Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Covering New Territory: Prospect Research in China

A couple months ago, a few of our key leaders decided to make a little tour around China to meet with donors.  Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?! I thought so, too. Until they asked for research…. Research folks in China?! Where to even start?

On a day-to-day basis, I use a pretty extensive arsenal of resources for my work. They are tried, true, and as it turns out, completely useless for researching folks in China. Oh dear.  In quick-like fashion, I needed to find some new “tried and true” resources. Oh yeah, and on the cheap! Since this was a first-round trip, it didn’t make sense to pay for something we might not be using again. So like any good researcher, I took to the Internets in search of some comprehensive – but free – resources. Here’s a little of what I found and some advice on researching your Chinese prospects… you know, now that I’m an expert. (Totally kidding.)

* Before we start, please note that some of the links below are in Chinese. These webpages are easily translated through Google Translate, BabelFish, or something similar.

General Searching
  • I started my international search like I start everything in life: with Google. So, start there. But, keep going! Google only carries 23% of market share for Chinese Internet search engines. I had great returns using Baidu, which has around 73%. The site searches more than 740 million web pages, 80 million images, 10 million multimedia files and Baidu Baike, an online collaboratively built encyclopedia. If you want to keep going, also try Sina, which caters largely to the global Chinese community and often produces unique results, and Hudong, which is like a Chinese Wikipedia.

Biographical Information
  • Hands-down my favorite site for biographical information is China Vitae, which profiles more than 4,000 (and counting!) leaders in Chinese government, politics, military, education, business, and the media. Profiles are lengthy and include biographies, detailed career information, and recent travel/speaking appearances. For those familiar with American-based Leadership Directories, the format is very similar.
  • If your prospect is prominent enough to be listed on wealth/philanthropy lists, they typically have a great amount of information. A couple of favorites: Hurun Report, International Who’s Who (which isn’t free, but we have a subscription through our library), and various lists by Forbes, Fortune, and Asia, Inc. (Note: I searched my prospects’ name – or part of it – along with “Forbes,” etc. in a search engine to see what came up. Lists are also available by going to the individual sites, which is probably a better method. Ahem…. Moving on.)
  • A wonderful way to find biographical information is through the use of social media. After all, this is information that an individual has put out there themselves! The four main social media sites in China are 1), a professional platform with the look and feel of LinkedIn; 2) Sina Weibo, a micro-blogging site similar in form and market saturation to Twitter; 3) Sina Quing, a light-blogging site that enhances Sina Weibo and operates similarly to Tumblr; and 4) RenRen, which is most similar to Facebook and requires key information such college, high school, and hometown to establish a profile. All fabulous, but I’m a sucker for Ushi… If you’ve been reading this blog long, you know we APRA MidSouthers love LinkedIn, or anything like it!

Business Information
  • I’ve fallen hard for Investor Relations Asia Pacific (or IRASIA). The database is searchable by company name or stock ticker, and it provides business profiles, including annual reports, stock information, insider information, etc. (Sigh, eyelash bat…)
  • The old love of my life was (maybe still is…) Hoover’s. Did you know Hoover’s is searchable by geography?! Sure enough! The company’s database is easily broken down by country and then region. Even if your company isn’t listed, this is still a great way to do some benchmarking.
  • I also had great luck with business media sites like Reuters Investor and Bloomberg. Both have sections specifically geared toward Asian markets and are great resources for general information and targeted searching.
  • Note: This is one area where paid resources/subscriptions can definitely help. Sources such as LexisNexis, OneSource, Merchant Online, Factiva Companies/Markets, and the Asian Company Handbook all have great information for Asian companies and business leaders. We already have subscriptions to some of these, and I was able to use the others through our local business library. (#librariesforever!)

Wealth Indicators
  • Compensation came surprisingly easy. There are several great salary surveys online: Robert Walters Global Salary Survey 2012 (in downloadable pdf) and Gemini Personnel, which is great for those hard to find middle-level employees. Where it made sense, I also benchmarked with American companies to see what a person would be compensated here (for example, if they just recently moved to China for a promotion, etc.)
  • Real estate was a little more difficult. I essentially used what I knew (an address) and found out what flats would rent/sell for in those areas using various real estate firms. The search functions of Colliers International and CB Richard Ellis were particularly helpful. For Hong Kong, I had great luck with HongKongHomes and LuxeHomes, though there are a ton of similar sites out there.
  • Art Collection. Did you know in 2011, China overtook the U.S. to become the world’s largest art and antiques market in terms of auction and dealer sales? According to CNN, it’s true. The China Guardian and Beijing Poly, as well as standard favorites Christie’s and Sotheby’s, are very easy to search.
  • The climate of philanthropy in China is FASCINATING. If you haven’t researched it yet, I HIGHLY suggest it for your own knowledge/enjoyment. But, that’s the dork in me, and that’s a post for another time. Today, you want to know how to find information on Chinese charities. So, I give you: China Foundation Center, a searchable databases of private foundations in China. Think Foundation Directory Online. I have also heard good things about GrantMakers Online, though I didn’t have great returns there. Maybe next time!
  • For Hong Kong specifically, try WiseGiving, a searchable database for public charities and foundations with the similar feel of Guidestar.

News Sources

So, that’s it from me! If you have a minute and want to keep this party going, take a virtual wander and meet some folks who are doing amazing things in international prospect research: 1) Beth Bandy at International Fundraising Intelligence. Seriously, I bow down. I don’t know her, but she’s awesome. And, so is her blog. She also has a guide for prospect research in China that looks amazing and reasonably priced. If our leadership continues to travel there, we’ll definitely be purchasing it! 2) The folks in the Stanford University Development Research department. Their list of resources is amazing. They also have links to old APRA presentations and resources for other parts of the globe. I definitely bookmarked it and will be visiting again. Thank you!

For those of you who have been at this a little longer, what resources do you find helpful?? Leave us a comment and let us know! Or, if you would like to chat off-line, find me on LinkedIn.

Angie Stapleton, Vice President, APRA MidSouth

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the shout-out, Angie! That was very kind of you. :)