Let’s Talk Research Life, Not Your Job

Many of the important decisions about your life are made when you are not in the room.

Don’t believe me? Tell me, were you there when…

  • Your spouse decided whether or not to keep dating you early on?
  • The sellers decided to accept your bid on the house?
  • Your mortgage company decided to risk a loan on you?
  • Your boss decided to hire you over other candidates?

Who is going to be in the room when you go for a pay raise or a promotion? Who decides whether your department has enough in the budget to send you to an industry conference?

The recent APRA Prospect Development conference in New Orleans demonstrated with gusto that our field is alive and thriving. Many in our profession have become a driving force for success in their fundraising departments. How did those individuals get to the place where the decision makers felt really good about fundraising research?

Maybe you feel a bit like Dorothy when she first approached the Wizard of Oz – a little intimidated by leadership. But let me take you behind the curtain…

The Influencers

In social media we hear a lot of talk about finding the influencer – the person with the biggest following and the highest engagement.  In your office, many of the same rules apply. Influencers are those who interact with a lot of people and have direct control or influence over decision making.

Make a list of how many people you interact with. How many of them directly control or influence decisions that are important to you?

You might be surprised who turns up on your list. What about the president’s assistant? She might interact with a large number of people, including you. Does the president listen to her when she has an opinion?

The Plan Man

Now that you have the list of people you interact with in your organization, pull out a fresh sheet of paper and make a list of all of the people who influence the decision that is most important to you. Maybe that’s training and using analytics tools, attending a conference, or implementing a new process.

Take your two lists and identify a few people that are on both lists – not too many – that you could develop a better relationship with. Treat them the same way you know how to treat donors. Create a cultivation plan that builds rapport, engages the person on relevant topics of interest, and gives the person more of what s/he wants. Ask good questions. What is her biggest pain point? Help her somehow.

You might also find that by developing a deeper relationship with a few key people, you meet more of the decision makers in your office.

Now that you have your cultivation plans, decide what three words you want people to think of when they think of you or your department. Think it through carefully. Now use those words when you talk about yourself and your work. I don’t mean to go bragging on yourself, but in regular conversation consciously use those words.

Not only will people begin using those very same words to describe you and your work, but you will begin more closely aligning your behaviors with those descriptors.

For more than 15 years , my three words have been:
Integrity | Accountability | Growth

And, yes, I need to be reminded to use them more!

Relationship Time

At conferences like APRA’s Prospect Development conference, the visionary ideas presented, the cross-pollination of ideas and sentiments with colleagues, and the new skills learned can be transformational.

But this year, my biggest takeaway was how important it is to choose time spent on relationships very thoughtfully.

We all know in life that not everyone will like us. But making decisions about who to spend our precious time with is never easy. If there are people in your life who energize you, who excite your curiosity by being different, who bring out the best in you (add your own criteria), then invest in them. If there are people who don’t do all those good things for you (or you for them), then gently step away.

When you deliberately examine your social networks both inside and outside the office, strategically choose the people to invest your relationship energy with, and understand and promote your own core values, you will succeed. Paths will illuminate. Opportunities will arise you couldn’t have dreamed up.

Your Job or Your Research Life?

It’s up to you to define success in all aspects of your life. For me, research infuses almost every part of my life. Methodically approaching any kind of problem – treating it like a research project – has been my modus operandi since I was a child. Back when it felt like I could learn about anything just by reading books in the library. Nothing is too difficult if you have a method, an approach.

If you want more out of your research job, consider tweaking the phrase to research career – or even research life!

More Resources

Takeaways from other APRA peeps:

CareerInspirationSM

Carla Harris has been inspiring my career for years! Maybe she will inspire you too.

 

Speaking of methodology, check out Marianne Pelletier’s resource: What Analytics Can Do for Your Fund-Raising Shop

 

 

What’s in your Wealth Screening?

