The most important component of what we call “prospect research” is not finding those individuals, families, foundations, and corporations with money. It’s not even finding those individuals, families, foundations, and corporations with money and an interest in your mission and vision.
In most instances, you already know who has the money. Sure, there are modest-living alumni, friends, and others who surprise you with significant wealth. But they only surprise you once. After that, you know they have resources. Additionally, it usually isn’t too difficult to find out more about a prospect’s funding interests. For foundations and corporations, this information is readily available online.
Instead, the most important aspect of prospect research is identifying the key relationship-holders who possess the ability and interest in linking prospects to your institution. Those influential business leaders, civic leaders, professors, church leaders, alumni, friends, etc., who hold key relationships with your prospects and others. Engage those relationship-holders and ask for their guidance on how best to approach those with the resources.
We spend too much time focused on looking for wealth and not enough time identifying and engaging the people who can give us access to it.