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Review: Prospect Research Perspectives on Social Media

Fri, February 26, 2016 9:07 AM | Anonymous member

By Elisa Shoenberger, Senior Prospect Management and Research Analyst, Loyola University Chicago

The issue of social media is paramount in our field. Pew Research Studies reported that 74% of online adults use social networking. People use social media for both professional and social purposes. Online people reveal so much about their lives, their preferences, and sometimes even their philanthropic inclination. Social media provides prospect researchers with new opportunities and new challenges! In 2013, I had the opportunity to attend a lecture on LinkedIn at APRA International in Baltimore, MD. The session was really critical in talking about the ethics of using LinkedIn in a professional capacity and also to understand how other shops were using the tool. The issue arose again back in May 2015 over the ethics of using LinkedIn for prospect research on PROSPECT_L – a listhost for prospect research, management and analytics--and resulted in APRA International issuing a formal statement on LinkedIn. Read about APRA’s LinkedIn guidelines here: http://www.aprahome.org/d/do/3217  Last summer, one of our vendors offered social media as a new option for research with our prospects.

Earlier this month I was asked to review Jennifer Filla and Sarah Bernstein’s Prospect Research Perspectives on Social Media and I have found it be essential reading about social media and the prospect research/management field. The book explores how do prospect researchers and managers handle the wealth of information and deal with the ethics of using that information. Aimed at prospect researchers, prospect managers, and data analysts (and maybe even gift officers), this publication provides thoughtful and sometimes provocative analysis about social media in our field. It tackles social media from a lot of diverse angles from an effective Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) analysis for using social media in fundraising and research to analyzing the ALS Ice Bucket challenge.

The publication helped me think about social media in a broad sense from the ethics of using social media to how to use the information as a researcher. The publication includes a series of articles by Filla and Bernstein who have interviewed several people throughout the field. Their articles contain information from people at three Milwaukee based charities and Justin Ware, Vice President of Digital Fundraising Strategy at ScaleFunder. I really appreciated the article of the three Wisconsin based charities that explored how these three charities with different structures and missions each used social media to aid in their fundraising.  For instance, Lawrence University “Lawrence has been tracking every social media comment for several years now, tallying the comments by fiscal year in their database (Banner). As Ziegler describes it, Lawrence was then able to “use this existing data to identify volunteers, and send them a private Facebook message with a link to the social media toolkit for Giving Day” (p18). Justin Ware of ScaleFunder pointed out, “enthusiastic online advocates often include at least a few of your major donors” (p11).

One of the surprising suggestions was for prospect researchers to look for social media influencers. In our field, the focus has long been major gift prospects. And there’s definitely potential with social media to aid in that mission. Jen Filla and Sarah Bernstein talk about how social media can help researchers understand the interests and affinity of major gift prospects…or even find new major gift donors, like young tech millionaires, that traditional wealth screenings don’t find. But they added this idea of identifying folks who are influencers. They can help champion your organization’s message, maybe even with a gift attached! They write: “Social media influencers offer us this same opportunity. If we can identify who among our large group of annual appeal donors has influence, we can ask them to give more of their influence to our organization and its mission” (p33). This is something I’ve never thought about doing. I’m already dreaming up schemes to capture that information! But in addition to this incredible insight, there’s some really important suggestions to how to make use of it, like the data collection and other partnerships needed to be able to affectively accomplish this. I also valued their comments about the importance of data tracking and possibilities with analytics.

I also appreciated that their publication talked about how we can use social media in the advancement of our careers as well.  One provocative thought was the idea of mastering one or two social networks. How many social networks have you looked at today? How many do you actively use? Filla also states the importance of being active and not overexerting yourself. Work it into your daily routine.

So I highly recommend this publication for those of you who contemplate the ramifications of this plethora of social media in the prospect research and prospect management field.  

Picture credit- Jason Howe

Photo link: Jason Howe. http://tinyurl.com/jaa3n2z


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