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Exhilarating Email

Fri, June 30, 2017 3:47 PM | Laura Parshall

Sarah Richards is the Coordinator of Prospect Research for The Dynamic Catholic Institute. At our annual conference this year, she presented on the subject of "Exhilarating Email." If you missed her presentation, don't worry: this article covers much of the wonderful information she shared. Sarah is a Board Member of OPRN, and a member of AFP. If you would like to connect, you can contact her at: linkedin.com/in/sarah-richards-55735813

Exhilarating Email

by Sarah Richards

Most people do not associate the word "exhilarating" with the word "email," but I do. It is my goal that by the end of this article, you will feel as exhilarated by email as I do. For most non-profits, email is an affordable way to communicate with donors. But how can email be an affordable way to help the prospect researcher? All of the following tips and tools are free. Great start, right?


Email addresses are my personal favorite information piece to use to be able to begin researching a donor, board member or award nominee. Unlike names, addresses, and phone numbers, email addresses are unique. Multiple family members, even generational family members, may share a home address or phone number; however, most individuals have a personal email address.

Let’s start by assuming you have a donor’s personal email address. There is a great free Google Chrome extension called Rapportive. After you download the extension, put an email address into the "Recipients" or "To" section of a new email. Rapportive will look through LinkedIn and identify the profile of anyone who has that email address connected to their LinkedIn account. This is an accurate and efficient way to identify a prospect's professional and educational experience. It can also help identify their city and state, if you only had an email address and not a physical one. 

Now that we have found the prospect’s LinkedIn account using Rapportive and their personal email address, let’s find more information. Let’s download another free Google Chrome Extension called Email Hunter. Once you have downloaded the extension, refresh your prospect’s LinkedIn page. Now there should be an orange button on the profile that says "Hunter." When you click it, Email Hunter will look for the work email address of your prospect The extension will give you a confidence rating for the email address it finds. For example, it might inform you that it is 95% confident that the email address is correct. Or it may tell you it is only 67% confident that the email it provided it correct.  Either way, you can take that new email address and put it in Rapportive to find out if the same LinkedIn profile pops up. If it does, then it is an accurate match, and you'll know the email address is valid. If you do not get a match, it does not mean that the email is invalid. It could simply mean that the individual you are researching has not connected their work email to their LinkedIn profile.


If you don't get a match, how can you as a researcher test whether this new found email might be correct? Another way to check and to potentially find more information is to take the email address and put it in Google. Search for the email address within quotations. For example, “Me@mywork.com” By putting the email address in quotations, you are telling Google you only want results that contain those exact characters. Remember, email addresses are unique. If you find information about your prospect using this method for their work email or personal email, you can be reasonably sure the phone numbers, family information, and activities you find associated with emails using this search method are accurate--and as a researcher, I am all about accuracy. My team knows that I will not put anything in a profile unless I am 90% sure it is correct. If I'm 90-95% sure, I put a question mark next to the information. 

One reminder about using Email Hunter to obtain email addresses you did not already have: do not add them to your general e-mail list. In my company's database, we have what we call a secondary email location. Emails that are obtained from research or that a donor gives us but tells us they do not want generally used, we put in the secondary email space. It is also a good idea to inform your major gift officer or other team members that you found this email address through research, and that it is not one that the donor gave you. They can judge if and how  they want to use it to contact the prospect.

Email addresses are also a great way to learn more about your donor by simply looking at the information they provide you within the email address itself. For example, some people will put their birthday, middle initials or interests within their email address, such as “Paulrsmith@me.com” With this example, there is a high probability that your prospect Paul’s middle initial is “r”. What about “eyedrjones@me.com?” Dr. Jones is probably an optometrist. Now we can search for "Dr. Jones optometrist" within Google. If you know the state he lives in and his first name from other information in your database, you can use that to help narrow your results. Additionally, look at the domain name of the email address. Many states have a “rr” format. For example, “@wi.rr.com” If you did not already know, now you would know that your prospect lives in Wisconsin. There are also numerous company domains that you may not be able to find using the email in Rapportive or the entire email address in Google using the process mentioned above. However, you can still use the domain name to locate where your prospect works. If you find out where they work, you might be able to find a profile, work phone number or picture on the company website. 

Additionally, the beginning of an email address, often referred to as the “local-part” or the username, can be used to search social media to find out if that username is used in other places. For example, many people will use their email username as their Twitter handle or their Facebook username.


By now, my hope is that you have said "wow!" to at least one of these email research tips or add-ons. If you only learned one new way to use email addresses in your daily work, then I have done my job. Now take what you have learned and start researching using the email addresses in your database. Email addresses are a treasure trove of information. Happy hunting!


  • Fri, July 07, 2017 11:42 AM | Amitha Vasanth
    Sarah, thanks for this article. Yes, you have done your job - at least with me. I used to rely only on LNDP for emails but this may do the trick in future. Thanks again.
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