Search Broadly, Refine Gradually
June 25, 2009
Occasionally, I'm asked to teach the Foundation Center's Introduction to Foundation Directory Online class here at our New York library. There's a major point I always try to emphasize during this class, and I thought I'd share that with you today
In FDO, the Boolean operator and is automatically inserted "behind the scenes" between each search field. Why is this important? When you conduct a search in FDO, your results will only include records that contain criteria you've entered in all of the search fields you've used. So, entering criteria in too many search fields all at once will generally work against you because you'll narrow your search too much to be useful.
Here's an example:
Imagine that a nonprofit organization located in New York is looking for support for a new health program. Let's search FDO Professional for grantmakers with a known giving interest in health with a giving focus either in New York or on a national basis [Search Grantmakers Screen: Fields of Interest = Health care; Geographic Focus = National or New York]. Imagine, also, that this organization is looking for a program development grant [Types of Support = Program development]. Finally, imagine that this new health program is specifically focused on the eradication of measles and the nonprofit wants to target foundations with at least $10 million in total giving that accept unsolicited requests [Keyword Search = Measles; Total Giving = From: 10000000; Grantmakers not accepting applications = excluded].
That's a nicely developed search strategy! However, when we click the Search button, zero records are retrieved. We've simply narrowed our search too much.
Let's try this again, using what I like to call a "search broadly, refine gradually" approach:
Since subject and geographic criteria are usually the core of any search for funders, we'll once again start off by searching FDO Professional for grantmakers with a known giving interest in health with a giving focus either in New York or on a national basis [Search Grantmakers Screen: Fields of Interest = Health care; Geographic Focus = National or New York]. This time, when we click the Search button before going any further, we find 1,636 funders. Big difference.
Now, let's go back to the search screen by clicking the Modify Search link and begin to refine our search gradually, one step at a time:
With our current criteria pre-filled, let's search for grantmakers that accept unsolicited requests [Grantmakers not accepting applications = excluded]. Now, when we click the Search button, we find 750 funders. This is still a pretty broad search and such a long list of prospects might be a little unmanageable. Plus, we can probably target our search even better. Back to the search screen again...
With our current criteria pre-filled, let's search for grantmakers with at least $10,000,000 in total giving [Total Giving = From: 10000000]. When we click the Search button one last time, we find 63 funders. A nice, targeted, manageable list of prospects. Not too many, not too few.
Granted, we didn't narrow our search by type of support or keyword, but no worries. First, there's no reason to believe that a grantmaker with a known giving interest in health wouldn't fund a measles eradication program. Many grantmakers describe their giving in broad terms, indicating only the major program areas within which they fund. Second, the absence of type of support criteria in a grantmaker record doesn't necessarily mean that a grantmaker doesn't provide that type of support. FDO's grantmaker profiles don't always include information about type of support when the data is not available.