Friday, February 24, 2012

Vanderbilt University Job Opening

Please see our Job Board to learn about a Research Analyst position at Vanderbilt University.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Are You Linked In to LinkedIn?

Okay, I just had to do that. But really, the question is a good one. Social media is becoming THE way to connect with each other, follow each other, check out each other, share thoughts, and so much more. As prospect researchers we not only have to be on this curve, we need to be ahead of it….if at all possible (does the phrase “proactive” start to jingle in your researcher brain cells?).

I can relate to Mitch Roberson’s post to this blog on February 15, 2012. In 2007, as a new researcher, just learning what works to discover solid and accurate information, I was looking for any trick of the trade to help me. Plus, working at a small shop like ours at Western Kentucky University (i.e. two researchers for 10+ fundraisers), two other terms definitely play into the equation, “free” and “quick.” Google, Yahoo, and other search engines were and still are a tremendous tool and honestly, they are my go-to choice when trying to find those first clues on a prospect.

So, in that vein of “fast” and “free,” that’s how I first stumbled on LinkedIn. In 2007 I had just become the Prospect Research Coordinator at WKU. Going through my usual research steps in Google, I saw a link to the prospect I was researching. It led to a site I had never seen or heard about before. You guessed it, LinkedIn.

And what good fortune! After becoming a member (the basic account level is free) I was able to find out some vital information on this prospect that we did not have previously. The prospect had not only given current work information, but a full work history, education background, interests and group memberships. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I printed the information and passed it on to the fundraiser and asked if they had ever heard of LinkedIn. They had not, so that made me wonder if this was going to be some flash-in-the pan networking site or would it be something that would get everyone engaged.

In 2012 I think we know the answer. The facts from LinkedIn’s “About Us” page state that this site that launched on May 5, 2003 and ended its first month of operation with 4,500 members now has more than 150 million members in over 200 countries and territories (as of February 9, 2012).

Since that first discovery, the explosion of LinkedIn members I have found has made me add LinkedIn searches to my regular research routine. And while I still have a basic membership, I have encouraged WKU’s fundraisers to upgrade to at least a Business account. These paying levels allow the fundraisers to InMail their connections – which can be especially helpful if no other accurate means of reaching a prospect exists in our database or files. And the fundraisers continually report that these connections are being made. (While I am not here to advertise for LinkedIn, I just wanted to point this out especially if you are new to LinkedIn or do not currently use all its features.)

So, how have I put this tool to use at WKU? First, I make sure I have the complete profile. Sometimes the embedded LinkedIn profile I find and the profile listed under “Public Profile” are different. I click on the “Public Profile” link to see if it is different than the embedded LinkedIn profile. (Public Profiles begin with: or - Embedded Profiles begin with:

Once I am sure I have the most robust profile, I copy the information to my database. If a photo is available, I also capture that, as well as links to any other websites shown on the prospect’s LinkedIn page such as Twitter, company websites and blogs. Our database now has a place to store these links, so I also add them to this section (if you add them to your database and they hyperlink automatically upon saving, be sure to check the format to ensure the links work – I had Twitter all wrong at first!) Then be sure and share your incredible findings with your fundraisers!

And one more thing, saving this information (the actual profile as well as the LinkedIn profile web address) has certainly proven a time saver when preparing a bio profile or creating a list of talking points for a discovery call. That is especially true when I check for a prospect’s current Linkedin profile and it is either gone or updated since the time I first captured the information.

I also encourage you to create your own LinkedIn profile. It is great for connecting with colleagues in your own organization, those associated with your profession, obtaining recommendations of your work, past employment, and much more. Groups exist for prospect researchers and fundraising in general. Discussions are popping up daily to help us be proactive in all areas of prospect research and fundraising including how to stay ahead of the social media curve!

APRA MidSouth and APRA International are both on LinkedIn – no surprise, right? Just search in the “Groups” section and ask to be a member – we will be glad to have you!

