Who Are Your Access People?
Usually, the researcher produces a standard report with (at minimum) the couple’s biographical information and history of their combined philanthropy to varied causes. This also includes information about their religious orientation, spouses’ higher education degrees, career histories, corporate and nonprofit board memberships, foundations (if any), and political giving. Typically, rating and an estimate of capacity also are incorporated.
Communication is key
In contrast, research on access people sharply focuses on salient shared associations of prospects and those whom you already know well — your donors and board members. Where to start? Review the prospect’s board memberships, given the possibility that the other board members may be your supporters. This actual research is often pedestrian, a simple matter of reviewing your own database, which must be up-to-date and accurate.
Unfortunately, some researchers (especially in large organizations) may not know which of their organization’s board members may be willing to reach out to new prospects as well as to their own networks. Sharing this information within your organization bears no cost and aids researchers to find pertinent connections for prospect development. In brief, this means developing an organizational culture that promotes open communication.
You can use the same tact as you research a prospect’s career (the boards and senior management of current and past employment), education, business groups, industry and secular awards; the boards of organizations that the prospect substantially supports; country clubs; and other social/recreational venues.
In addition, our American culture has evolved a myriad of organizations and activities that serve most every phase of the lives of your prospects’ children. This offers additional networks that can also inform the researcher’s work when he or she looks for shared affiliations.
What are the religious programs, private schools, summer camps, after-school and vacation activities that your prospects’ children are or have been involved in? Which college? Are the children in fraternities and sororities? What about other salient college activities — those with their own fellow alumni? All secular organizations figure in the overall map, as they generate their own viable, often interconnected networks. Does your organization approach this in a systematic way?