Wealth screenings have been around for over a decade now and we all pretty much know how helpful a screening is to prioritize donors, but what’s inside a screening? Usually the answer is a long list of names of sources, but DonorSearch has turned that into an engaging visual description of why those sources are important. I hope you enjoy the InfoGraphic below as much as I did!

Sweating it out in New Orleans with APRA

APRApd2015ButtonsThe APRA International Prospect Development conference is about to begin with the Analytics Symposium,  Researcher’s Boot Camp and pre-conference workshops starting tomorrow.

And WHEW! is it ever hot out! (this coming from a Floridian who loves summer)

I’ve been reading hints on Twitter about the cool (and cooling) swag the APRA chapters have on offer at the chapters table. I will be scooping up my conference treasure, but I have some conference doubloons of my own! Check out the photo for a picture of the pins I have to give away – but only to those who can catch me and ask about #gogirlresearch!

HINT: Take a peek at who is presenting on 7/25 at 8:30am!

Fundraiser Alert: Politics Is Central To Identity For Many Wealthy Americans

direction-654123_1280Guest Post by Joe Clements
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For many of America’s wealthy, politics is a central part of their identity.

A recent study by Pew Research revealed that 60 percent of wealthy American’s give money to political campaigns and causes. A 2011 University of Chicago study further showed radically disproportionate political participation levels among the wealthy. Whereas only 26 percent of Americans follow politics “most of the time,” 84 percent of the wealthy attend to politics daily.

Evidence also suggests that America’s wealthy are politically polarized. Pew Research shows that 44 percent of highly engaged Democrats and 51 percent of highly engaged Republicans view the other party as a “threat to the nation.”

Maybe you remember grandma’s advice not to discuss politics at the dinner table? Well, today’s politically engaged classes don’t really have to worry about such “mixed company”. About a third of partisans report that they prefer to live in close proximity to and befriend people who share their political view.

For many of your donors, politics is a part of their identity and daily lives. In fact, you are competing directly for their dollars with presidents and governors.

If your research only includes information about wealth, then you are not flagging some of the most intense passion points of your prospects. Worse, your development officers may be inadvertently stepping on political landmines they never knew existed.

Fortunately, if you know a prospect’s federal and state level donor history and some basics from her voting record, you can convert even the most intense ideologues into lifelong donors. Below are a few tips for approaching politically engaged prospects.

  • Send like-minded fundraisers to develop the prospect. If you’ve got a Koch brother to prospect, make sure a conservative leaning development officer is assigned the file. The same goes for introductions. Ask for introductions to new prospects from politically like-minded current supporters.
  • Try to avoid using political “dog whistle” words like “fairness,” “social justice” or “personal responsibility.” You want to avoid accidentally suggesting ideological purpose to your organization.
  • Highlight ideologically appropriate aspects of your organization. Left leaning donors tend to be interested in environment and social programs, whereas right leaners gravitate to business and economics issues.

You’ll find additional benefits from political persuasion research. For example, in voter records we often find useful information not only about political participation but also vacation home address, family members in the prospect’s household and leads on whether the prospect has children in college or the military.

The good news is that most of the data you need to determine political identity is public record – from political contribution records to voter files. Researchers can find political information manually or use a tool like CivicBridge that analyzes a prospect’s political and civic engagement.

When it comes to a prospect’s political passions, a few moments of research can mean the difference between losing a prospect because of a political faux pas during the ask and winning a major contribution because the development officer connected on an issue important to the prospect.

About the Author

Joe Clements is a Florida-based political data analyst and founder of Strategic Digital Services (SDS) and CivicBridge. CivicBridge is a platform for helping researchers evaluate the civic engagement of prospects and connect those prospects with their relevant public records.  Connect with Joe via email at Joe@chooseSDS.com

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How To Keep From Being Automated Out Of A Job

robot clockLet’s not be shortsighted. Information technology has improved rapidly and many of the tasks that fall under the prospect research umbrella are automated. They are. Wealth screenings have replaced me as the first course of action in a small organization. They have. No use crying over it. And it’s not going to stop there. So how do we stay relevant in our field?

