One of the first things I did when I was a researcher was to develop checklists. Regardless if your job is primarily prospect research, you will be multi-tasking with your organization. Developing and using checklists will only make your life easier. I suggest creating a variety of checklists associated with each level of research. There are certain resources you use for an initial profile vs. a detailed profile once the gift officer is ready to make the ask.
I used the checklist not only to help me where I am at with a research request but also to help me in researching more than one person at a time. Over time, I was able to conduct research on 4 or 5 individuals simultaneously. I would first group my research requests by the different levels. I then would access my resources one at a time. I found this helpful in knowing where I was in the process with all of my prospects. At the end of each day, I made sure that I had completed research with that particular resource on all of my requests at a certain level of research. This kept me from jumping around and created a nice work flow.
Another great use from my checklist was in cases where I was not able to find a great deal of information. If I was then asked why I was unable to find any information, I had a list of resources that I had used. This can help build the working relationship between prospect researcher and fundraiser. I was able to clearly show my gift officer that I had done my due diligence and that if we wanted to find more information on the prospect that it meant it was their turn to meet with the individual and see what can be discovered.
I also found this particularly helpful when using fee-based resources. By having documentation that showed not only did I use the resource, but showing the benefits of it, helped me in maintaining my budget for that resource year after year. Some fee-based resources often provide you with more detail than free resources and showing the difference between the two and the ROI will help you secure keeping that resource for the future. Finally, checklists are also great in showing that I did use free resources and was mindful of the non-profit budget!
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