Prospect research:

Prospect research tools: making the case for automation in universities


Streamline research to focus on building long term relationships

Charitable giving to higher education institutions in the United States exceeded $5.2 billion in fiscal year 2021, a 6.9% increase over 2020, according to the Voluntary Support of Education. This rise follows a quadrupling of the value of annual donations to $4 billion in the years between 2013 and 2019.

Foundations and alumni contributed 56.3% of all reported gifts. Non-alumnis, corporations, and other organisations were responsible for the remaining support.

This is great news for higher education institutions, who can use the funding for scholarships, facilities, research, and more. However, it also means that development and alumni relations departments are busier than ever.

Not only do these departments need to assess record numbers of prospects’ potential for giving, and then approach them with tailored proposals, they also have to ensure the prospects align with their institution’s ethics and moral positioning.

This comes at a time when students, staff and alumni are deeply concerned about transparency and potential complicity with authoritarian regimes, polluters, and bad actors.
The difference is the rate at which Xapien can process this text – it can read thousands of times faster than any human, and can read in 187 languages.

Colleges are still reeling from the fallout of major fundraising errors made in the last few years. The admissions scandal, as well as donations from Epstein and the Sackler family have tarnished colleges’ reputations. This year, Stanford University was criticised when it announced that a new climate school would accept donations from fossil fuel companies.

It is more important than ever that colleges know exactly who prospects are, as soon as possible, so they can focus their fundraising efforts on the right prospects. But with the vast amount of information on the internet, it takes teams of researchers days to manually trawl through search results in order to learn about potential donors and assess their suitability.

Automation changes that.

How automation can turn prospect research from a chore to an advantage

Prospect research and due diligence can be a huge drain on resources. Some institutions choose to outsource it to expensive due diligence research firms, while others are hiring researchers specifically for the task.

With automation, due diligence becomes a vital part of the fundraising process, and not an afterthought. Due diligence and prospect research can be done simultaneously, complementing each other, rather than limiting each other.

The research process is accelerated, while also uncovering useful connections and affiliations that would almost certainly have been missed by manual research, boosting fundraising efforts.

Fundraisers can make quick, informed decisions. They can focus on building relationships with standout prospects, confident that they are fully informed about their wealth and philanthropic standpoints. They know not just who to approach, but when and how to approach them.

Institutions that wait to incorporate automation and prospect research software into their prospect research will fall behind. Not only will they devote more time and resources to research, they will miss out on the extra growth opportunities it can deliver.

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The benefits of automation

Screen a prospect in minutes

Uncovering actionable insights can take days, or even weeks of research, when done manually. Not only does this take up time that could be spent building relationships, it prevents fundraising departments from acting with speed. Fewer prospects can be processed, and those that are may face long, relationship-damaging waits.

Automation compresses weeks of research into minutes, unlocking vast amounts of time that can be dedicated to proactive relationship building and expanding the donor pool.

How Xapien saves colleges thousands of hours

Xapien doesn’t just present articles for you to read, but reads them for you. Assets, associates, wealth, business roles, descriptions, quotes and affiliations are identified, summarised, categorised, and presented in a digestible report – all in under 10 minutes.

That means due diligence can take place at the very beginning of the fundraising process, resulting in no wasted time.

At Dartmouth College, over 1,000 working hours have been freed up with Xapien.

Before Dartmouth College used Xapien, around 30% of the potential prospects were being reviewed. Now, well over 75% are considered, and the college is able to dedicate more time to DEI and BIPOC initiatives.

From hundreds of manual checks each autumn, to on demand, automated due diligence powered by Artificial Intelligence. Watch how Xapien has transformed fundraising at Dartmouth College.

Discover prospects’ passions and affinities

Donor due diligence is typically used to identify and prevent reputational risk. However, when automated, it can also provide insights that deepen conversations and develop connections with donors, increasing the likelihood of a long term relationship and ongoing funding.

How Xapien reveals prospects’ passions and affinities

Using Xapien as a first step in the prospecting cycle enables you to enter every conversation with an informed understanding of your prospect’s background and propensity to give. Xapien uncovers key insights on individuals, from their donor history to their institutional, professional, and personal backgrounds. This enables fundraising teams to target their efforts in a way that drives lasting revenue.

For example, a prospect who has previously declined to donate is looked up on Xapien. Xapien discovers several unlabelled photos of them at the theatre. When the prospect is approached again, the institution can discuss the new auditorium being built and tell the prospect about the opportunity to attach their name to it, or mention an actor speaking at a gala dinner.

One way it does this is by identifying every face in every image on every page and article it processes. Fast neural networks extract the key features and match them across every other facial feature.

Uncover connections and gain access to a wider network

As well as developing a comprehensive profile of existing and prospective donors, automated donor due diligence can reveal their links and associations. Being aware of negative associations can help avoid reputational harm. On the other hand, lucrative future donor prospects might be revealed.

How Xapien uncovers connections and helps you access a wider network

Natural Language Processing algorithms join facts to people and companies, identifying how they participate in events, where those events took place and other people or companies involved in them.

Whether it’s a job role, investment, takeover or marriage, it can set everything in context to provide the richest understanding. It can uncover niche information on low-profile prospects, as well as useful hard-to-find information about prospects with a large profile.

Avoid risks

Traditional research methods, such as politically exposed persons (PEPs) and sanctions checks, tell you whether a prospect is a risk. However, the results still need to be analysed and checked, leaving the door open to missed connections and delays.

Intelligent, automated due diligence tools can analyse a wide variety of data sources on a subject quickly and in depth.

As they enable due diligence to take place before a potential donor is approached, the risk of having to turn down a donation later in the process has been eliminated.

Donors can rest assured that the institution maintains high ethical standards across the board. They know that they are amongst trusted peers and their donations will be put to good work, quickly, as they have already passed due diligence checks.

How Xapien minimises risk

Xapien is capable of scouring through millions of publicly available online data sources, disambiguating between false positives and presenting only the relevant information.

The level of detail packed into Xapien’s concise, summarised reports all but eliminates the risk of someone else uncovering information about a prospect that puts the institution at risk. If Xapien can’t find it, it is unlikely anyone else will.

It also enables stakeholders to prepare for incoming donations by drafting talking points and bespoke press releases.

Avoid potential risk

It is impossible to mitigate all of the risks associated with a donation or predict their future behaviour. However, automation can ensure you know every public piece of information about them that could turn them into a risk.

Many fundraising teams still rely on search engines for background checks. The analysts search for the prospect’s name and add keywords such as ‘investigation’ or ‘scam’.

However, search engine engines prioritise SERP and SEO reach, so their results can’t always be relied upon. Sophisticated advertising and listing processes that complicate online research attempts even further. Furthermore, non-indexed content is irretrievable through these kinds of searches.

How Xapien helps you avoid potential risks

Xapien searches PEPs and sanctions databases, news and media articles, corporate records and wider internet data from sites such as LinkedIn, Wikileaks, offshore leaks, and more. NLP and machine learning algorithms tie together oblique references to the prospect and the topics related to them, saving hours of wading through search results and websites.

For example, a prospect might not be sanctioned, but could appear in media articles as a ‘close friend’ of a sanctioned figure. Traditional sanctions checks would not highlight these links.

The reports come with a section on direct and indirect risks. This allows fundraisers to discount irrelevant risks that they would previously have spent hours reading through. Information from 133 language sources and counting is compiled and translated into English, so you can be assured you’ve seen everything.


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