Life, the Universe and profiling
A large proportion of prospect researchers will be involved in profiling HNWI’s for their major donor team or for events etc. The task in hand is a simple one….dig up as much information as you can that might be useful or provide insight into a person, particularly with regards to any giving history. However, as prospect researchers (or indeed anyone researching individuals) you essentially have two key problems:
1. You don’t work for the government in a big green and white building on the Thames which is made of lego; and
2. You can only find information which is available in the public domain.
So, with these restrictions firmly in place, how do you go about effective profiling while traversing the myriad of resources available and without breaking the bank? Well, this might possibly be one of the best kept secrets in fundraising, but the answer is really rather simple.
I have been profiling for quite a number of years now and the best piece of advice I give clients is not to become frightened of resources. By this I mean focus on the key information you want to find and work out what resources you’ll need to complete the objective. What most people are shocked but rather pleased to hear is that around 90% of profiling can be done for free using an internet search engine (phew..) and only 10% requires some kind of subscription resource (boo..). Yet while that may suggest profiling is therefore easy and can be done by anyone, it’s time to put your assumptions back in the drawer.
I often get asked about the value of a prospect researcher….”don’t they surf the internet all day”?……well……erm…..yes, they do do that, but there’s so much more on offer! A prospect researcher’s value comes from fast, effective and efficient internet searching, digesting data and information quickly, knowing when to pursue a lead and when to pass. If you had a list of ten crossword questions you both didn’t know, I can guarantee an experienced prospect researcher will find the answers in less than half the time it takes the average computer user.
Prospect researchers also know where to look for crucial information that might not be obvious or even visible on a search engine. Understanding the vast array of resource available and knowing which ones will provide which information is something that is built up over years of experience.
OK, so enough teasing. Here’s a list of my research weapons of choice (or resources as most people call them) that I use when profiling and what kinds of information they provide (note these are my preferred resources, but there are alternatives you could use):
- DASH – A corporate database is the most expensive resource you’ll need, but is invaluable in searching for company directors, their business networks and key info like home addresses and DOB’s. If you can’t afford DASH (and their prices have just gone down!) you could outsource this data collection to a freelancer for example.
- Google – Whichever internet search engine you use, the skill is in the searching and the efficient assessment of vast quantities of information. Keep a particular eye out for interviews or company biogs as they provide the best ‘first-hand’ information. Treat secondary sources with skepticism and always always reference your information.
- Land Registry – You can download land registry documents for just £3 each online and it can be invaluable in finding out who owns what property, particularly when you have multiple addresses and want to find out the most recent.
- Mouseprice/Zoopla – These free property websites can provide a rough estimate as to the worth of a person’s property but because they use different methods for calculating this, you should take the average of two or even three website’s to ensure a fair estimation.
- Debrett’s/Who’s Who – These two resources I use infrequently but can be helpful when researching the older generation. You can access both for free via Westminster Libraries online remote service, so there’s no need to worry about them as they’ll always be there (for free)!
That’s basically it. I can generally produce an good quality in depth profile on someone using just these resources. Obviously occassionally you have to look via other resources, but the key is really to think externally of the crate and think about what information (companies, interests, sports, clubs etc.) can lead you to gleam other information not obviously visible from an initial Google search.
So there you have it. My best kepts secrets out in the public domain…..I’m finished……
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