Find >> Analyze >> Synthesize

We researchers like to use the word analysis to justify our role, but we need to do even more than that. According to Merriam Webster, analysis is an explanation of the nature and meaning of something. But synthesis is something that is made by combining different things such as ideas.

Yes, we need to analyze information to point out the pieces that are relevant to fundraising – whether that is in a profile, trends in our relationship management system, or statistical analysis of our database.

But what if we could learn to take it a step further and routinely synthesize the information, churning out insights that our development officers can act on? It would be another step towards job security, that’s what!

What might that look like?

Charlie is a good prospect for a legacy gift. He has announced he will be retiring in five years. When he retires he will receive a lump sum payment of all of his restricted stock units in the company’s deferred compensation plan, which is currently valued at around $45 million. He has been a top executive for fifteen years and is not likely to be relying upon that sum for retirement and may be interested in ways to offset tax liabilities.

You are not just analyzing and preparing the pieces of information in that profile, you are doing that PLUS putting the different pieces together to create a new idea: he is a good legacy gift prospect.

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Janice is a good prospect to leverage for peer giving. She is past president of the local Chamber of Commerce and has the most relationships with others in your prospect pool. She has a high wealth rating and served as co-chair for the campaign of Local Organization.

Applying external data to evaluate the prospects in your development officer’s pipeline is not enough anymore. Not if you are capable of pulling those external pieces together into a recommended action that will move her entire pipeline forward.

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We should run an additional analysis to identify women major gift prospects. In this table are the prospects that have the highest predictive value for making a major gift to our campaign, but only one percent of them are women. Sixty-five percent of our active donors are women and as of 2009 women controlled 39% of U.S. wealth with predictions of that number increasing.

Sometimes the method of analysis is technically accurate and perfectly defective. It takes a curious mind and some sincere synthesis to process information in both micro and macro environments and make a recommendation.

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Practice, Practice, Practice … and Be Bold!

It’s likely that no-one has ever explicitly taught you to synthesize the information and provide recommendations. You may have even been made to feel foolish or been chided for providing recommendations in the past.

Be Bold! Oil your feathers and let the water roll off of them! You won’t get better at this skill if you don’t practice. And when your insights and recommendations are shot down (and they will be at least once because development officers don’t always share what they know with us), shake off the embarrassment and write down what you learned.

When you recognize that you, I mean you the individual, are a really amazing person, then you can also recognize that you may or may not be good at providing insights and recommendations. That’s okay. You weren’t good at cursive either, until you practiced. (Do children still learn cursive in school?).

So forget your fear of failure and start practicing the art and science of providing insights and recommendations. Synthesize that data baby!

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Fundraising + Science = ?

test tube2Did you have a chance to read the Chronicle of Philanthropy in April? The one titled “Science Unlocks the Secrets of Giving”? Because it was … provocative!

I am a prospect research professional. I love data! Poring over the latest wealth study and pulling out bullet points and formulas to use in researching prospects brings me joy! So why did the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s coverage in April make me uncomfortable?

First, I’d like to say that being uncomfortable is not altogether a bad thing. Pushing outside the comfort zone can yield growth and innovation. And I really hope that happens when it comes to applying science to fundraising. But something isn’t lined up properly.

What Using Science in Philanthropy Means 

As I argued in my Innovate or Die article, fundraising must change in response to the economic, cultural and other shifts occurring. What the Chronicle of Philanthropy articles were suggesting was that fundraising should be using the human research and fundraising-specific research studies to craft fundraising strategies and programs.

Human research? Yes really! Such as neuroscientific research delving into what is happening in the brain when someone gives. Research into “how the body’s hormones can affect the reward-giving dopamine levels in our brains that create feelings of generosity and trust”.

There was also a short story on how an organization gave up on an experimental fundraising strategy that involved direct mail with a do-not-solicit-option for the donor that promised not to solicit ever again if a gift was made. The organization was uncomfortable with having no way to build a relationship with the 46% who had made a gift under the do-not-solicit-option … even though they were raising more money from those gifts than with the traditional approach.

