Prospect Research

Individual Prospect Research

Individual giving makes up an estimated 75% percent of all charitable donations in the U.S. yearly (Giving USA, 2010). Finding and maintaining individual donors to your organization are therefore activities that your nonprofit organization cannot afford to ignore.

Ilona Bray, author of the Nolo book Effective Fundraising for Nonprofits, 3rd edition, explains that "learning more about a supporter will help you find common interests and shared history between that person and your staff and board members, which, in turn, should help you decide who in your organization the supporter should meet and which projects are most likely to interest him or her."

View the NOZA Prospect Research Workbook [PDF] for a good overview of what prospect research is and how to conduct a thorough investigation of your potential donor.

Sample Prospect Worksheets

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Biographical Information

Having a good grasp of your prospective donor's interests and background is vital when creating a prospect profile. The first thing to do is check your local newspaper for any mention of your prospect.

Arizona Daily Star and over 500 newspapers from across the country.
Tucson Local News Portal
An up-to-the-minute news feed, with local jobs and obituaries from NewsBank.
Biography in Context
Get the who, what, when, where and how about business leaders. Go beyond the basics with newspaper and magazine articles, websites, and videos.
Biography Reference Center
Check here for information about famous people from trustworthy sources like encyclopedias, with articles you can print out or read online.

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Real Estate

Use online county assessors databases to search for property values of your donors. If you know your donor or prospective donor has property elsewhere, use Google to search for the county's name and "assessor" to see if an online database is available.

Pima County Assessor
Search using the name of your prospect for an estimated value of property owned in Pima County.
Maricopa County Assessor
Useful if your donor lives in Maricopa and you know the name of the street they live on.
Gives estimated home values.

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Salary Information

Arizona Republic
Search for information on state university salaries, salaries of executives at Arizona-based publicly traded companies, state employee salary information, and home sales, as well as other topics.
The federal security laws overseen by the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission "require publicly traded companies to disclose information on an ongoing basis," including the company's top five executive salaries in form 10-K.
Estimates for salaries based on title and location.

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Business Information

Business and consumer research tool. Create marketing plans, conduct competitive analysis, and locate people. Directory of U.S. businesses and residences that can be used to create lists and research companies.
Arizona Corporation Commission
Basic information on Arizona corporate ownership. You can search by business or use the "List Business Entities by Agent" search feature to search by prospect name.
Market Watch
Stock transaction information for officers, directors, and certain other insider owners of public companies.
Yahoo Finance
This site will tell you most of what you want to know about a publicly traded company, including who is on the board.
Forbes maintains a variety of lists, including the 400 richest Americans and the top-earning CEOs.
This website allows you to search for annual reports from both U.S. and international companies.

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Professional Associations for Background Research

Arizona Bar Association
Contact and background information for lawyers in Arizona.
Arizona Medical Board
Arizona Medical Board licenses and regulates more than 20,800 physicians, of which 10,000 practice in the state. Lists specialties, contact information, medical schools, residencies, and internships.
Search for background information on a financial analyst or brokerage firm.

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Other Sources

Searches the "deep web" for references of individuals. Results can include hobbies, philanthropic donations, professional background profiles, and more. Donor Lookup
Lists political contributions from donors. You can search by donor name.

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Additional Prospect Research Resources

Association of Professional Researchers for Advancement's Web Resources
The organization for professional researchers. Most of their content is only available to paid members.
David Lamb's Prospect Research Page
This page has a diverse offering of good research websites organized by the type of prospect you are researching.
Foundation Center on finding individual donors
Information sheet on how to research and cultivate individual donors.
Internet Prospector
This website stopped being updated in November 2008, but some of the resources offered here are still valid for use in today's prospect research.
Portico: Web Resources for Advancement Professionals
The University of Virginia hosts this website with many links for additional research.

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Pima County Website