Using your Library Science Skills toward a Career in Fundraising…... What it's like to be a Prospect Researcher
Susan Shebar, University Director of Development Services, LIU
Linda Gorney, Senior Development Researcher, LIU
What is Prospect Research? Prospect research is used by institutions, groups and programs to help fundraising efforts. It is the collection and analysis of information to identify new major gift potential or to further qualify known major gift donors with the goal to advance a major gift fund-raising program. Prospect = Prospective Donor
What kinds of institutions use prospect research?
Key Responsibilities: Identify potential donors and/or new alumni to target for fundraising efforts through various research methods. Obtain and analyze information on major donor prospects, trustees from current or prospective corporations, foundations and/or individuals, assess quality of donor and giving ability and forward analysis to Development Directors and Alumni relations officers to use for the creation of targeted fundraising and cultivation strategies. Write donor prospect briefings for development team.
Qualifications: Bachelor's degree and 1-2 years' prospect research or development and/or fundraising experience or an equivalent combination of education and experience. Strong analytical, written and verbal communications skills. Familiarity with word processing, spreadsheet, and database software including experience with online database such as Dun and Bradstreet, Hoover's, and Lexis-Nexis.
www.theyrule.net : Free, Quirky site that provides interconnecting maps detailing the most powerful people on American company boards. (Established in 2004, updated annually, but probably not fully accurate at this point.)
www.finance.yahoo.com : provides business financials, key statistics, and profiles for publicly traded companies
www.lambresearch.com : designed by an independent prospect researcher, includes an exhaustive set of links and tips on how to use them
The position most librarians gravitate to is prospect research. This is the “research only” portion of the fundraising job. It carries a lot of responsibility because you are supplying the person who has to make “the ask,” as it is called in the fundraising world, with all of the information that will make them successful.
If you think you’d like to become a fundraiser or prospect researcher , there are a number of things you can do to prepare for the first interview (aside from becoming a member of AFP or APRA International) such as:
Receive training in donor database management software such as Raisers’ Edge
Familiarize yourself with philanthropic terms. This following website is good for this practice - http://www.learningtogive.org/materials/vocabulary.asp
Prepare a sample donor profile for your portfolio
Check out the Career Tools section of the APRA website
Volunteer for the fundraising arm of an organization.
Practice information gathering using some of the free resources available to you online such as company websites and government resources.
Familiarize yourself with business resources and databases.
Before you approach a company, read their mission and goals, find out about major campaigns or donors and have a look at their website.
It may not be the path you envisioned when you entered library school but fundraising (and prospect research specifically) is a rewarding and challenging job that is well suited to a librarian’s skill set. Fundraising and prospect research positions open a whole new series of doors to you as a job seeker.