While I have spent this blog highlighting LinkedIn, I want to emphasize that other social media such as Twitter, Facebook, blogs, Google+ (and the next great trend(s) on the horizon) can also provide similar tidbits and clues on our prospects. All are public tools now made available to us because of the desire and need for people to stay virtually connected.

Is there something else you use to find this type of information on your prospects? Is it free or subscription? Please share your ideas and tools with us in the comments section.

Theresa Clark, WKU Prospect Research Coordinator, APRA MidSouth Director-At-Large

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Impressions of a New Researcher

If you do much prospect research, you are probably familiar with the request to “pull research” on a prospect, as if there were one place where you could type a name, click ‘enter,’ and then sit back as the profile writes itself.  A few short months ago, I, too, was under the misguided impression that research profiles were mostly printouts of content already prepared.  As someone new to prospect research, I would like to discuss my evolving impression of what makes a good prospect research analyst.  Here are a few things I’ve learned so far.

First, there is an endless array of resources to use, including subscription services, free databases, online newspapers and magazines, government documents, and many more.  And within a particular resource, there is an infinite number of ways to pose the questions you want answered.  It’s definitely overwhelming at first.  For resources I use regularly, I have learned to explore new features or areas to find out if anything else is offered.   Also, for each new profile I write, I try to consult at least one resource that is new to me. 

Second, it’s important to be able to think about research from your client’s perspective.  The client, in my case, is the development officer.  What kind of information would make a development officer decide to visit a prospect vs. not to visit?  What patterns of philanthropy indicate to the development officer that a person has the capacity to give to your organization?  What detail suggests a prospect’s inclination to give? 
Finally, I’ve learned that credibility with your clients is your currency.  If your research is full of typos or is delivered past the deadline, the client isn’t going to value your work.  Consistency, correctness, and attention to detail are critical.  I’ve learned to double-check my math, try different combinations of search terms on Google, and proofread my work carefully.   Responding quickly is also a great way to show that you are engaged.   

I’ve got a way to go in becoming a good prospect research analyst, but I’m amazed at how much I’ve learned so far.  It’s also amazing to see how many research profiles I’ve written.  Believe me, none of them were pulled. 
Mitch Roberson, APRA MidSouth Communications Director

Thursday, February 9, 2012

APRA MidSouth Call for Members

If you enjoy reading this blog and staying up to date on research techniques, then APRA MidSouth may be just the thing for you!

With membership in APRA MidSouth, you have the opportunity to connect with other research and development professionals through mentoring programs, professional development workshops and events, and networking opportunities.
Don’t be worried that APRA MidSouth is for research professionals only.  It is great for anyone involved with nonprofit fundraising.  Starting up a brand new organization or just looking for new donors?  APRA MidSouth can help you along the way with tips and techniques to make your fundraising efforts more efficient and effective.    

To join, complete and return the membership form to APRA MidSouth.  If you have any questions regarding membership, please contact Geoff Little at or 615-322-3851. 
We look forward to hearing from you soon!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

JOB OPENING at Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN

Research Analyst, Development and Alumni Relations
Identify and profile potential major gift donors to Vanderbilt University to enhance the university’s fundraising efforts. Collaborate and strategize with colleagues, clients and key administrators regarding prospect identification. Provide clients with written reports containing analysis of information gathered from public sources and recommended courses of action for specific donors. Report to the Director of Research and Prospect Development (RPD).

Preferred education, experience and skills:
  • Experience in university advancement/development operations.
  • Ability to analyze, interpret, synthesize and present complex information effectively.
  • Ability to design and implement data-mining initiatives to identify and/or stratify potential major gift prospects.
  • Solid judgment, sensitivity, and discretion in handling confidential information and situations.
  • Ability to collaborate effectively with colleagues and staff, particularly in support of medical center goals and initiatives.
  • Ability to manage several projects simultaneously, set priorities and meet multiple deadlines.
  • Demonstrated proficiency in usage of electronic research tools and techniques, including use of push technology for news alerts.
  • Demonstrated proficiency in efficient and effective internet search methodologies.
  • Demonstrated proficiency in use of computer applications and databases.
  • Knowledge of SunGard Advance database.
  • Exemplary communication, organizational and customer service skills a must.

