Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Notable Connections from Wikipedia

In 2006, taking over as the full-time prospect researcher at Western Kentucky University, I was charged with finding new ways to discover prospects.   I subscribed to the daily e-mail generated by the Media Relations office which compiled news feeds where “Western Kentucky University” was mentioned.   I compiled various lists from the database based on different parameters (colleges, student activities, sports, locations, etc.) but going through those lists often became a daunting and monotonous task.  One day, after crossing my eyes looking at one more row on a spreadsheet, I realized I had to come up with something that would put a little spice into my research day.

You know what I mean:  it’s like you can only eat so many PBJs for lunch.  Sometimes you need to have the turkey and swiss on rye for a change. (I’ll take mine with spicy brown mustard please!)  So, in a moment of what seemed like pure insanity, I googled “Western Kentucky University” to see what came back.  I had no preconceived notions of what I might get in return, but the reward was more than I could have imagined.

First, I got my very first LinkedIn name.  I have already blogged about how helpful LinkedIn has been to this small shop prospect researcher.  Second, I got WKU’s Wikipedia page.  Hmmm….I hadn’t really used Wikipedia before so I wasn’t sure what I would find.  As I read through the history of our university, my eyes lit up as I saw:

I felt like I had won the lottery!  Give me a cupcake for dessert!  It was just what this new researcher needed to help her get started in the quest for new names.  As I researched the list, I did find that many were fully documented in our database.  For others, Wikipedia provided the jumping off point for discovery (especially those who did not complete their degrees).

From that first hit, I’m happy to report that I discovered someone who had not previously been qualified and cultivated.  The fundraisers took it from there, and now this prospect is fully engaged with the university on a personal and philanthropic level.  And yes, I have found others worth pursuing and passed on the information as well.

I return to WKU’s Wikipedia page several times a year to see if any new names have been added.  I’m usually not disappointed.  It’s always fun to see a new name and it certainly gives that little “extra” treat you need every so often.  When writing this blog, I decided to use my original search terms, I googled “Western Kentucky University” and added the terms “notable alumni.”  A new website appeared:

The page of notables automatically popped up using my terms, but by going directly to the website and typing “Western Kentucky University” in the search box on the list tab, the notables list also generated.  While many of the names were repeats from Wikipedia, a few new ones did appear.  So, in the future I will partake of this new menu addition as well.

Dessert, anyone? (Think it will be chocolate chip cookies for me this time.)

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

1 comment:

  1. Love the creativity! Being the kind of person who throws spaghetti on the wall to see what sticks is an important quality in a prospect researcher. I did a similar exercise while training someone on SEC filings. She didn't have an existing prospect so we started with search engine searches on the university name and keywords like public company and we searched linkedin directly. We found enough to go through the exercises :-D but in the end no-one with current meaningful capacity :-(

    Thanks for sharing your real-life adventures!