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Development Guide:
Research Services

Giving News

Research Services specializes in obtaining and providing detailed wealth and biographical information on University development prospects and donors for use by the development community and campus leaders. The mission statement for the unit and specific programs and services in each area are detailed below:

Mission Statement
Research Services serves a key role in advancing and accelerating current efforts to increase private support to The University of Texas at Austin (UT) and to build productive relationships with individuals and philanthropic entities.

The primary purpose of Research Services is to provide a variety of services that support major and principal gift fundraising programs at UT. The team responds to requests for information from UT executive and administrative officers, University Development Office (Central) staff and development staff in the CSUs.

Converting raw data and intelligence into essential knowledge, researchers collect, evaluate, analyze, organize, package and disseminate publicly available information in a way that maximizes its usefulness and enables accurate and informed decision-making before a solicitation is made. Researchers also collaborate with members of the IT reporting team to support educated decision-making through the use of data mining, statistical modeling and information analysis techniques.

The following is a listing of available services:

  • Research on Individuals, Corporations and Foundations
  • Portfolio Maintenance and Development
  • Prospect Identification
  • Competitive Intelligence
  • Donor Tracking
  • Reference Services
  • Reference and Periodical Collection


Using a multitude of resources, development researchers prepare profiles and other reports on individuals, foundations and corporations that are designed to facilitate the development functions of identification, cultivation, solicitation and stewardship of prospects and donors.  Available profiles and reports include:

  • Full Profile. The Full Profile offers the most complete overview that Research can provide on a prospective donor, including personal and business information, connections to UT Austin, philanthropic and civic involvements, financial information (including estimated gift capacity), family information, and social and professional connections.
  • Basic Profile. The Basic Profile differs from the Full Profile primarily in that it does not contain financial information.  In addition to being helpful to development officers during the assessment and cultivation stages, this level of research is a required attachment to a Dean’s letter requesting approval to negotiate a naming for individuals, corporations and foundations, and it must be current within six months.

Research profiles are accessible through our Prospect Research and Donor Assessment Database (PRADA), which is available to anyone in the UT Development community who has access to the Prospect Management module of VIP. Please note: only information that is less than two years old will be visible in PRADA.

  • Donor Matrix. The Donor Matrix presents information on a group of attendees for an important event, candidates for involvement in a particular initiative or prospective donors.  Depending on the purpose, each matrix entry can include:  name and place of residence; education; place of business and job title; UT Austin involvements; total household giving to UT Austin; name of primary manager; board memberships; giving history; wealth indicators (real estate, stock holdings, income and family foundation, when available); and additional relevant information.  A matrix can be a useful tool in vetting a group of prospects before requesting more detailed information.
  • Corporate and Foundation Research. Research Services has a designated researcher who primarily handles requests for corporate and foundation research.  This researcher also supports the Corporate and Foundation Relations team with building productive partnerships across campus by researching and identifying potential prospects.

Other Services

  • Portfolio Maintenance and Development. Research Services offers portfolio reviews to assist gift officers with maintaining, enhancing and reducing their portfolios by screening prospects based on wealth indicators and other variables. The researcher and development officer work in tandem throughout the process, maintaining an open dialogue.
  • Prospect Identification. Researchers also work proactively to identify new prospective donors and seek out new information on existing sources of support so that cultivation, solicitation and stewardship strategies can be modified to achieve potentially higher levels of giving.  On request, researchers can assist development officers to generate lists of new potential donors for specific initiatives and projects.
  • Competitive Intelligence. Research Services offers competitive intelligence to support fund raising for University-wide priority projects.  The team provides a listing of necessary comparables for named departments and CSUs.
  • Donor Tracking. Researchers can monitor development officers’ top prospects for daily or weekly news tracking, which can be changed as needed. The team currently tracks all Principal Gift prospects.
  • Reference Services. Researchers can provide reference assistance for research needs that do not require a full profile.
  • Reference and Periodical Collection. Research Services maintains a small collection of books, periodicals and online resources designed to assist and support the University’s development activities. Campus development staff may check out books (with the exception of those considered reference materials) for up to three months.  The latest issues of many periodicals are displayed in the reference area, and back issues are arranged alphabetically by title on the shelves.  Bronwyn Hoffpauir, the manager of the collection, can be reached at 475-7190 or


As defined by the University’s Information Resources Uses and Security Policy, information in VIP, PRADA and anything else prepared or compiled by Research Services is considered Category-I data, also known as Confidential data. This data must be transferred securely and cannot be shared with parties outside of the university. Please review this policy in order to familiarize yourself with the acceptable use of this data. If you have any questions about how and with whom to share research, please contact your assigned researcher.

