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

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