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Daniel Isaacs has one of my fantasy jobs – doing business research in an academic setting as part of a major, highly-respected university. Development research, also known as donor research or prospect research, involves doing background research into individuals and organizations that might be likely to donate funds to the employing organization.

This involves questions about shared interests and values, other philanthropic commitments, corporate giving programs, etc. The goal is to find opportunities to match individual interests and commitments with programs needing funding, either financial or in-kind (for example, technology contributions).

Recently, Daniel agreed to answer questions about his job so others can learn more about what this career path entails, and whether it might be of interest to them.

Title: Associate Director of Development Research

Organization: Stanford University

Educational background: BA, English, University of Kentucky; MSLS, Library Science, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Type of work you do: A typical day will involve interactions with major gift officers and other staff members of the Office of Development (OOD). The OOD is the fund-raising division of the university, and as a member of the development research team, my goal is to identify and then research individuals who might make a gift of financial support to the university. I generally interact with other staff via email, and I conduct the majority of my research online. There are numerous databases that target development research, and at Stanford we have access to several of them. I research news and business information, real estate transfers, gifts to other nonprofits and charitable organizations, and other topics as needed.

How did you get this job? I learned of this job through a personal connection.

What LIS and other professional skills do you feel are most important in this type of work? The most important skills in development research are a methodical approach to the research effort, as well as the ability to write well, and also to convey information in person.

Is there anything you wish you had learned in graduate school to help prepare you for this work? Not specifically.

What do you especially like/dislike about this type of work? I like the challenge of finding information that a major gift officer will find relevant. I also enjoy working with people from across the many departments that make up Stanford’s Office of Development, and sharing information about the different roles those departments play.

What do you read to maintain professional currency? Information Outlook; general news publications; resources related to development research and fund-raising.

What professional organizations do you belong to/recommend for this type of work? Association of Professional Researchers for Advancement (APRA); California Advancement Researchers Association (CARA); Special Libraries Association.

What would you tell students about your job and/or the type of work that you do to encourage or discourage them in this professional choice? Development research is a growing field, and it opens up many possibilities, including: performing general news, business, and financial research; conducting statistical analysis on prospect populations; moving into direct fund-raising.

What other types of LIS work have you done and/or would you look forward to doing? In the past I have worked in public libraries (on the reference desk); a medical library (in the interlibrary loan department); and in a private law firm. One growing area I am also interested in is digital asset management.

Anything else we should know? Don’t focus on job titles, and instead look for environments that you find interesting. Be open to new possibilities, and learn how to communicate your ideas effectively and concisely. Build your network early, and maintain it. It is a valuable resource.

Note: Daniel Isaacs is a member of the LinkedIn LIS Career Options group, and will be happy to answer questions there!