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


  1. Hi Theresa -

    I'm a WKU alum and a prospect researcher at U of L. I worked with your supervisor at CASE-KY last year. Just thought I'd drop in from Prospect-L, say hello, and thank you for sharing this!

  2. Hi Terri, Thanks for checking in! Glad you found the blog helpful! I would love to connect with you sometime!