Some of my best friends are prospect researchers, but…

I’m not a fan of confrontation but I recently felt the need to pick a fight with those people who knock fundraising research and say things like “why not just give all the money to charity instead of spending it on researching fundraising?” So I emailed Stephen Cook, editor of Third Sector magazine, and asked if I could write an article about this. He kindly said yes, and I felt much better once I’d got it off my chest. Time trundled on and now here we are a few weeks later and today my comment piece was published here.

I must admit to being a bit worried about the reaction because I’d trotted out a few cliches about academics (self-indulgent, long-winded, inscrutable) and I’d suggested there’s a difference between ‘prospect research’ and ‘proper research’. The crux of my argument is in this para:

Research into fundraising will always leave fundraisers feeling dissatisfied because, however much their heads are interested in the bigger picture, what their heart really desires is the names and addresses of sure-fire donors. It’s even worse in face-to-face encounters. Me: “I research philanthropy.” Other: “Oh good, do you know anyone who’ll give me some money for this wonderful project?” Me: “No, but we could talk about how life experiences affect giving patterns.” Other: “???”

It’s a good job I’m not a fan of confrontation because it turns out I’m pretty hopeless at picking fights. No one is offended, plenty seem to agree and lots of people have emailed and tweeted approving comments. Best of all, my invitation to give a talk at the Prospect Researchers conference in London next month has not been rescinded (yet).

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