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!
Beth Bandy is principal of Beth Bandy Research + Consulting (www.bethbandy.com). She has been an independent researcher, trainer, and consultant serving not-for-profit organizations around the world since 2011. Her weekly International Prospect Research Newsletter has been going out more-or-less regularly since 2012. Her clients include independent schools, colleges and universities, museums, hospitals, and global NGOs. She has delivered training sessions on fundraising, operations, and governance issues for organizations in the US, Canada, the EU, and South Africa. Earlier in her career, Beth worked for Harvard University’s Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations; was Director of Development Research at Amherst College; and contributed to fundraising efforts at Bennington College in various capacities, including as Manager of Research and Director of Advancement Operations.
Do you ever collaborate with prospect researchers or other non-profit professionals in the countries that you are researching, for help or advice? Is collaboration and networking important when trying to learn about wealth in other countries?
I think networking is important in general. As researchers, we are an inquisitive bunch. Touching base with colleagues in other parts of the world can be a fascinating experience, giving us insights into the day-to-day realities of working in the not-for-profit sector outside of the United States. That said, I have not collaborated with prospect researchers in other countries when working on specific research projects or to learn about wealth trends around the world.
I started doing international prospect research in the early 2000s and was working regularly on international projects by 2005. Back then, the prospect research profession was mostly centered in the US and other English-speaking countries (Canada, UK, and Australia) where it was relatively easy to figure out how to find the information I needed about prospects. When I researched prospects in other countries – from France to Mexico to Bhutan – there were no prospect researchers (that I knew of, at least) to contact.
In the absence of people to ask about wealth and philanthropy in other countries, I developed a two-part system of doing international research that I still use today. The first part involves asking a series of questions to find the best data sources. Who collects the data I need and why? Do they make that collected data available to the public? If so, is it in an electronic format that I can access from the United States? If not, what other sources might be available? The second part involves self-education. There are many research and philanthropy organizations around the world that regularly release reports on business, compensation, real estate, and giving trends. In addition to reading a lot of these kinds of reports, which are invaluable for understanding global wealth, I have hundreds of alerts set up for search terms related to wealth, business, and philanthropy. I also scan news feeds of dozens of international magazines and newspapers each week. My understanding of wealth around the world primarily comes from working in this system for a long time.
True or False: There are not enough resources or trainings on international research. Please explain your answer. Also, please tell readers about any resources that have helped you in your career so far.
Regarding resources for international prospect research, false. There are lots of resources available for this kind of work. It is difficult to find them, however, because they generally are not available through centralized databases and often are in languages other than English.
Regarding trainings, true. Some country-specific trainings are available, and these can be immensely helpful when you plan to research prospects in a particular country within the next six months to a year. Beyond that point, old resources may become obsolete and new resources may emerge.
One of the exciting things I find about doing international prospect research is that it requires a strategy for finding the sources you need, regardless of where a prospect lives. There are not enough classes that focus on developing an international research strategy, even though this process is essential.
Prospect researchers may tackle only a few international projects a year. How do you get up-and-running on an occasional international project without the ability to quickly figure out what sources might be available and best to use when you need them? When a researcher leaves one organization and joins another, they may find that they suddenly need to research prospects in countries for which they have no existing list of resources. How do you gain the professional flexibility to do international prospects for different organizations during your prospect research career? Having a solid international research strategy is the key.
When I started doing international prospect research, there were not many opportunities for training in international prospect research. I began collecting lists resources and looking for patterns in how data was collected and shared. Along the way, I found lots of country-specific wealth lists, salary surveys, philanthropy trend reports, and other resources that provided context for my work. You can see examples of these kinds of resources on my Pinterest account: https://www.pinterest.com/BethBandyResearch/_saved.
When it comes to researching international prospects, what are 3 challenges prospect development professionals and fundraisers ask you advice on, and what are your responses?
- Will my prospect in [fill in the blank] country want to give?
As with prospects here in the United States, your prospects in other parts of the world will have individual reasons to make (or to not make) gifts to your organization. More broadly, there are many philanthropic trends reports for countries and regions around the world. Examples include the India Philanthropy Report, which has been released annually by Bain India, for many years (https://www.bain.com/insights/india-philanthropy-report-2021). You can find these reports by Googling the name of the country or region with terms like “philanthropy report.” Some reports may not be available in English, so you also can try searching in your prospect’s local language and then using a translation tool to help you read the report if it is in a language that is not familiar to you.
- Why can’t I find anything about my prospect in China?
There could be many answers to this question, but often the first stumbling block has to do with not having the Chinese characters for the prospect’s name. There are many places to look for these characters – but no guarantee that you will find them. For top company executives, places to try include the Chinese-language versions of corporate websites and public company filings, as well as corporate registration materials, which will be in Chinese only. If you cannot read Chinese, use a translation tool to help you find the correct person by job title.
- Where can I find a deed for my prospect’s house?
Here in the United States, we are used to being able to look up property ownership records by an individual’s name. This option is generally not available in other parts of the world. In some places, such as in Montreal, you can search by address and find the owners name on public record. In other places, you might find property records without any names listed. Many countries do not make real estate records available publicly at all.
This situation is one in which having a solid international research strategy is key. Start by asking basic questions: Who collects real estate data and why? Are property records collected by a local government office or perhaps a national land registry? Are the collected records made available to the public in an electronic format that is accessible from your computer?
In the absence of public records like deeds and assessments, you will need to find comparable values for neighboring properties. Try checking recent sale prices on local real estate websites in your prospect’s local language. Large real estate companies and government agencies also may put out real estate price trend data that can be helpful in your search.