tough to wrangle, but totally worth the effort. Here’s Tara on the rewards to be found in digging through unstructured data (and some great places to find it).
In my work, I find myself constantly perusing social pages, local and regional news publications, and text-heavy lists and articles about wealthy and powerful people to try to pull out valuable “soft” information from these sources of unstructured data.
The information found in these sources is often invaluable in providing insight into a prospect’s relationships and connections, non-profit and civic affiliations, family members, neighbors, community groups, hobbies and activities (like golf or boating), and – of particular interest to those of us in the prospect development field – potential philanthropic interests. [Read more…]
Wealth events are the most significant financial occasions that can happen to a person in their life. They’re pretty interesting for prospect development pros, too, because they allow us to sharpen our pencils and get down to the math, create beautiful family trees, or follow really interesting stories in the press.
Most of the time, we won’t be able to find out the whole story. Sometimes, we’ll only be able to report that an event has happened in our prospective donor’s life, but without much more detail than that. Occasionally, the wealth event news we’re discovering won’t be positive, such as a bankruptcy. In rare golden moments, we’ll have a news report or transaction filing that shares everything we want to know.
So what are wealth events, anyway? [Read more…]
As a researcher, one of the things that has been most interesting to me over the recent few months is that I’ve noticed an increase in the number of articles relying on investigative journalism. Many larger newspapers have some sort of investigative unit, like the Boston Globe’s deservedly celebrated Spotlight Team.
But it’s been historically unusual to see skimcoat newspapers – that are more commonly slipped under hotel bedroom doors for business travelers – begin to do deep investigative research projects. It’s another reminder that that the information geeks of the world – we researchers – are the most important players speaking truth to power. [Read more…]
This is called due diligence research and it’s essential to protecting the reputation of the nonprofit. What the organization is doing is ensuring that there are no legal reasons why the gift may be contested or clawed back later. Or worse.
A nonprofit’s reputation is obviously important – if an organization becomes allied with …a despot, say, it risks years of damage and decreased support of every kind. They become that scarlet-lettered nonprofit that everyone remembers for being the de facto money-launderer for the drug ring. Not too many volunteer and trustee types (or donors)(or talented employees) want to be affiliated with that kind of organization.
Most organizations in the UK and Europe have a policy to do due diligence research at a relatively modest level (at least by major donor giving progam standards). The amount under consideration can be as low as £1,000 or €1,000.
Of course, we do due diligence research on this side of the Atlantic, too, but we are more likely to back into it. By that I mean that we’re not usually specifically looking for negative information to see if we want to be allied with a donor from the get-go. Many times the person or company or foundation has already been a donor at a certain level for many years, but now is interested in making a very large or transformational gift of some sort.
Sometimes the news just falls in our lap in the course of our usual prospect research. Like the time I discovered…well, never mind. Suffice it to say it was a yikes-bullet-dodged moment and the organization I worked for decided to let that relationship gently fade away into the night.
But let’s say you do need to do reputational research on a prospective donor. Where are the best places for you to go?
Some organizations decide to hire an outside firm that specializes in due diligence research. It can be expensive, but of course the avoidance of reputational damage is frequently worth the money.
Others ask their prospect research department (or HBG) to take a first crack at it to see if any immediate red flags appear. They can then decide how to move forward if worrisome details start to emerge, by either running the request up the flag to a due diligence firm or by deciding not to ask for the donation to begin with.
If you want to tackle the due diligence research yourself, here is a list of a few of our team’s favorite sources:
- Better Business Bureau
- Business press (Crain’s, American City Business Journals,)
- Datocapital – a database of 12.5 million directors of privately-held companies in 8 European countries
- ICIJ offshore database
- Lexis Nexis – there’s a specific area in LNDP just for this.
- Opensecrets.org – Donor database, nonprofit database
- Secretary of State’s business lookup database in the state a company is registered (MA provided here as an example)
- Social media – Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc. (we use Mention.com to monitor these)
You’ll find tons more resources on our HBG Research Links page. What are some of your favorite sources for due diligence research?
