I met her on Tuesday, in Bilbao, Spain. She had started back in work on Monday after a two year break. Trained as a journalist, she had been allocated a new job at the NGO. One that had never existed, before Monday.
Paula is the NGO’s first prospect researcher. The latest recruit in Europe to fundraising’s most exciting profession.
Most exciting? Aren’t you being a bit hyperbolic, Chris? What about the glamorous folk who do events, or the facers on the street with their VR technology? Or the growing band of major donor fundraisers? Isn’t that more exciting?
No. They are welcome to their red carpets, their Samsung Edges and their private dining rooms. None of them are half as productive as a good prospect researcher, nor at such an exciting moment in the professionalization of fundraising.
You are the Dean of a Business School. You want to run a €100m campaign to expand the School. You go out and recruit a team of 6 fundraisers and a couple of assistants. They tell you that they need good research, so you hire one prospect researcher.
The six fundraisers bring in a total of €120m. That’s €20 million each. Fabulous result … except that it would not have happened at all if you had not had that prospect researcher. She was the one who found the names you met. She was the one who found your top donors. She was the one who gave you the profiles and the briefings, suggesting you could ask more than you thought.
It’s her, the prospect researcher, who wins the productivity gold medal. Because she found most of that €120 million.
She is far too modest to claim that prize. But this month, Prospect Development Pride Month, she can.
It’s Exciting, here in Europe
Prospect research, and by extension philanthropy and fundraising, is going through a revolution here in Europe.
It’s a revolution in transparency. Thanks to the growth of professional staff amongst Europe’s foundations – staff who want to talk about their foundation’s successes – and thanks to governments pushing foundations to open up, we can see further, and deeper than ever before.
The Dutch Government has recently passed regulations requiring endowed foundations there to publish their accounts. The Catalan government has passed a law requiring transparency amongst publicly funded foundations, as has the Spanish government. Switzerland’s increasingly professional foundation sector has opened up with an association website, and the Scottish charity regulator is about to put many charity accounts online.
If you live on the other side of the Atlantic all of this will sound woefully like the Dark Ages. But for us, here in Europe, it is an exciting time. Because transparency means not only that we can do better prospect research but also that philanthropists themselves can see what their peers are doing.
A significant barrier to the growth of high-value philanthropy here in Europe is that people of wealth have no reference points for giving. A partner in a law firm does not know what partners in other law firms are giving, because the information is not anywhere in the public domain. In the UK there is now significant reporting of donations in the public domain; at Factary we research and compile this into Factary Phi. Continental Europe has been more reticent, but recently organisations including HEC, the Paris business school, or the Musée du Louvre have started to publish the names of major donors. At last, philanthropists in Europe can see how much they should be giving.
Transparency is transforming our profession.
Paula has an exciting career ahead of her. She is joining the profession at a moment when it is getting really interesting. She, like me, can be proud to be a prospect researcher.
This blog is inspired like so much in my career by the wonderful Helen Brown. She created #ResearchPride with this blog https://www.helenbrowngroup.com/coming-out/ . Now, each March is #ResearchPride month, so feel free to join in and spread the, er, good vibrations.
Helen is continually updating this post (she does not sleep, that girl) with new blogs on #ResearchPride at https://www.helenbrowngroup.com/proud-voices-in-harmony/
Here is a selection of other blogs on the topic:
Twitter hashtag: #ResearchPride