Jessica Hilton was Arts Fundraising Fellow for Hull Truck Theatre until September 2015, and now works at Northern Ballet in Leeds as the Research & Data Officer in their fundraising team.
Prospect Research is a vital support function to your Fundraising efforts. Not only can it identify new supporters to your organisation, it ensures that you are pitching an appropriate ask and saves time chasing those without the inclination, or capacity to give.
Here are my top tips for starting with prospect research:
- Free Resources
There are lots of great, free resources. Being able to read charitable accounts is very useful, especially for Trusts and Foundations that you may be looking to apply to. These can be found by searching on the Charity Commission. Some very helpfully include a list of the grants that they’ve given in the last financial year, including the amount and recipient, which can give you a good indication of the amount to apply for and the likelihood of success (if they mostly fund donkey sanctuaries in Scotland, your dance project in Yorkshire might not be their cup of tea!). The Charity Commission also lists Trustee’s positions on other boards, which can be useful if you’re looking for a Trustee to invite to your cultivation event.
The Scottish Charity Regulator generally provides less information, but is still worth a look. For company information, Companies House is a good place to search to find out if a prospect holds any Director positions. I personally find that the website Endole presents all the information in a much easier way, including information such as Turnover and Assets. Other free resources include donations made to political parties (including names, amounts and parties) and Debrett’s People of Today.
- Paid-For Resources
If you do have the resource to spend some money, then there are a whole range of really great tools available. Services such as Prospecting for Gold offer database wealth screening as well as profiles for individuals. Mint UK is a corporate database and useful for looking up company ownership. Wealth Engine is a great resource too, as it includes donations given to other organisations and a summary of the types of recent investments made, as well as giving an estimate gift capacity rating. A tool such as Mosaic profiling can also be a quick way to screen a large list of people, as it groups postcodes by average income, spending habits and family make up.
- Researching Wealth and Address Information
If you already have an address for someone, then popping it into a search engine like Zoopla will give you an estimated house price, and if you want to be super precise, the Land Registry Price Paid dataset lets you search for the price that a property was actually sold for. Of course, this isn’t an indicator of liquid wealth, as the owner of a £1 million house may have all their spare cash tied up in the property. If you don’t have an address for someone you can search on a website such as 192.com, though it will require you to purchase credits after a few searches. This will also give you the names of other people living in the house if you’re looking for spouse information.
- Social Media
A well updated LinkedIn profile is Prospect Research gold and also useful for identifying the right person to get in contact with at an organisation. Twitter and Facebook are also great tools, as people can provide a wealth of information about their interests and personality.
News articles can be a good place to look, especially searching for a prospect name in a local newspaper. This can also be useful for any due diligence work you might be undertaking. Your local library may have access to online news resources that can be accessed remotely. It’s worth trying to get hold of a copy of the Sunday Times Rich List each April too.
- Peer Support
Get involved with the prospect research community. I recently joined the Institute of Fundraising as an Associate Member, and attended the Researchers in Fundraising Conference last year which was really great. I’ve signed up to their Mentoring scheme, which has paired me up with the Senior Research Analyst at the University of Cambridge, who has been incredibly helpful. The online community is also very helpful; the Prospect Research UK yahoo group is a great resource.
- Stay curious!
I’ve found myself stumbling across of range of odd and interesting resources when researching prospects, including a database of boat ownership (for your really high-net worth individuals with a few yachts) and applications prospects have made for planning permission to local councils!
Prospect Research can be hugely rewarding if you have a curious mind, especially when you can track the results of your research in gifts made to your organisation. It can really ensure your Fundraising is at its most resourceful meaning your organisation can continue to do fantastic work.