New Researchers Guide

01. Introduction

The aim of this chapter is to provide you with a comprehensive overview of prospect research and development fundamental knowledge and awareness of how to embed prospect research in your own work and in your organisation.

This chapter is for you if you are considering prospect research as a career or have recently been appointed to the role and need to understand more about what it might entail. You may have previously worked in another area of fundraising or development and wish to specialise in prospect research, or you may have done research or analysis in an unrelated field that has equipped you with transferable skills. You may be slotting into an existing team that runs like clockwork, be single-handedly setting up shop as your organisation’s first dedicated prospect researcher, or something in between the two.

This chapter will also be helpful if you are employing or managing a prospect researcher for the first time and want to understand what you might expect from a new researcher, as well as the support you may need to offer them.

Having read this chapter, we hope that you will better understand the full breadth of the role of a prospect researcher, why the role is necessary, and the value it can add to an organisation. You will have an increased knowledge of the variety of activities and responsibilities a new prospect researcher may undertake including establishing a new function, and you will have an awareness of the variety of relationships a prospect researcher may build and maintain to be effective in the role, including internal and external stakeholders.  We have touched on many topics that are covered in far more detail in other chapters, please refer to the main index if you wish to explore any of them in more depth.

Throughout this chapter, when we refer to fundraisers, we mean the sort of role that gives individual or small group attention to donor prospects, whether they be individuals, trusts, corporates, or others. This role may be identified by a few different job titles, some examples of which are relationship fundraiser, major gift officer, account manager, major donor fundraiser, and so on. Unless stated otherwise, we don’t mean street fundraisers, community fundraisers, event fundraisers or those who run mass appeals such as telethons and annual giving, although prospect researchers’ insights may inform the activities of all of these roles to some extent.

Contents of this chapter

  • Why Prospect Research as a Career?
  • How to Find a Role
  • The Role and Remit of a New Researcher
  • Additional Tasks and Career Progression
  • Prospect Researchers within the Wider Organisation
  • Understanding the Guidelines You Work Within
  • Who to Ask for Help and Where to Get Support
  • How You’ll Be Expected to Share Your Research
  • Setting Up Shop
  • Top Tips from Experienced Researchers
  • Training Courses 

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