Seminar Recap: International Prospect Research

While attending this month’s Fundraising Day in New York, one of the seminars that caught my attention was “International Prospect Research 101.”  This topic was especially appealing because my organization has a large number of alumni outside of the U.S. and I have been discussing a lack of resources to learn more about international prospects and current donors.  The presenters, Marc Keller, Kathleen Sanford and John Zakrzewski — who are all on the staff in Advancement Research and Analysis at the University of Pennsylvania — offered some really helpful hints.

A few interesting things to consider as you look for information on your international prospects and donors:

  • To keep track of currency variations and conversion rates, they recommended using
  • Be aware of cultural variances in names, especially the order of first and last names and spelling variations (e.g Al Hamid vs. Al Hameed vs. El Hamid vs. Al-Hameed)
  • Note the differences in business titles around the world in comparison to the United States.  For example in Asia, board members are commonly referred to as “Managing Directors” and CEOs are commonly known as “Directors.”
  • When trying to do research in Muslim countries, try to determine how strictly the government sticks to Shariah law, which forbids the accrual of interest and may then not keep as thorough records on financial transactions.  As there are no international banking standards among this group, they tend to vary from country to country.

The presenters also shared various resources that are useful to build an international prospect pool and/or track your international donors.  The following are the free resources that they covered:

  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • The UK Charity Commission — This can be used similar to The Foundation Center Online in looking at the activities of foundations and other charitable organizations in the United Kingdom.
  • The websites of internationally-based corporations are more likely to be more transparent about the compensation of their top executives and to have this information easily accessible.
  • Zoopla — The UK version of, where you can look up estimated values of real estate.
  • — The French version of, though it tends to provide real estate values by the square foot, instead of the total value of a parcel of land.  If you do not read French, I’d recommend using Google Translate to navigate the site.
  • Global Rich Lists — Keep your eyes open on various lists like Forbes Magazine’s World’s Billionaires, Forbes Global 2000, the Hurun Report of China’s Business Leaders, The London Times Rich List, the Wealth Bulletin, and the BRW Magazine Rich 200 (Australia — this link is to their 2011 listings).
  • Financial Times — If you are looking for specific FT articles, put the headline into Google and you should be able to get around the subscriber paywall through an agreement they have to provide access to specific articles.

One last great piece of advice that the presenters provided was that paid research sources (Lexis-Nexis, TraceSmart, BoardEx) are useful, but not essential.  Prior to this workshop, I definitely felt like there was no way to do any of this research without using a paid service, but now I feel a bit better about it.  Obviously, most nations do not keep their real estate and financial records in the same manner as we do here in the United States (and many are not interested in changing), so international prospect research will continue to evolve and change as (hopefully) more information becomes available to help us all be more effective in engaging international prospects and donors.

What resources have you used in international prospect research?


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3 Replies to “Seminar Recap: International Prospect Research”

  1. Thank you for posting a summary of this workshop, Dan. To answer your question a little indirectly, I think it’s important to start by identifying where we have clusters of international alumni and then become as familiar as possible with the ever-changing business, wealth, and philanthropy trends in those countries. In the process of learning about these developments, we can come to understand what kind of information is available, in what format, and released by whom. Those insights in turn will help identify the best sources to use in your research projects. For instance, Facebook may be useful for American prospects and some international prospects, but it is not used widely in Japan. Knowing why this is the case (concerns about privacy) and what alternatives exist in Japan comes from developing a broad knowledge of research-relevant information for Japan. Without that background knowledge, you might spend a lot of time looking fruitlessly at Facebook, when the info you need is actually to be found elsewhere. It takes a while to build this knowledge base, but I think it’s worth it for researchers working with large groups of international prospects.

    1. Beth,

      Thanks for chiming in! Your points are right on and they are exactly why you are working on those prospect research guides by country (which will be a big help to fundraisers around the world).

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