It doesn’t matter how in-depth a research profile is. It may have the 4 key elements of every strategic profile should have. But if it doesn’t do one critical thing, you might as well not have spent the time creating it.
The one thing every research profile must do is
Answer the Question
When a fundraiser has a research request, what they are really bringing you is a question. And the question depends on who’s asking.
- Pat the business school fundraiser might want to know the prospect’s capacity to make a major gift.
- Susan the planned giving officer might want to know if the donor couple has kids, or if they own multiple properties.
- Jim the C&F fundraiser needs detailed information about an upcoming small company sale to a multinational.
- Armand the road warrior annual fund officer just wants to be sure of a current phone number and address.
Why waste time slogging through the whole enchilada profile when – possibly – it’s not needed?
Even if someone says they need a full, detailed profile on someone, there are always specific, particular questions they want the answers to. Take the time to ask the fundraiser what their questions are. It will make the process more interesting for you, and the profile more relevant for them.
However, sometimes the question is completely unanswerable. Such as…
- How much does that hot-shot celebrity attorney earn every time he wins a trial?
- What does that plastic surgeon make in a year?
- Who owns a property if it’s in a trust?
- How much is in Jane Smith’s donor advised fund?
- What’s Bill Smith’s cell phone number?
- Who owns that piece of property in Belize? (or Toronto, or Athens, or Marseille, or…)
The list really does go on. There’s more we can’t find than we can sometimes.
We’re so used to search engines answering our everyday questions that it becomes easy to think that any question can be answered. It’s our responsibility as information providers to educate our end users about what we can (and what we can’t) find, though, to manage expectations.
But it’s also our responsibility to hazard an educated guess when our opinion might help. Or turn the question around to something that can be answered.
“You say you’d like to know if our prospects own a house in Belize. I’m sorry, but I know that information isn’t available, but if you tell me the main thing you’re trying to learn (capacity to give, for example?), I might be able to fill in the gap another way.”
The most important thing is to start a dialogue. And answer the question.