I understand the discomfort, but I don’t understand mailing to all those people who will never give again anyway. (Don’t be over-optimistic here; how many of your donors have permanently lapsed after the first gift? Do you even know? And do you continue to mail to them for years, hoping?)

Changing Perspective, Not Changing Values

 A slight shift in our perspective on donors can better align our organization with reality. We can maintain the same mission and values, but when we recognize that our donors are not “our donors”, but “people who have a made a gift to our organization” we have room to see things differently.

The science might be saying that we are raising more dollars by not stewarding people who don’t want to be stewarded, but from a new perspective we can translate that into … we will respect the wishes of people not to be contacted and we will honor those who do want to be contacted by spending more of our resources building relationships with them.

The science says we will and are raising more money with a specific strategy. Our shift in perspective allows us to say we will and are raising more money using the same integrity and values we have espoused all along – the donor’s right to make choices.

Sure, neuroscientific research studies can be a little bit difficult to decipher and boil down to actionable bullet points. Yes, fundraising research can be in opposition to long-standing traditions and beliefs about donors.

It can make us uncomfortable.

We have to question our resistance. We have to change the angle from which we view the situation. Why would we not want to respect the wishes of someone who has made a gift to us? Even when it is a wish not to be contacted.

Research is suggesting, nigh, demanding that we do our fundraising differently. Innovate or Die!

But we must do ‘different’ with a balanced approach. We must shift our perspective so that we can make decisions that accept reality and yet still align with our mission, values and the trust the public has for our organizations. The trust they have in us.

More Resources:

Female Fundraisers Talk About Wealthy Women Philanthropists

World Map VectorI’ve selected three recent articles written by female fundraisers about wealthy women philanthropists. Enjoy!

Understanding High Net Worth Women’s Philanthropy

By Marge King, InfoRich Group

Lately, I have been seeing a lot of research studies on the topics of how women save money, invest money, and spend money-studies done by Fidelity Investments, U.S. Trust, and similar financial services organizations, on a regular basis.

It doesn’t take the proverbial rocket scientist to understand why the financial industry is spending money on studies analyzing women’s money habits.  A significant number of women-often the financial decision makers in their families-now contribute to the economy with their earnings. >>>Keep Reading

What Women Donors Want

By Adrienne A. Rulnick, Ed.D., Grenzebach Glier + Associates

Fundraisers need to broaden their “toolkits” in thinking about what motivates and incentivizes women donors. Recently, a fundraiser from my undergraduate alma mater called me in the lead up to our quinquennial reunion celebration at the recommendation, she told me, of two classmates who were also friends.  They wanted me to complete the funding for a scholarship that they had seeded in honor of our reunion. Although the ask represented a stretch gift for me, I immediately agreed. >>>Keep Reading

Rating Girls

By Preeti Gill, Sole Searcher Blog

Did my headline grab your attention? Good. Here’s my contribution to the prospect development community’s great capacity ratings debate. This post isn’t about how to rate prospects. Nope, not going there. This post is about who gets the rating inside your database, once you’ve crunched the financials on an individual, couple or household. The one who gets the rating then gets pulled into your prospect pipeline for closer consideration. >>>Keep Reading

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The Prospect Research Institute has been creating resource collections you might like:

5 Benefits to Make the Case for Prospect Research at Your Organization

Guest Post by Sarah Tedesco

bulbpencilSMThink of your nonprofit like a light bulb and money as the filament. You’ve got plenty of conducting wire to glow for a long time, but are you shining as bright as possible? Is your light reaching as far as it could or are you casting shadows upon donors just out of reach?

Prospect research provides philanthropic and wealth data that helps you to spot the major gift prospects who will donate the additional funds that you need.

Below are five ways to convince the head honchos of your organization to make a strategic investment in prospect research.

Benefit #1 – Receive more information about existing major donors

Does your prospect have a good poker face? Does he enjoy bubble baths with a glass of red wine? Is he an ancient Greek pottery aficionado? Prospect research won’t answer those questions, but it will deliver the sort of information that you need to improve your major gift fundraising.

