By Amelia Aldred, Research Analyst, University of Chicago
Once upon a time, before I entered the wonderful world of prospect research, I was an anthropologist’s intern in Morelos, Mexico, interviewing women about their lives as community leaders. I also worked as a search engine consultant, a Spanish teacher, a museum guide, and a translator at an immigration advocacy center. One of the things I adore about being a prospect researcher is that I get to bring all of these work experiences to my job. During APRA Education Week, I felt like I hit the Things Amelia Loves Jackpot—I got to give a webinar about prospect research in Latin America. Culture! History! Non-profits! Research in Spanish!
Out of everything that I said in the webinar, there are three points I hope attendees took to heart.
First, international prospect research is about giving context, not pigeonholing. Latin America, like all regions of the world, is incredibly complex and diverse. Trends and traditions help us understand the context in which a person’s philanthropy take place but doesn’t mean that all people follow the same trend in the same way.
Second, we may not be able to provide as much information as we can with US-based prospects, but we can still help our organizations gain more context so they can make informed decisions when interacting with prospects. The question I ask myself when researching international prospects isn’t, “how can I know everything about Prospect X?” but “what do I need to know so that my organization can move forward with this prospect?”
Finally, since there are not the same data aggregators available in Latin America as the U.S., we must rely on primary sources such as newspapers and stock markets as well as other research organizations, such as universities, professional associations, and government agencies. I demonstrated how to use several useful sites including the multi-nation stock exchange site called MILA (Mercado Integrado Latinoamericano).
One of the difficulties of using primary sources for such a large and diverse area is figuring out how to access and sift through all that data, including data not available in English. I’ve been grateful for the resources and help in navigating the sea of international information shared by colleagues like Sabine Schuller and Beth Bandy; I encourage anyone starting out check out Sabine’s resource list and Beth Bandy’s site, especially her newsletter. Their generosity in compiling and sharing information inspired me to start a free, crowd-sourced glossary for prospect researchers who handle non-English data. It is full of prospect research focused keywords, vetted by people who speak and write the language, and makes doing keyword searches in newspapers, databases, foreign search engines, and documents more efficient. Feel free to direct any polyglot colleagues or friends to the site, I’m always looking for more contributions!
If you attended the webinar and would like to learn more about international research, I will be presenting with John Connelly of Northwestern University at the upcoming 2015 APRA International Annual Conference in New Orleans. I hope to see you there, and at future APRA IL events.
Photo Credit: Douglas Fernandes