This post is the third of five in a series about the differences between domestic and international prospect research. For previous posts in the series, please see Part 1 and Part 2.
Checking your assumptions.
When a researcher estimates a prospect’s level of wealth, that estimate is based on a set of assumptions about how HNWIs allocate their assets. Researchers in the United States base their estimates on asset allocation trends among HNWIs in that country. Those same assumptions also can be used effectively for assessing wealth in a handful of other countries, such as Canada and the UK.
Those assumptions won’t necessarily work when looking at prospects in other countries, however. Why?
One formula does not fit all.
Asset allocations can vary widely from country to country. As a result, the wealth estimate formulas used for prospects in the United States, Canada, and UK may not work for prospects in other countries where asset allocations are very different.
To get the best estimate of wealth, a skilled international prospect researcher needs to have:
a solid understanding of wealth trends in countries around the world
the ability to tweak in-house capacity formulas to reflect asset allocation trends in various countries
Without these abilities, a researcher may unintentionally present a skewed impression of a prospect’s wealth. Sending a fundraiser around the world to visit with prospects under misguided pretenses… well, no one wants that.
The well-prepared international prospect researcher
Researchers can only acquire these skills if they have enough time to
monitor new reports on wealth trends on a regular basis
understand where capacity formulas need to be modified
create new capacity formulas for each of those identified places
This work is important to international fundraising success, but it takes time. It is not the kind of activity that can be done effectively on deadline. Unfortunately, many researchers just do not have adequate time in their work schedules to allow for this type of ongoing study and systems management.
What is the situation in your organization?
Do the researchers have a solid understanding of international wealth trends? Do they have time to explore the possible need for country-specific capacity formulas? Will they be ready for your next international fundraising trip?
Language barriers often create the impression that prospect information is just not available in a particular country. In reality, the information may be available — just not in English. As I briefly noted in my last post, the ability to explore material in languages other than English is essential for successful international prospect research. This post looks at that idea in a little more depth and highlights some of the language skills and strategies successful international prospect researchers need to have.
Research in other languages
An ability to read languages other than English is very helpful for international prospect researchers. In my case, for instance, I have reading ability in the Romance languages (French, Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese). I also have studied Chinese and, because my work increasingly involves researching prospects in Russia, have started studying Russian this year. All of these language skills help me scan articles and websites quickly to find the material I need. Any prospect researcher with skills in languages other than English has an advantage when researching prospects outside of English-speaking countries.
That said, researchers can use a set of proven research techniques to find information in languages with which they are not familiar. These techniques include, among other things, conducting keyword searches in local languages, using input tools for typing and translating words in languages that do not use the Latin alphabet, and navigating online materials and electronic reports using certain automated translation tools.
Learning these techniques takes practice. Even a prospect researcher with a lot of domestic (i.e., English-language) research experience will still need time to master these techniques, which are not required for researching prospects in the US or other English-speaking countries. As I mentioned in an earlier post, allowing researchers time to gain these specialized skills is a key part of successful international fundraising.
Do your researchers have these skills already? Will they have enough time to prepare for your next international fundraising trip?
The next post in this series will look at the differences in asset allocations from country to country and how those differences can impact your assessment of a prospect’s ability to give.
The projects on my to-do list vary from week to week, because IFI supports many types of charitable organizations in different countries. Here are a few projects on my agenda for this last week of May.
Many of IFI’s clients have a fiscal year that ends either on June 30 or July 31. Looking to the year ahead, some of them are interested in launching international prospect screening projects or looking for lost alumni around the world. Others need help exploring the feasibility of fundraising in particular countries or want full prospect research profiles in preparation for global travel. I will be working with them via email and Skype this week to finalize and schedule their projects, which will roll out in July and August.
Over the last several months, I have been preparing campaign profiles for the headmaster of an independent school in the United States. I will spend some time this week doing more research for this project, which will be finished by the end of next week.
June starts in just a few days. That means it’s time to prep the next issue of IFI’s monthly newsletter. Would you like to receive your own copy? If so, please join the IFI email list, and I will send it to you on Monday, 3 June.
For those of you who are just returning to work after a long Memorial Day weekend, welcome back! What are you working on this week?