Ethics and Professional Standards

In conducting the above-mentioned activities, researchers use only public and University records.  There are several underlying principles that guide researchers both conceptually and procedurally:

  • Relevance. The primary purpose of prospect research is to ensure that the appropriate person is being asked for an appropriate gift. Therefore, research into the personal background and financial records of individuals should be conducted only on those subjects identified as viable potential donors.
  • Reliability. Development staff should be able to rely on the accuracy of all material provided by Research Services and the integrity of the team members.  This requires development researchers to assess the reliability of their sources and to record all data accurately with attribution and without personal prejudice or bias.
  • Respect. Respect for people about whom researchers are gathering information is absolutely essential. It is important to develop a style of recording pertinent information for permanent files that will not prove embarrassing or demeaning to either the individual or the institution if it were made public. Along those lines, there are sources of information which are part of the public record and therefore perfectly “legal” for a researcher to consult, but which are not necessarily considered ethical. For example, a researcher can legally apply to a credit bureau for information on a prospect, but it is the view of the majority of researchers that it is not ethical to do so.
  • Responsibility. It is critical that responsibility for sensitive material be shared by all development staff who work with it, particularly when dealing with biographical profiles and non-public information such as call reports, donor records, or ex-student records that are the property of the institution.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I request research?
Researchers are assigned to specific colleges, schools and units, as well as to each of the University Development Office Major Gifts Team’s geographical regions and certain other areas.  To request research, contact the development researcher assigned to your area. Find your assigned researcher HERE.

For individual profile requests, please be sure to include the prospect’s VIP EID. If the prospect does not have a VIP record, provide as much identifying information as possible, e.g. address and employer.  For requests other than profiles, you and the development researcher can discuss parameters.

What is the turnaround time for research?
The amount of time it takes for you to receive your research depends on the nature of the request and the current workload of the Research Services team. We ask that you give us at least two weeks’ notice when requesting a profile. We also understand that sometimes this is not possible, and we will work with you on time-sensitive requests. Similarly, we will work with you to develop a mutually satisfactory schedule on larger projects. When possible, reference requests are handled immediately.

May I request research on an individual, corporation, or foundation under management by someone else?
Yes. While you may request and view research for any donor, be sure to contact the primary manager to obtain clearance before you reach out to a donor.

How do I view a completed profile?
Once a development researcher completes a requested profile, he or she will inform you when the profile is ready to view. Completed profiles are stored in the PRADA database and can be accessed through the ‘Prospect’ tab on the VIP profile of the donor. If a profile is available, the donor’s Prospect tab will include a prompt that says “A PRADA Research Record is available for this prospect. GO ⇒”. Clicking on this link will take you to the completed profile. You may view the profiles of all donors with PRADA records, not just those you have requested, by following this same link on a donor’s VIP profile.

A donor’s VIP record says that a profile is available, but when I go to view the research in PRADA I see a message requesting that I contact a researcher. Why can’t I view this information?
To make sure the research available on PRADA is as up to date and accurate as possible, any research that is more than two years old is no longer displayed in the PRADA. Please contact your assigned researcher so that he or she may review and update the donor’s information. Please also note that even if a VIP record indicates a PRADA research record is available, the record may not always have a full profile attached. The donor may have abbreviated research available in the form of a Matrix Notes entry.  If applicable, this can be found in the tab labeled “Latest Matrix Notes.”

What is the Development Office’s policy statement concerning the sharing of confidential donor information with volunteers?
In fulfilling our advancement mission, it is vital that, as fundraising officers, we support and further each individual donor/prospect’s fundamental right to privacy, and that we protect confidential information concerning their philanthropic gifts to our institution. Our supporters have the right to be assured that information about their donations is handled with respect and confidentiality. See the Confidentiality Policy for Sharing Alumni, Donor and Prospect Data with Volunteers for specific information regarding what it is and is not appropriate to share with volunteers.

– See more at:

Primary Contact

Jada Garrison, Executive Director

Updated Aug 2, 2016

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