|This article does not cite any references or sources. (May 2013)|
Prospect research, also known as development research or fundraising research, is a process in fundraising wherein a researcher identifies and provides relevant information about potential donors to an organization.
For complete information on the profession, visit the APRA (Association for Professional Researchers for Advancement) website: http://www.aprahome.org/
Prospect researchers are usually employees of universities, charities or other not for profit organizations. Some are freelancers, or work for private companies. Organizations generally employ prospect researchers to find and qualify potential "major" donors who have the resources to make a large gift to the organization, although the definition of a "large" gift can vary considerably. A prospect researcher will assess an individual's, company's or charitable trust or foundation's capacity and propensity to donate. Prospect researchers use a variety of resources, including public records, business and financial publications, and Internet databases.
Most prospect researchers adhere to a code of ethics to protect both the institutions they represent and the prospects they research.
Prospect researchers will conduct research to evaluate a prospect's ability to give, also called capacity (how much the individual is worth) and warmth toward the organization, a.k.a. affinity (how close the prospect feels to the organization). Prospect researchers may also analyze data in a donor or constituent database to identify new potential major donors or to predict which groups of constituents are most likely to make major gifts.
Wealth ratings usually refer to a prospect's capacity to donate. One of the most common sources used by prospect researchers for this task are Rich Lists. The Sunday Times Rich List is widely referred to by prospect researchers, but its overall value is disputed. There is a large variety of algorithms that many scholars use in regards to a wealth score, most would agree in America real estate is the main indicator.
Research is generally conducted via the Internet, but also with subscribed databases like Factiva, LexisNexis and FAME. A researcher may also use government managed resources like Companies House, the Charity Commission or HM Land Registry. Other useful resources include Debrett's and Who's Who, which can provide good general background on any prospect.