This week we welcome HBG Senior Researcher Heather Hoke to share her knowledge on the blog. Every year, nearly a third of attendees at our professional association conference are brand new to our field. The Apra conference in July is one of the best places for new researchers to find in-depth training and unparalleled opportunities to network, test-drive critical resources, and learn from experienced colleagues. If you don’t have the budget this year but still need information to get you started, Heather’s article will help launch you with lots of advice and resources.
I have been a development researcher for more than 15 years and have had the opportunity to meet many new researchers starting out in our profession who need to learn the basics. It’s an exciting time for them, but our field can be a bit overwhelming.
I have met folks just starting out in a non-profit or educational institution with no prior experience or training on how to do prospect research to advance fundraising. And sometimes, to make things more difficult, there may be no researcher on staff to guide them. [Read more…]
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…]
Last week at the (sold out!) NEDRA conference, this week’s guest author Heather Willis spoke with her HBG colleague, Kelly Labrecque, on finding real estate values in the US west and east. “Country Mouse/City Mouse” was a big hit, and I asked Heather to share tidbits from her portion of the presentation with us today. (If you’d like to see the slides from their presentation, let us know!) And now, here’s Heather:
It’s that time of year again in the West; the snow is melting, tulips are flowering, calves are being born, and the birds are singing. It also means the year- end real estate market analyses, the new agriculture statistics reports, and the top ten landowners, have been published. Exciting right!?
Ok, you might not have the desire or the time to read through all of these reports when researching a prospect who owns a farm or ranch, so I will point out a few changes from last year and try to give you some insights into an extremely diverse and difficult group of prospects to research. [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…]
Most of the time, taking a step back to get a broader view of a situation is a good idea. As we move into 2017, I’d like to welcome one of our newer team members, Josh Ostroski, as our guest blogger this week. Josh took a year out from a distinguished career in prospect research to try out a new profession that brought him great perspective, insight, and some new great resources to share with all of us when he came back into the fundraising fold. I’m sure you’ll enjoy this – and bookmark as many things as I did!
Before joining The Helen Brown Group in July of this year, I spent just over a year as a real estate agent. Prior to that I had worked as a prospect researcher in various roles for a decade. In my year-long “sabbatical” I learned a lot about myself and prospect research, and I wanted to share my experiences with you.
Similarities Between Real Estate and Fundraising
At first thought you may not think real estate and fundraising are similar, outside of our daily scouring of property records, but the first thing I noticed during our weekly team meetings and trainings was how similar they are.
Both are industries that help people. Both have a sales aspect. Both are about reading people. Both require pipeline building and prospecting in order to succeed.
Four days into my re-introduction into the wonderful world of prospect research with The Helen Brown Group, I found myself listening to the APRA Prospect Development 2016 keynote speaker, Risa Mish, speaking about The Art of the Sale. It was essentially an overview of everything I had been learning as a real estate agent. When she was relating it to fundraising, I knew I was where I should be! [Read more…]
What’s going on, briefly? The British Information Commissioner’s Office’s (ICO) levied substantial fines against two large and well-respected British charities, publicly berated and shamed them for – amongst other things – conducting wealth screenings and prospect research. It’s a very worrisome time in the UK for our colleagues right now, and the fundraising community over here should take note – and provide moral support.
More on this developing story will be found here on the Intelligent Edge, but in the meantime, please take a moment to visit the Further Reading section at the end of this post to get yourself caught up on the ICO ruling and the UK fundraising community’s reaction to it. [Read more…]