I think it’s easy to get frustrated with assumptions that some front-line fundraisers have about prospect research. On the one hand, we researchers want people to see us as a resource. Indispensable. That we have (or can get) all the answers. Fast.
As a personality type, we tend to be diligent and dogged sorts of people – we generally can’t rest until we find the answer. We learn Boolean logic. We use databases that give us reliable answers. We get faster at it and we’re proud of our agility and reliability.
But that can foster an assumption that research profiles just appear (poof!) with the push of a button. Or that full profiles only take a couple of hours to do.
As a colleague at the APRA conference said two weeks ago, “Research profiles take two hours to do just like a major gift takes 18 months to get.”
They have no idea what we do all day…
A few months ago I did a training session – an introduction to prospect research – for a development team at a mid-sized nonprofit that had no researcher. I asked them to give me the name of one of their donors that they’d recently researched using the big search engine. They were feeling pretty confident that it had turned up everything there was to find about their Mr. Smith.
So first I used that search engine (and taught them about a couple of others) and we went through the results. Then I pulled out my research magic wand.
I admit, I just love the ooohs and the aaahs that always generates. Then I showed them a few other fee-based resources we use. Deep web, pay-wall, give-me-the-serious-411 kinds of resources.
“Wow, that’s a lot of information. It must take you forever to visit all these sites and pull together a profile on someone” said the director of major gifts.
…and we have no idea what they do.
But before we researchers start feeling too smug here, let me just say that we make a lot of assumptions, too, about what fundraisers do all day. The good ones make it look easy – but it’s a lot of hard work and it takes longer than we think.
So here’s my proposal: The next time your development office does a brown bag lunch together, show each other what you do. Just a half-hour each. Talk about how much time each thing that you do takes and what your greatest joys and frustrations are.
Honestly, it’ll just be…magic!