7 Must-Have Skills of a
Great Prospect Researcher

See also: Persuasion and Influencing Skills

A prospect research project is an organization's best method of establishing and solidifying relationships with potential donors. People or trusts can support these causes.

New donors can be found through prospect researchers by using different data sources and assessing potential donors' ability to donate and an affinity towards your cause. A fundraising team is then contacted to attempt to convert prospects into donors. It takes a lot of time and effort to grow a substantial fund base as it's essential to categorize the candidates according to their strengths and interests, but it's one of the most cost-effective ways to bring in more money.

Researching prospects is not as challenging as one would imagine. Nevertheless, technical skills are essential. Several attributes make a good prospect researcher, which can be acquired through education and experience. Skills in writing, reading, and assessing information are crucial, while expertise is critical. It's essential to be persistent and curious when researching prospects. You get better at it once you handle more and more projects.

A prospect researcher's job description depends on what kind of organization hires them and what type of personnel are already on hand. Most prospect researchers will be salaried employees. Others could be part of a prospect research team that may have even resources to help and support them more. Your development team will be more effective if you include a prospect researcher.

The following list contains tasks that researchers commonly perform in their job descriptions.

Educational Requirements:

So far, you can't take up prospect research as a college degree. Organizations often accept any bachelor's degree for the role. Obviously, a prospective researcher needs to have a demonstrated track record of obtaining funding to support their research.

Even though prospect research isn't a college major, some are related to nonprofits, so look out for those. Researchers who major in philosophy and have a working knowledge of the fundraising scene, and have passion and skills, can still be highly effective. Additionally, it's essential to remember that most job postings list a requirement of one to two years of relevant job experience.

Prospect researcher.

Skill Sets Requirements:

A person's skill set is the most significant factor to consider in deciding whether they're suitable for a particular position since the skill set of a prospect researcher is diverse, and work experience isn't always the way to assess ability. In fact, they must go over a prospect development guide once you've finally hired the best candidate.

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The following skills are essential for prospect researchers:

1. Researching Skills

Researching, organizing, and evaluating a prospect's financial status, ability to give, readiness to give, philanthropic considerations, and link to the organization, the employee uses a wide range of resources is essential for a researcher. They have to have a demonstrated ability to perform prospect research, development, library research, or related work that must have taken place in an education setting.

They must acquire knowledge of the range of resources that prospect researchers have at their disposal and expertise on how to apply those resources best. This way, they can develop the best possible prospect research methodology by implementing new research techniques as they emerge.

2. Reporting Skills

The report must include data from the donor database, the available financial records, the real estate ownership, and other characteristics of high-quality prospects. They must frequently brief the development team on opportunities. They need to administer skills in recalling, recognizing, and communicating interrelated information concerning university prospects and benefactors. They must also have the ability to succeed in a background check and maintain confidentiality while working with sensitive information required.

Prospect Research Skills

3. Data Analysis Skills

A prospect researcher should be an excellent database practitioner who can analyze large data sets, take the data, and distill it into articles the fundraising team can use. They must be able to translate large amounts of data into a digestible format for the team's convenience. They should have demonstrated analytical skills, with abilities to identify and analyze philanthropic patterns, trends, relationships, and patterns among individuals, corporations, and foundations to identify, facilitate, and coordinating charitable activities.

Project management experience is a plus, including a solid understanding of key metrics, organizational structure, process flow, management of change, etc. They can work on improving fundraising strategies for the organization in coordination with other development staff. It could be better if they work on special projects and provide general support to the development staff when called for.

4. Computer and Technical Skills

Besides understanding fundraising principles, procedures, techniques, and donor relations concepts, regulations, and practices, a researcher should have technical skills. They must have good computer skills, with demonstrated experience using Internet-based search engines, and an ability to work with relational databases is a must as well as being proficient with Microsoft Office software, including Excel. An understanding of the different customer or client management systems would be helpful as well.

5. Productive and Time-Efficient

A prospect researcher should be capable of handling multiple responsibilities and working to tight deadlines. They must understand new situations quickly, adapt to them, and understand how fundraising teams operate essential.

6. Problem-Solving Skills

They must adapt to new situations quickly and identify problems and solve them right away. They must have worked in a challenging environment and demonstrated strong problem-solving and knowledge management skills. Skills in general fundraising include mastery of prospect administration and monitoring and familiarity with trends in the field. Knowing the ethics statements issued by APRA, CASE, and the other associations related to education effectively supports their research tasks.

7. Communication Skills

They should be able to communicate both orally and in writing. Excellent interpersonal and oral communication skills are required to cooperate effectively among campus fundraisers, officials, volunteers, and undergraduates to accomplish large projects. They should demonstrate excellent organizational, social, and communication skills to enhance relationships with donors and partners in the cause.

Hire the Right Candidate

Prospect research entails a lot of risk for your organization, so the stakes are high. In hiring development team members, you want to make sure you're accepting the most suitable candidate. Prospect researchers can do a close look at your high-quality donors. A prospect researcher takes a potential donor from the start to the end of fundraising. As a result, prospect research can reveal a wide range of characteristics about a constituent.

One of your loyal donors may be a significant donor to another organization. A prospect researcher can use that information to approach that loyal donor and give them a more significant gift. Your organization will benefit fiscally if you hire prospective researchers. You can generate new prospects with thorough screening, uncover planned givers, improve your outreach efforts, and much more. To acquire these high-quality donors, find a good prospect researcher.


As a basketball metaphor goes, you want to treat your prospect researchers like your team's point guard. Prospect research teams are always ready for a jump-pass assist, a wide-open layup, or a 3-point bank shot on the court with the rest of the development team. Teamwork is imperative to make your fundraising event a success.

Ryan Clinton

About the Author

Ryan Clinton is a prospect development expert. He imparts his knowledge and skills through his published articles online. Ryan has been a consultant, helping clients in prospect pooling and pipelines.