Prospect research provides:

  • Philanthropic histories – Know who your donors have given to and how much.
  • Wealth markers – Discover what your donors invest in, such as stocks, real estate, etc.
  • Group analysis of long donor lists – Receive comprehensive reports that summarize donor lists according to where they donate, how much, and more.
  • Business relationships – Discover your donors’ employers to discover if they work for companies that offer matching gift programs.
  • And more! – Different prospect research companies and consultants can deliver different types of information in different ways, so be sure to conduct research before you commit to a company or private researcher.

The fundraising experience becomes more personalized when you know more about donors. Your loyal donors are your most important donors, and remaining abreast of who they are and how to best continue to solicit donations ensures that your relationships will last.

Benefit #2 – Fundraise more efficiently!

While you’re busy hosting events, managing staff, and taking care of other tasks, your most valuable resource is always tick, tick, ticking away… Time.

With prospect research, you can pick out the highest quality major gift prospects on your list and dedicate your time, staff, and resources accordingly. Your fundraising efforts will be focused on the prospects who can deliver the biggest impacts for your organization.

Prospect research methods include:

  • Screening companies – After compiling data from a plethora of databases, screening companies return comprehensive philanthropy and wealth data to help you identify your major gift prospects.
  • Prospect research consultants – Consultants can provide you with a deeper level of research and fundraising insights on specific prospects. They can also help you streamline and coordinate all of your prospect research efforts. It’s important to know what you want from your consultant to achieve the best results.
  • Do it yourself – There is an abundance of search tools out there, and you can teach yourself or get training for yourself or a staff member on how to conduct and manage prospect research.

Benefit #3 – Find and convert new major gift prospects

While modest donations help, major gifts deliver big, immediate impacts for your nonprofit, and finding more major gift donors is the fastest way to increase fundraising. However, when it comes to increasing your number of significant donors, new isn’t always better.

The top indicator of a major gift prospect is previous giving to your nonprofit, but that doesn’t mean that the previous giving is in the $5,000+ range of a major gift. Despite only giving modest amounts, your loyal donors are your most fertile source of new major gift prospects.

Annual donors, no matter how little they give, have a demonstrated, consistent affinity for your organization. Some of these donors can’t give more, but prospect research can reveal which ones can. However, if loyal donors have the capacities to give more, and care so much about your organization, then why don’t they give more?

The explanation may be as simple as that you’ve never asked these prospects to give more, so they’ve never thought to do so. There may be other reasons, and a thorough job of prospect research can help to solve the mystery, so you can turn these annual fund donors into major gift donors.

An old rule of prospect research is that 80% of funds are raised from 20% of the donations, although many organizations claim that it’s more like 90% of funds from 10% of donations, and others find that an even larger portion of their money comes from an even smaller contingency of major donors. You likely have several major donors, but the more the merrier, as these are the people who will provide most of your annual revenue.

Benefit #4 – Clean up your donor databases

Ring. Ring. Ri…

Prospect: Hello?

You: Hi! Is this Mr. Major Donor?

Prospect: I think you have a wrong number.

Fundraising doesn’t have to be like that phone call. You can call the right numbers more often than not, but only if you have up-to-date information.

Prospect research keeps crucial contact information up to date, such as:

  • Phones numbers
  • Email addresses
  • Mailing addresses
  • Spousal information
  • Hobbies and preferred activities
  • And more!

Don’t just take this new information and throw it into a cluttered closet. Embrace the opportunity to clean up your database, so that your donor records are easily searchable and accessible.

Benefit #5 – Identify planned or deferred giving prospects

You know that you can find new major gift prospects among your current donors, and that you shouldn’t overlook even low-level donors, but there’s also a specific type of major gift to be aware of.

Many donors save their biggest donations to be planned or deferred gifts, and, according to a planned giving expert, planned gifts typically come from regular, modest donors.

Prospect research provides the data that reveals potential planned giving donors.

