Whether you are brand new to prospect research or a veteran of the field, some of the most used tools in our toolkits end up being free resources found online. For our February blog post, we wanted to share the love of our favorite free prospecting tools. The board members were each asked to share their favorite free resource(s) and why they love it. This is what your board had to say…
Real Estate & Spousal Information
For Emily Hinz and Rachael Walker, their favorite free resource is pulawski.net, which is a one-stop site for tax assessor websites broken down by state and then county. Rachael pointed out a lesser-known feature on the site that further helps your wealth estimates by explaining the assessment multipliers – that is, the factor by which you may need to multiply the assessed value to determine the actual value of the property. Good examples of how this is useful come into play when researching Pennsylvania or New York – places where each county may value the property a little differently. Emily loves to use property ownership not only for wealth assessment, but to confirm marital status by using the data from their deeds. This data can often confirm whether a prospect is married and can clear up questions about past relationships. Mimi Slade agrees that county property records are essential for understanding their tangible assets and uses their physical assets alongside their SEC filings to gauge a baseline for wealth.
“A lot of assessor websites will give both the assessed and the market value – but not all of them. I’ve more than once been looking at a property on an assessor’s website and thought ‘that can’t be right.’ Check Pulawski and lo and behold, the value is really more like 150% of what I’m seeing on the assessor site.” -Rachael Dietrich Walker
Speaking of SEC filings, what are the 8 most important SEC filings and what do they mean? To find out, Allison Kiglics bookmarked this article from Accounting Today and uses it anytime she is reviewing insider trading documents. It keeps her from opening every single filing and lets her skip straight to the ones with financial information. To see if your prospect has any SEC filings worth searching, Jennifer Vincent loves the simplicity of rankandfiled.com, which allows you to search by name and/or export large amounts of data to do some proactive searching.
If you are looking for salaries for those working in the University of North Carolina System, Jennifer suggests you use the UNC Salary Information Database which reports any salary for an employee in the UNC System as well as their position details. It is a great way to confirm employment and find salary in one stop. Similarly, when looking for employees of North Carolina government, public school, or UNC Hospitals, the News & Observer has a link to a database where you can find position details and salaries. Likewise, you can search for any South Carolina state employee with a salary over $50,000 by searching the South Carolina Department of Administration. When looking for a salary range for federal government employees, www.federalpay.org is a great resource that Merissa Lawson uses regularly. You can use the “federal employee lookup” tool and sometimes you are able to find the exact person’s salary or work history.
If you are looking for someone who attended college in North Carolina, Allison finds DigitalNC Yearbooks to be extremely helpful for verifying the educational history of a prospect or donor.
“DigitalNC Yearbooks is a great way to verify that a prospect or donor did in fact earn a Law Degree and MBA from Duke, plus a Biology Degree from Wake Forest, and an Engineering Degree from NC State.” – Allison Kiglics
While this may seem more applicable to the coastal researchers like Allison at UNC Wilmington, sometimes you come across a prospect with a boat … or a boat creates the path to a prospect. Allison shared that the USCG Vessel Search provides a free way to take a boat name from the marina (or a social media photo) and get the specs on the vessel and/or the owner. It can take a bit of sleuthing, but can lead you to details about the vessel, which gives insight into value. Sometimes you may find the boat is owned by a private company you did not know they had or leads you to a city you did not know they had ties. Then, of course, you will be off to county records to see what else you can find.
Daniel Moody says that his favorite free resource is on our Member Resources tab where you can watch our pre-recorded webinars from the past few years. This is only available to Apra Carolinas members, and contains over a dozen pre-recorded webinars on topics pertaining to prospect development. We continue to add more content each year and this resource provides a way to get answers to prospect development questions as they arise at your organization. Maybe your department was not ready for an engagement score last year, so you missed the webinar, but now leadership is discussing how to create one. Hop over to the Member Resources tab and check out that webinar!
"There are many times that I can't attend the live session, so I'm grateful to be able to go back and view these retroactively for some great content." -Daniel Moody
Steve Grimes created a Wealth Open Data Dashboard to help assist non-profits in their wealth screening and fundraising strategies. Daniel has this dashboard bookmarked and uses it frequently, since it is a great tool to search through various wealth indicators in a variety of ways.
Giving and 990s
To find charitable organizations in a certain state, Jennifer likes to use the ProPublica Nonprofit Explorer, which allows you to search for different types of nonprofits and shows annual revenue, locations, and classification. So, if you are looking for grant funding for something related to healthcare, you can search for South Carolina Health nonprofits with a 501(c)(3) type and then look for organizations with high revenue … then dive directly into their 990s to see where they give. You can also search your prospect name on the site to see if someone you are researching is linked to any potential funding through a nonprofit. Merissa uses www.candid.org (formerly Foundation Center and Guidestar) almost daily. It is her favorite free resource for accessing 990s. This site is easy to use and they have historical records of filings, which can help you establish giving patterns. Amy Jackson is a big fan of Foundation Directory Online, which is part of Candid now. Many public libraries have access to their FDO Pro, but if you are planning to access it from a library, Amy recommends you watch their free 1-hour tutorial first, and then bring a flash drive with you so you can download search results and profiles for more in-depth research once you are back at your desk. Candid also has some great e-newsletters delivered straight to your inbox to keep you up to date on subject-based philanthropy, links to resources, and funding alerts.
“While FDO Professional is a paid resource, it’s FREE to use at many public libraries (search for one that has it near you here.)” - Amy Jackson
Anything and Everything
Finally, if you are looking for a single bookmark to contain most of your bookmarks, Daniel utilizes the Research Links Directory from Aspire Research Group and Jennifer uses the Helen Brown Group Research Links page. They both present a directory that breaks links down into topics and has a legend to let you know which services require subscriptions, free registration, or a mix of both. Most of the links are simply free, with no registration or fees required. Interestingly, a few of our favorite sites listed above are not in the directories, though you will find many many more.
Did we mention your favorite free resource? If not, drop us an email or comment on social media and share your favorite free resource with the chapter!