We’re kicking off the New Year with a resolution to be more efficient searchers, and so we’ve asked the fantastic Sabine Schuller, Research Specialist at The Rotary Foundation, to help outline her best search strategies. Sabine reminds us that, even before we get down to the nitty gritty of the hunt for information online, there are things we can do to be efficient. In this month’s blog post, we asked Sabine to give us a sneak preview of one of the tips in her presentation, and here’s what she shared…
So you’re feeling very pleased with yourself. You worked late three days in a row and finally finished that comprehensive research report on the Michigan apple industry. You analyzed GIS maps until your eyes bled, reviewed every Department of Agriculture report on record, and even estimated future price trends. You proudly hand your ten pages of triple checked analysis to the gift officer who requested the information. Her eyes widen as she says, “Oh, wow – this is great stuff. But all I really wanted was to know how to stop apple slices from browning.” At this point you smile and say “No problem” as you run back to your desk. Otherwise you’re afraid you’ll start screaming. As you do your calming deep breathing exercises, you wonder how things could have gone so very, very wrong.
This is one extreme example of what project management circles call the “Goldilocks problem.” Providing too little information is disastrous to your job security, but on the other hand you don’t want your work labeled TLDR (Too Long Didn’t Read). But how to strike that “just right” balance? Unless your workplace perfected its mind reading techniques, your most effective tool is what’s called a “reference interview” or an “information needs assessment.” A reference interview is a researcher led structured discussion that helps decide precisely what information is needed. Open ended questions like “How could I make the information I find more useful for you?” and “If I can’t find exactly that, what would be second-best?” will help your co-workers strategize. The reference interview process will help them decide what they absolutely need to know to move the potential gift forward.
At this point, you may be wondering “That sounds like a great idea, but who has time?” Let me frame it this way: How much more time would you have to uncover new donors if you knew you only had to find a, b, and c? You wouldn’t be tracking down the entire alphabet! Think of reference interviews as the next level of cooperation between donor researchers and gift officers who both support your organization in their own unique ways.
Learn more advanced search strategies like this at the ShareTraining Live webinar Sharpen Your Search: Getting to the Right Places in Record Time