Prospect Research: What You Don’t Know — and How It Can Hurt You
With access to the Internet, we are exposed to incredible amounts of information. In fact, a Netcraft Web Server Survey concluded that there were 80 million Web sites on the Internet in April 2006 — double the number from 2003.
Sorting through the vast amount of information can make prospect research a time-consuming and labor-intensive process.
Fortunately, there are some great tools to help researchers find information in a timely manner. Using good research tools can help organize your research and reduce the amount of time you spend searching for relevant and reliable information. (Click here for some fabulous free sites, or here for a handful of great, inexpensive and moderately priced resources.)
To create profiles, researchers should only use publicly available information and follow the codes of ethics of both the Association of Fundraising Professionals and the Association of Professional Researchers for Advancement, along with following and understanding the Donor Bill of Rights. Researchers must be sensible, prudent and, above all else, sensitive to the donor as an individual.
So you’ve done your research and now you need to evaluate the information you found and translate it to giving capacity. There are many sources of formulas for giving capacity and net worth, and they can be found online at APRA and AFP, and in publications like The Chronicle of Philanthropy.
But the definitive source of information on wealth in the United States is the Internal Revenue Service.
In the winter 2005-2006 publication of Statistics of Income Bulletin, the IRS released its latest statistics on personal wealth. The report looks at asset composition for estates of the top wealth holders in the country and gives insight into the more than 7.4 million individuals with assets greater than $675,000. The research, based on federal estate tax returns of 2001 decedents, is consolidated in Table 1 and shows a generalized composition of assets for the top wealth holders with assets in the range of $675,000 to $20 million-plus. Real estate, including personal residence and investment property, makes up nearly 18 percent of the assets. Stocks of publicly traded companies represent about 29 percent of the asset distribution.
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