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  • Writer's pictureCharity Chat Podcast

E248 - Prospect Research with Jess Denny

Updated: Jun 5, 2023

"“When you’re dealing at that kind of high major-donor level, the more you know about someone the more you can engage with them, it’s a very personal touch, and actually, yes a lot of that is done by meeting in person, but these days is also a lot about what you can find out about them online. Just knowing the kinds of things that they are interested in, a bit about their reputation, can really help to accelerate those early donor conversations.” – Jess Denny

In this episode we speak with Jess Denny, Head of Comms and Marketing at Xapien. We speak about prospect research, the ethical dilemmas that arise, the challenges that charities face engaging with and encouraging support from major donors, and the growing use of AI and opportunities it offers.

1. The importance of prospect research

At its most simple, prospect research could be boiled down to understanding who is most suited to support our cause. This needs to be looked at from both the charity and supporter perspective, almost operating as some form of dating site, putting those who are most compatible together.

Like any research, the time taken can be hard to justify given the often long-lead time before seeing a financial gain, especially for organisations who are new to it. Benchmarking with other charities who have an existing major donor programme may be one way to go to help get buy-in from leadership for the inevitable resource and monetary costs that it may well incur.

2. Risk

Like all forms of fundraising the adage holds that with no risk comes no reward. The chances of success will depend on how clear your organisation’s approach is and how ready you are to answer the question: ‘What are you trying to do?’

A clear vision and mission for your charity is crucial, as is an organisational agreement on the risk of spending time and money on researching prospective supporters. A clear ethical fundraising policy with agreement from your Board is also important to ensure that your fundraisers are clear on who they shouldn’t be approaching.

3. Tech vs humans: the tools you need to understand your audience

Jess talked about organisations who are now using AI to sift through the mountains of data that are now publicly available, leaving skilled fundraisers to make strategic decisions about the data.

Getting machines to do the grunt work and focussing our teams on the creative and human interface work is something we have started talking about a lot on the podcast. And the benefits of this, whether that’s monetary or more efficient working practices have the added benefit of giving colleagues a new opportunity to find better job satisfaction.

This episode of Charity Chat has been brought to you by our platinum sponsor Work for Good. Work for Good is a fundraising platform helping businesses raise funds for charities through their sales. The platform makes the legal agreement needed for businesses to fundraise from sales quick and simple. Saving charities time and resource, and enabling them to raise more unrestricted income.

Pop to to learn more and book a free demo.

We hope you enjoy this week’s episode.

Related episodes that you may be interested in:

E245 - Internal Process Efficiency With Mark Kemp -

E242 - Increasing the capacity and confidence of fundraisers with Dr Beth Breeze -

E241 - The Data Challenge For Charities With Sean Donnelly -


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