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Internet Searches: Here Today, Gone Tomorrow?

Our research guru, Meghan Jamison, spices up our blog with her “Ah-Ha!” tips on on prospect research. We’re always excited to share her expertise and learning with you!

I just got back from the 2016 Association of Professional Researchers for Advancement (APRA) Conference in Nashville.

Did you even know there was a conference for fundraising prospect researchers? Well, I went (and had a blast!) and I’ve brought my biggest takeaway home for you.

While you might think the Internet has all the information you need to research donors, there are changes taking place that are making Internet research more and more challenging.

  1. A lot of Internet searches today are free, but that’s changing…

The Internet is an abyss of (mostly) free information that is in high demand. There are folks developing ways to profit from this information. Essentially, a free search today might require a credit card tomorrow.

  1. People can petition to have information about them removed from the Internet.

I remember when the Internet came out. Everyone kept saying, “when it’s out there, it’s out there.” And whilst there’s a lot of truth to that, a prospect can now petition or use other methods to minimize or eliminate personal information about themselves on the Internet.

  1. While you’re searching the Internet, the Internet is searching you.

Did you know that web search results are modified and varies by user? The Internet is now tailoring our results based on what it thinks we want to see. This is a problem in research because we’re not seeing the full story.

So, what can you do?

  • Invest in research databases that are either prospect research specific or that house public records. These paid-for resources are invaluable when it comes to painting a complete picture of your donor, their philanthropic interests, and determining their capacity.
  • Utilize multiple search browsers and engines. We’re all guilty of using the same search engine over and over, mine is Google Chrome. By using a different search engine, you can yield more results and expand your research. Next time you’re searching, try DuckDuckGo, Bing, Yahoo, Safari, Firefox or Internet Explorer.
  • Practice advanced search methods (ie: Boolean searches, search engine short cuts, etc.). More often than not, your prospect shares their name with someone else, or has multiple spelling variations. When this happens, you end up searching for a needle in a haystack. Advanced search methods allow you to sort the results up front, saving you a lot of time. Next time you’re researching, try out Google’s Advanced Search.

Have any tips of your own to do advance searching? We’d love to hear them!

p.s. Last year we added prospect research to our stable of services to help our clients build successful major gift initiatives. Check out more about our prospect research services here!


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