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:
1. Tailor your research request to just the information you need to know. If you say, “give me detailed research on Joe Bloggs,” a researcher is probably going to throw everything they can find at you, not knowing which piece of information will resonate with you. Doing that kind of in-depth research takes a lot of time (see below). If you only need an idea of a donor’s philanthropic capacity, or to know where else they or their spouse are civically involved – just ask for the piece of information you most need. Then come back later for the rest.
2. Tell the researcher everything you already know about the prospect. By the time you ask for research, chances are good you’ve already met the donor. That’s some great primary research you’ve got in your head and it’s critical it doesn’t get lost. Sharing what you know can cut out minutes (and sometimes hours) of a researcher’s time if they’re building on information rather than looking for what you’ve already found.
3. Be an informed consumer. Know what you’re asking for; it will help you save time. Research is a manual process and it takes time to find, verify, synthesize and write up a research report. If your research department has multiple templates, go with the one that best meets your needs. And if it doesn’t meet your needs, maybe it’s time to work with the research team to devise new formats.
4. Only include people on the Forbes List in your request list. Okay, I’m kidding – but not for the reason you think: sometimes the billionaires of the world take just as long as – or longer than – the “millionaire next door” to research because there’s so much information to wade through! If you’re lucky enough to have a billionaire on your list, finding their capacity isn’t much work. That leaves more time to discover their interest and inclination to give to your cause and finding the right connection(s) to help with the approach. Keeping your eyes always on the top third of your portfolio (and adding in new research-identified prospects as donors give) is a key ingredient in fundraising success.
How much time does research take?
Here are some industry averages for the amount of time it takes to do top-quality research:
In-depth profile 6-8 hours
Gift capacity rating 2-4 hours
Event briefing 1-2 hours per name/couple
So for example, to prepare for an event where briefings on the top 25 attendees will be needed, you should estimate that project will take a researcher about 3.5 days (not including breaks, meetings and interruptions). Unless of course you already store event briefings in your database, ready for printing when needed. Verifying and updating information that’s already there usually takes less time if the briefings are fairly recent.
Prospect researchers use many tools to find you the strategic information you need to qualify donors and build relationships. It’s a process that – when done well – takes time. Use these four tips to help you speed up the time it takes for you to get the research you need.