Landing donations, and especially planned gifts, can be a long game, and donors have long-term value that might be patient to reveal itself. Prospect research helps you to find all of these people and delivers comprehensive information that allows you to make more individualized pitches that will better resonate with prospects and land more major gifts, even if they’re gifts that you have to wait a little longer to receive.

These tips should help you make the case at your organization for the importance of investing in prospect research! You’re a nonprofit with a bold heart and an important mission, so increase your fundraising with prospect research in order to focus on what you’re meant to do.

About Sarah Tedesco

TedescoSarahSarah Tedesco is Executive Vice President at DonorSearch, a prospect research and wealth screening company that focuses on proven philanthropy. Sarah is responsible for managing the production and customer support department concerning client contract fulfillment, increasing retention rate and customer satisfaction. She collaborates with other team members on a variety of issues including sales, marketing and product development ideas.

Connect with Sarah:

 

Forbes Billionaire List Alert: What you’re missing

dancingwomensmWomen may be just under half of the world’s population, but they represent 11% of the 2015 Forbes World’s Billionaires List. Of the 197 women on the list, 29 are self-made billionaires. These may not sound like inspiring numbers, but consider the women on the rise.

Elizabeth A. Holmes is the youngest self-made woman billionaire – ever.

And she happens to be female. And she founded a company using her scientific prowess. So if you’ve been reading all the nasty headlines about how women suffer from misogynists harassing them in the tech field, consider that some uber-successful women have simply stepped around that hot mess!

Ms. Holmes is 31 years old, has retained 50% ownership of her company Theranos valued at around $9 billion, and makes time for philanthropy:

  • Board President for Improve International, an organization launched by fellow Georgia Tech alumna Susan Davis, which is devoted to education, partnership, and monitoring the sustainability of water and sanitation projects worldwide
  • Active mentor for young professionals within Elavon, a payment processing company
  • Volunteer at Georgia Tech, participating annually as a judge for TAG’s Educational Collaborative
  • Member of Women in Technology and On Board
  • Financial supporter of Girls Inc.

The real question is this: If Ms. Holmes wasn’t on the Forbes list, would you even know she existed?

Because I bet there are many sweet major gift prospect gems inside your databases and within your organization’s social circle, but you have no clue.

How Do Women Hide in Your Database?

Of the 168 non-self-made female billionaires on the list, many inherited their wealth from fathers and husbands. But don’t let that fool you. They own it! Did you pay attention to those women before their fathers and husbands died? You should have.

Even before they are widowed these women are usually the influencers and even the drivers behind household philanthropic decisions.

In her debut publication What About Women? prospect research professional Preeti Gill suggests you take a walk through your database …as a woman.

  • When a couple makes a gift, do you credit them both?
  • When you have a couple as donors, do you create a separate record for the woman?
  • What salutation does the woman have?
  • Are you paying attention to how she wants her name listed?

How Do Women Hide Among Your Organization’s “Family”?

Perhaps the easiest way wealthy women are hidden and not recognized by the organizations they love is when they are never entered into the database to begin with. Way too many organizations do not track and include volunteers in their fundraising vision and plans. Your prospect research professional can’t find major gift prospects in your database if they aren’t in there.

And what do we know about women? They do their due diligence before investing! And part of that due diligence is often volunteering for the organization.

Wealthy Women are Still Women

Ignore women in your fundraising at your own peril! Women are different from men. They think about money differently. They want different interactions with your organization from men. And they might even give differently from men.

Fundraising with a focus on women will require adjustments and adjustments require time, money and resources.

But very wealthy women are on the rise and they bring rewards:

  • Quick to make referrals through word of mouth
  • Frequently give unrestricted gifts, small and large
  • Loyal donors who advocate to others within their network

Are you interested in learning more and staying current on women in philanthropy? Click here to sign-up for the What About Women? email list.

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Researcher Sued for Scraping!

Can you imagine if that headline was about you? How would that impact your organization and your fundraising career? Would it be fatal or a blip in the radar?

