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Attracting and retaining prospect research staff

Posted on 19/06/2019 by Samantha Johnston

Ideas prospect research

The UK as a whole is currently experiencing a candidate-led market, where vacancies are increasing but there are fewer candidates looking for jobs. According to job board Adzuna’s May 2019 UK Job Market Report, the number of advertised jobs is now 3% higher than it was in the previous year. In the same period, the number of candidates per vacancy has fallen by over half to only 0.21. One of the main effects this continuing candidate shortage has had on the job market is to force employers to offer higher salaries to attract new employees – advertised salaries are now £3,000 higher than two years ago.

Prospect Researchers play a key role in charity fundraising teams – delving into the backgrounds of potential major donors and making recommendations for ways to approach them to solicit donations. This is a highly specialised role and requires candidates with excellent analytical skills and a successful track record. Unfortunately, this means the pool of candidates for prospect research vacancies tends to be very small and in the current candidate-short market, filling these roles in becoming even more challenging. Most charities simply can’t afford to offer higher salaries, so must seek other ways to attract new staff.

Here are TPP Recruitment’s top tips for both attracting new Prospect Researchers and retaining the employees you already have.

Relax your requirements

When it’s difficult to find really good candidates for a role, it’s important to focus only on the essential attributes and abilities a candidate needs, rather than those that are ‘nice to have’. This gives you a wide a pool as possible without sacrificing quality. For example, is it really necessary for a potential new Prospect Researcher to have previous experience of using your database software? If they already have a good track record, this is something that can easily be picked up on the job. Focus on soft skills and look for candidates with the right type of personality.

You can also help to widen your pool of potential new employees by considering researchers from other sectors, such as higher education, politics or the public sector. These candidates often have highly transferrable skills and can bring in fresh ideas and approaches from their previous employers that could help to give your organisation’s fundraising a boost.

Make the role more interesting

Prospect research can be very repetitive, and employees sometimes leave simply to get a change of scene. You can help to retain these key staff by providing as much variety as possible within their role and giving them opportunities to share and develop their creative ideas. Giving them targets, as well as public recognition and reward when they meet those targets, can help to keep Prospect Researchers focussed on their goal. A Prospect Researcher is much more than just an information compiler; they must also be able to interpret and analyse large datasets and make recommendations based on those results.

When a new large donation is secured, the credit is often primarily given to the first-line fundraising team, but it’s important to ensure that Prospect Researchers also receive recognition for their part in this success. Your prospect research staff need to feel that they are valued and recognised as an important part of the organisation.

This also applies when recruiting new Prospect Researchers. Using words like ‘partner’, ‘collaborate’ and ‘team’ in your job description suggest that this role is a key part of the wider organisation and that you value their level of expertise.

Professional development opportunities

A recent study conducted by Instructure has shown that 44% of UK employees feel their employer does not value development enough to ensure that they are performing well. 70% of the survey respondents said that learning opportunities would affect their decision to take a job and 98% claimed they are key in deciding whether to stay with an employer or not. Clearly, personal development is something that is highly valued by the current workforce, and ensuring access to opportunities for development is a great way for charities to recruit and retain prospect researchers.

In smaller charities or universities, prospect research can be a stand-alone role or a very small team, and it may not be possible to create clear paths for career progression. In this case, you’ll need to look at other ways to allow these employees to develop and progress. You can always give Prospect Researchers more exposure to other areas of the fundraising team and the organisation as a whole. You can also empower your employees by allowing them to shape the prospect research function – giving them the responsibility for developing new analytics, due diligence, risk models etc.

Again, stressing the ways in which you encourage CPD in your job description can help to attract new candidates.

Offer flexible working

It’s now increasingly evident that flexible working is one of the key ways in which charities can compete to recruit the best talent. TPP Recruitment’s latest salary survey have shown that, for the third year running, flexible working is the benefit most valued by job seekers and we’ve seen an increase in the number of candidates we interview who are happy to accept lower pay offers in exchange for more flexible working options.

Offering different flexible working options can also help widen your pool of potential candidates, as it can make positions attractive to those who are not able to work set hours, full time or in the office.

There are many different ways in which flexible working could work, depending on the individual motivations of your employees. You could start off with a part-time prospect research position or create a full-time role by adding other responsibilities, such as grant applications. Flexitime, or the ability to vary start and finish times around core working hours, is highly popular among employees at all life stages.

To be successful, a prospect researcher does not necessarily have to be in the office every day. Offering candidates the possibility of working remotely one or more days per week can really open up your pool of candidates.

To really maximise your chances of attracting many candidates, it’s best to make it clear when advertising the role that different opportunities for flexible working will be considered and then tailor the options to your new employee.


TPP’s Office & Specialist Support team have been successfully recruiting Prospect Researchers for over twenty years. If you’d like some tailored advice on how you can make your vacancy more attractive to Prospect Researchers, or how you can best retain the staff you already have, get in touch on 020 7198 6020 or