OPINION: Thinkpiece - How a prospect researcher can help your team

Wendy Baverstock, research manager at Action Planning

The 'seven stages of solicitation' underpin all major donor programmes. Various organisations may use different terminology, but principally the concepts remain the same: identify, research, plan, involve, ask, close, and recognise. Prospect research is essential in the first and second steps and there is a growing and welcome trend in the sector for having a prospect researcher as part of a successful major donor fundraising team.

Prospect managers need to be involved in both internal and external meetings, whether this may be planning an approach, talking to a volunteer, or discussing what is involved in a project that needs funding.

There are three potential 'pots' of prospects that can be mined. The first is sitting in your existing internal database. Secondly, through scanning sources such as newspapers you can uncover wealthy prospects who have a reason to support your cause. Finally, the prospect researcher can look at existing networks and identify potential prospects with a connection to your organisation.

Once the prospect donor has been identified, the fundraiser's aim is to cultivate a relationship. At this point a fundraiser working with a prospect researcher should be able to build up a profile and plan an appropriate approach. Your prospect researcher can provide advice about someone's wealth, interests and motivations so that a fundraiser can ascertain their capacity and propensity to give to the charity.

It's important to report back to prospect researchers about how meetings with prospects go and what information is helpful.

For information about the Institute of Fundraising researchers in fundraising group, contact Elly Bohme 01223 528625.

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