Prospect researchers discuss a dynamic future

publication date: Aug 21, 2012
author/source: Kyla Makela
Anderson Charters of the Canadian Donors Guide recently gathered some top minds in Canadian prospect research to consider the needs of the sector. Charters also operates CharityCAN, an online site used to search for, analyze, compare and report on charities and funders. The goal of this gathering was to explore the world of in-depth relationship mapping and how service providers can provide comprehensive and integrated resources to researchers.

Historically, relationship "mapping" has consisted of massive spreadsheets listing constituent/prospect names and their connections. This rare meeting brought forth a consensus that organizations and their leaders are eager for deeper insight into the degrees of separation within their affiliates and ways to accurately present these relationships to their leadership staff.

Tim Wowk of Queen's University described their mapping methodology that won his team an award from the Canadian Council for the Advancement of Education. They have used TouchGraph, a web-based service available through their intranet that continually updates as data changes. TouchGraph and other services such as Prospect Visual can offer a variety of data mining options which will present useful visuals and uncover hidden relationships.

With more than 17 years experience in prospect research, Jennifer Zhang is considered an expert in the field. Currently head of prospect research for the campaign at Sunnybrook Health, Jennifer lectured on prospect research at both Ryerson University and the University of Toronto.

Her comments were in step with the rest of the group: "Relationship mapping will be a huge area of growth in the future. ...There are very limited choices of quality commercial databases that provide such service. Fundraising is friendraising in a sense, so identifying relationships and connections are extremely important."

It will certainly be a topic for discussion and education at the upcoming October Association of Prospect Research for Advancement conference. All who participated in this conversation agree that better tools will be needed to adapt to 21st-century fundraising in an increasingly interconnected world.

Charters and CharityCAN keep pushing forward to facilitate better quality prospect research by pulling in Canada Revenue Agency data, NOZA, which bills itself as the world's largest donations database, Elections Canada, Corporations Canada and information from Canadian Who's Who, which has over 22,000 authoritative biographies on notable Canadians.

Kyla Makela is a postgraduate student in the Fundraising Program at Humber College and is spending her internship as an analyst in Philanthropic Advisory Services with Scotia Private Client Group. With over 10 years in the sector, she has worked in several capacities including prospect research for the Nature Conservancy of Canada and Director of Education with the South Florida Wildlife Centre.

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