Key Functions and Expected Performances:
  • Provide prospect identification and research needs for an assigned group of development officers (clients) enabling them to meet and exceed fundraising goals.
  • Collaborate routinely with clients to develop prospect identification, cultivation, solicitation and overall fundraising strategies.
  • Consult with clients to determine feasibility of research requests and special projects. Negotiate project scopes and deadlines directly with clients.
  • Advise development officers of database segmentation opportunities. Design and implement segmentation strategies to uncover new prospects.
  • Identify new prospects using traditional and novel prospect research techniques and tools including periodical and electronic resource screening and/or information provided by the prospect, his/her organization and or peers. Notify clients of new potential prospects consistent with established DAR policies.
  • As requested by clients, provide briefing materials to the chancellor, deans, Board of Trust members, and other key university administrators regarding major donors/prospects.
  • Possess high-level of knowledge and understanding of the donor database.
  • Review local and national news data from internet-based and published periodicals. Send articles/alerts to clients as appropriate.
  • Notify data maintenance staff and clients (as appropriate) to new prospect/donor information so that it can be appropriately updated in Advance.
  • Safeguard the confidentiality of donor information at all times. Uphold DAR policies regarding confidential information. 
  • Adhere to ethical and confidentiality guidelines as indicated by the Association of Professional Researchers for Advancement (APRA) as well as university guidelines.
  • Manage special projects as assigned.
  • Produce and deliver service to clients based on departmental product standards within agreed upon timelines.
  • Maintain professional working relationships with clients and colleagues.
Basic Qualifications
Job requires Bachelor's and 2 years of experience or the equivalent.
Additional Information:
This is a full-time position.
Vanderbilt is an equal opportunity, affirmative action employer.
To apply for this position, go to the following link: The position is listed as a Research Analyst, Job Number 1200974.
This position will be posted on the Vanderbilt Human Resources website until Tuesday, February 14.

One Stop Shops

One of the most common sites prospect researchers frequent are county property assessors to look for or verify property ownership. Over the years I’ve found several sites I like to think of as “one stop shops.” These sites provide a comprehensive list of county property assessor links. In addition to these helpful links, several sites also provide access to other free public record searches in every state and county in the United States.

Similar to the amazing and comprehensive website Christine Pulawski created ( these websites save valuable time (and your sanity) when looking for the direct link to the online database for an obscure county’s property assessor.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Free Public Records Search Director
I use this site the most when searching for a county assessor’s page.

(Click on images to enlarge them.)

After clicking on the state you are searching, you can quickly access the specific county you want by using the drop down menu in the left corner of the page. You will then be directed to a series of links associated with that specific county.

Not sure which county your city is located? Use the Geographic Names Information System ( OR the U.S. Census Bureau’s State and County QuickFacts ( to quickly find the county.

BRB Publications, Inc.’s Free Resource Center

Although this site will also search county property assessors by state, it has turned into my first stop for looking up state occupational licensing boards.

Sorted by state, BRB provides a comprehensive list of occupations to choose from to verify an individual or firm’s information. Each state is different about how much information they provide, but some include current employer, education, specialty board certifications, community service/awards/honors, disciplinary history, etc.

Other comprehensive sites you might find helpful and can add to your research toolkit:
Northwestern University’s research department compiled and maintains a comprehensive and incredible site:

University of Virginia’s Portico is a very helpful web resource:

The University of Vermont also has a helpful compilation of prospect research sites:

University of Southern California’s research office has also compiled and organized multiple online resources:

Although it has not been updated in several years, David Lamb’s prospect research page still has helpful links:

Wall Street Executive Library:

Property Assessment Directory:

What comprehensive sites have you found most helpful with your work? Share with us in the comments.