The Hot Seat is a series in which prominent industry experts answer grueling questions stemming from prospect research to consulting to analytics. How will they do under pressure? Read to find out!
Kelly Labrecque is a senior researcher at the Helen Brown Group. Prior to joining HBG in 2013, she was a research analyst at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in the Division of Development & Jimmy Fund as part of the prospect identification team. Kelly began her career in development in 2008 as an administrative assistant in Major Gifts at Wheaton College. When not doing research, you can find her at the barn with her horse, JP.
When do you find conducting research difficult, and when do you find joy?
I think regardless of the level of difficulty of the task, I always derive joy from my work. Otherwise, I probably wouldn’t be in this business. That said, there are times of frustration. In particular, when I can’t find visible asset information for a prospect when my “spidey senses” are telling me he or she clearly has capacity. I tend to convert that frustration into creative energy – developing new ways to look at and think about wealth, philanthropy, and the process of cultivation itself. I think the most rewarding part of the job is when your organization or client gets a transformational gift as a result of your hard work!
When prospecting what is the last thing a prospect researcher should ever do?
Aside from the typical ethical standards, one thing I have learned over the years is “don’t judge a book by its cover.” I know it’s trite, but hear me out. I often think about the tag line from the book The Millionaire Next Door (Stanley and Danko, 1996),“most of the truly wealthy in this country don’t live in Beverly Hills or on Park Avenue-they live next door.” Researchers need to dig deeper than the typical trappings of wealth in order to truly understand the extent of capacity. Delving not only into giving history and career, but genealogy, hobbies, and social connections.
What would be the perfect research tool, if you could create it? What would it be able to offer? What would be its downsides?
As far as I’m concerned, we already have the most perfect research tool -- the prospect researcher. No amount of machine learning or software can replace what we bring to the table. We are able to offer actionable intelligence to our teams by providing detailed, thoughtful insight into the wealth, capacity, and inclination of donor and prospects. We also bring a human element to the profession – we can put ourselves in the shoes of our donor – what information would we want or not want to see in a profile about ourselves? Would this project or program interest this prospect or are we wasting their time? Is now a good time to make an ask if they just sent their son to college? I’m sure many in the technology industry would differ with me in their opinion on this subject. But I dare them to try!
Be well, everyone!