I’m an emotional person. Because of this I could easily spend hours chatting about the law and ethics. But when I talk with a highly analytical, logical person, the conversation is usually quite short. Is it legal? Is it public? What’s the problem? Emotions! That’s what!

No matter what your personality type, the only thing that really matters is what your donors and the community believe. Because if they perceive that you have done something unethical and possibly illegal it can be very damaging to your fundraising revenue, not to mention the organization as a whole.

Sarah Bernstein did a very good job of examining the APRA Social Media Ethics Statement so I won’t go over that here. Instead I’d like to have a very specific conversation evaluating a specific situation – scraping on LinkedIn.

Scraping LinkedIn

I’m not starting this conversation. That already happened on the PRSPCT-L list-serv. You can search the archives for these threads:

  • Using Scraper with LinkedIn
  • Experience with ProspectVisual’s LinkedIn Alumni Employment Info?
  • INFO: LinkedIn.com and permitted uses

As a prospect research professional I would love to have a way to get all that wonderful LinkedIn data in a format that I could use for analysis!

According to Wikipedia, Web Scraping is a software technique that simulates human exploration of the web and transforms unstructured data on the web, typically in HTML format, into structured data that can be stored and analyzed in a central local database or spreadsheet. Because it is automated the software can process large amounts of information.

An example of successful scraping we take for granted are the giving databases we subscribe to. We know that the vendor scours the web for giving recognition reports and other public information about giving. The vendor indexes the information and we merrily search the resulting database.

LinkedIn Public Profiles

The first question in the LinkedIn Scraping discussion is whether the information being scraped is from the outside of the service – the public-facing side – or whether it is being scraped from behind the login – the private-facing side.

ProspectVisual, a relationship mapping software, scrapes LinkedIn data from the public-facing side. ProspectVisual never logs in to the software. It doesn’t have to. For example, my LinkedIn profile is almost 100% public. You can find my LinkedIn profile on a Google search and never login.

At the very beginning of the LinkedIn User Agreement in Section 1.2 it states:

You agree that by clicking “Join Now” “Join LinkedIn”, “Sign Up” or similar, registering, accessing or using our services…you are entering into a legally binding agreement.

 

 

 

 

ProspectVisual never enters into the agreement. That’s quite clear and simple from a legal perspective. And given the prospect research field’s warm embrace of many other vendors who scrape the web, it would seem it passes the ethical test too.

LinkedIn Private Profiles

Once you login to LinkedIn you are now bound by the LinkedIn User Agreement.  A search in the agreement for the word “scrape” brings up this line under Section 8.2, the things you promise NOT to do:

Scrape or copy profiles and information of others through any means (including crawlers, browser plugins and add-ons, and any other technology or manual work);

 

 

 

 

The question on the list-serv was whether it was okay to login and scrape small amounts of data for the purpose of identifying new prospects for the nonprofit organization.

Illegal

It could easily be argued that this scraping is illegal and violates the user agreement because scraping, automated or manual, implies taking a bulk of data from LinkedIn and transferring it for another purpose.

Legal

But how much data or at what frequency crosses the line into scraping territory? And if you are not scraping information to re-sell it, but instead to further your fundraising, is that a use that is either appropriate or unlikely to be prosecuted?

Ethical or Unethical?

If it is unclear whether our scraping data when bound by the user agreement is illegal or not, is it ethical to continue scraping? How would our donors and network feel about the way we are accessing the data they have placed behind the LinkedIn login?

Healthy Conversation

Ethics stirs emotions. But that doesn’t mean we can’t engage in healthy conversation. I was delighted that the most recent thread had all the hallmarks of a mature debate:

  • Asking lots of questions
  • Making statements based on found information, not pure emotion
  • Not disagreeing quickly, but working to be sure you understood the other person
  • Recognizing that others may disagree in part or in whole and that’s okay

Now at your next staff meeting you have a juicy topic to bring up under “New Business”. And if you are a blogger, maybe there’s a piece of this conversation you’d like to take on?

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