This week I’m delighted to feature an article by Senior Researcher Rick Snyder, who shares his considerable knowledge on pulling at that tricky loose thread of compensation information. Rick’s main takeaway: It’s not just about resources (although he has a nice list of great sources to share), it’s also being mindful of how and when to use them, and how you might be able to ‘back into’ useful information by rocking back on your heels and coming at the problem in a new way. ~Helen
Many of us use research checklists as we do our work and use profile templates where we fill in the blanks. This allows us to be consistent and helps remind us to use all our resources. One by one, we work our way through the list.
Property value? Check.
Foundation affiliations? Check.
Non-profit and corporate board service? Check.
Compensation? Hmmm. [Read more…]
Earlier this week, I was looking at my phone – and at all the apps I have and don’t use – and started thinking about how every person’s app collection looks different based on their individual needs and interests. I wondered how different my screen would look if I were a billionaire. (Hey, a girl can daydream). And so my journey of discovery began.
As I researched, I realized that many of the sites I was idly finding were actually useful for prospect research purposes. Which led me to abandoning my original mild curiosity and heading toward useful employment of my time, which is a good lesson in the power of daydreaming! [Read more…]
BuzzFeed reports that, on Facebook, the top 20 click-bait-y fake news stories generated more engagement than the top 20 real news stories did in the past three months.
That’s okay if you know that what you’re looking at is fake and you’re just clicking or sharing something to get a good eye roll workout. But a new study by Stanford University says that the “digital natives” amongst us – kids from middle school through college – can’t tell the difference between sponsored content and real news.
And regarding their habits on social media, the Wall Street Journal reported that “[m]any students judged the credibility of newsy tweets based on how much detail they contained or whether a large photo was attached, rather than on the source.”
Think about that – credibility is judged on whether or not there’s a pretty picture.
That’s really worrying, especially because it’s not just kids that are making that mis-judgment. The Pew Research Center reports that 66% of Facebook users get their news there, and overall nearly 40% of us get our news online now.
Facebook is just a social networking site. It’s not a news site…right?
It’s inappropriate for anyone to like an article about someone getting shot. In the case of the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO, research shows that stories on his death went into a cone of silence on Facebook, partly because it was inappropriate to ‘Like’ (for which read: share) and harder still (for non-trolls) to comment on. So when it comes to what gets shared more, the algorithms favor the Pope endorsing Donald Trump over what’s happening in Ferguson or Flint because of Likes.
It makes sense logically. But if 66% of people on Facebook (and let’s face it, Facebook’s market penetration is colossal) – if 66% of Facebook users are getting their news there, it’s well on its way to becoming a media company. A news distributor. Far and away from simply a social networking site. [Read more…]
Something must be in the air because I’ve had three calls in the last two weeks about training new researchers.
Fundraising intelligence (or prospect development, whatever you want to call it) is one of those professions that you can’t go to college for. There are degree programs in nonprofit management and, frequently, fundraising intelligence is part of the coursework, but there’s not yet a higher ed degree in prospect research, prospect management and data analytics.
So mostly it’s taught by the experienced to the newcomers, and you learn – and get better – by doing. [Read more…]
This week we welcome HBG Senior Researcher and Efficiency Lead Kenny Tavares. Since he took on the new role of Efficiency Tsar this summer, Kenny has identified some off-the shelf tools and has also created some beauties on his own (yay macros!) to solve some long-simmering inefficiencies in our work. Getting from A to B can become much quicker when you take the time to sit back, identify the inefficiencies, and dream up the ideal solutions. In this week’s blog post, Kenny shares what he’s been learning about managing time. ~Helen
“Be More Productive,” “100 Time Management Tips” and “Increase Your Productivity” are some likely headlines you’ve seen in your LinkedIn or Twitter feeds. It seems there are an unending number of tips and tricks for improving your efficiency at work. However, for many of us, the idea of embracing even a few new ideas – never mind 20, 50 or 100 ideas – can seem like a daunting task. Some of these recommendations have been passed along so many times it’s hard to know where they came from or if they even make sense in the modern workplace. Do the authors of these articles even use these tips themselves? Reading all these lists can seem antithetical to being productive. [Read more…]