One of the questions I'm most often asked when meeting someone new is, "What do you do?" It's easy to tell someone that I work in Prospect Research, but sometimes not nearly as easy to describe it. After working in the field for 25 years now, you'd think it would be easier, but I find it often depends on who you're talking to. Some people find it interesting and cool while others find it downright creepy. After telling someone what you do, it's sometimes difficult (fortunately, only rarely) to hear them respond, "Oh, you're a stalker." #notastalker
As part of our onboarding procedure for new employees, I'm often asked to spend some time with them to explain what I do and especially the role it plays in philanthropy. While it often seems easiest just to say "I'm the office detective," I really try to show how the work I do, that we do as a profession, helps our organization, from not just our philanthropy team, but also our leadership, and most importantly, the patients and their families we serve at our hospital.
Sure, I track down phone numbers and new addresses so that we can make that ever important personal contact with a donor or prospect. However, I can also tell you things like that donor or prospect has a multi-million dollar vacation home in addition to their primary residence, that they have social media posts praising (or criticizing) our organization or that they just got a big new promotion or were mentioned in the newspaper. As part of our increased due diligence process, I can also look at publicly-available legal records to see if there's a bankruptcy filing, lien or criminal record which might not make them the best prospect for us at this time.
In honor of Halloween, The Helen Brown Group shared an interesting post about the perceived creepiness of prospect research titled What's so spooky about Prospect Research?
This post led me to an interesting thread on Reddit, Does Prospect Research feel invasive? There are definitely some interesting opinions shared here.
Bottom line, I'm proud of the work I do and how it benefits not only our department, but our organization's leaders, and in the end, the patients and their families that we serve at our hospital. Otherwise, I likely wouldn't have been doing it for 25 years now!