Facebook: A Prospect Research Tool?

I haven't seen that many discussions on Facebook being used as a prospect research tool. Facebook is a great way to seek out new prospects from not only your Friends but theirs as well.

1. There is no 'No".
When you ask someone if they know anyone who is able to donate to your cause, the knee jerk reaction is to say no. Even when racking their brain, it can become difficult to think of someone who might want to donate. With Facebook, this is easier. The average Facebook user has 150 to 200 friends. It's quite likely that someone in there would be interested in donating to your cause.

2. You can learn valuable information.
Facebook is a great way to learn about donors and prospects. Seeing photos, quiz results and status updates lend an idea of the type of person they are. Even if it seems superficial, this information can be useful in striking up a conversation with a prospect.

3. You can stay connected easily.
One of the things that is great about Facebook is the ability to stay connected with someone even if you don't talk to them as often as you'd like. This provides an in the next time you are interested in striking up a prospect relationship with them.

So try using Facebook not only for donating money but as a prospect research tool as well and see how many new donors you can achieve.


Patrick Sallee said...

I think you are absolutely right. I have definitely used it in learning more about some of our prospects and have tried to connect to as many of our donors as I can without crossing too many professional/personal lines. I've also tried to use Facebook with subtle cultivation. If I'm updating my status with stuff about my work, I'm hoping they are seeing it and staying interested.

LinkedIn has been a great tool for this as well and an easy way for me to ask board members to introduce without them actually having to do much work.

Xobni is a great outlook add-on that connects with both facebook and linkedin so that anytime an email hits your inbox it searches for that person on both sites. Has helped me tremendously to grow this outreach.

Lindsey said...

Thanks for mentioning Xobni. I've never heard of it before but it sounds great!

And yes, subtle cultivation, as you mentioned, works as well.

Anonymous said...

Hi Lindsey,

Thanks for posting about how prospect research can use social media as a tool to discover new donors.

I have a question for you. In your second paragraph (point #2)you mention learning about donors and prospects by viewing their photos, quiz results and status updates. Can you still learn this if you are not on their list of friends? If not, how can you get on their friend list without looking like you are trying to learn about them as a potential donor? Do you just come out and say your intent? Wouldn't that be the ethical way to go?

If you work for a large institution do you dislose that as well? And if you decide to do this kind of disclosure isn't it recommened that you clear this with the institution's development managment team?

I know these are a lot of questions but these are the kinds of things that ran through my mind when I was about to approach prospect profiles for information via social media.

Thanks in advance for your answer.

Lindsey said...

Great Question!

And a difficult one as well.

As for learning about donors and prospects, you can't do that without being their friend. However if you are friends with a donor and you see several prospects on their friends list, you can try to 'friend' them.

As for disclosure, yes, you should be honest. Don't say you are scouting them to potentially ask for money, but rather that you thought they might be interested in this cause. Of course, the best way is to get the donor to encourage the prospect to friend you.

As for disclosing the size of your org, I don't think that's as necessary. Just say your organization's name and maybe your website or Facebook page. Prospects can figure that out for themselves.

And yes, if you are unsure about what you are disclosing or the approach you are taking, that should definitely go through the management team. Maybe seeting a single policy in place would help for all future occurances.

Does that help?

Anonymous said...

Hi Lindsey,

Thanks, for your detailed reply! I appreciate it. I have been trying to figure out how prospect research can use social media as a tool both for their profession and in their day to day work.

In surfing the web, it seems most of the dialogue regarding social media and nonprofits usually circle around the nonprofit itself and its constituency base. Yours is one of the few blogs that opens a discussion along the lines of what I am looking for.


Lindsey said...

Let me know if there's a particular topic you would like dialogue on. I'm always looking for new blog post ideas!

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