The Best Tools, Tips, and Tricks for Researching Doctors as Prospects
In the field of prospect research, it’s often helpful to have researchers on your team who specialize in certain areas. For example, in my department at the Indiana University Foundation, I specialize in the health-related sciences, specifically doctors and nurses. Doctors are obvious prospects to pursue, as they typically have disposable income and a desire to give back to the community.
In addition, recent research shows that only 6% of doctors within the United States consider themselves “ahead of schedule” in saving for retirement, and that half are “behind where they would like to be.” In light of these statistics, doctors are a great constituent group to cultivate for planned gifts.
Because providing development officers with a full picture of a prospect can be a tricky and time-consuming process, I’m going to break down the ways to thoroughly research doctors and nurses. My goal is to help you provide your frontline fundraisers with the best and most complete picture of their prospects before each visit.
Below you’ll find several resources useful for researching doctors. Stay tuned for part two, where I’ll dive into how to research nurses.
The first place you want to search when working on a doctor is the Federation of State Medical Boards. This national database allows you to look up doctors by name. The results will provide you with the doctor’s full name, gender, location, certifications, education, states in which the doctor has active licenses, and any negative actions/sanctions that the doctor has received.
Once you locate the doctor in the national database, you can search for the doctor’s license in the database for the state(s) in which he or she practices. State license database results vary widely. Some states, such as Indiana, provide brief information, including name, location, practice name, issue date, expiration date, area of specialty, and previous negative actions/sanctions. Other states, such as Florida, provide extremely detailed information, including name, practice information, whether the doctor participates in Medicaid, academic appointments and specialty certifications that he or she might have, disciplinary actions, and email address. This information will provide a strong base on which to build a profile of your prospect.
Your next stop should be the doctor’s practice website. Most practices will provide a basic biography on each of its doctors. These biographies usually include the doctor’s name and area of specialty, but they can also give information on research interests, interests outside medicine, and the doctor’s family. Most of the time they’ll also contain a picture, which is always of strong interest to development officers as they enjoy being able to put faces to names before meetings.
In addition to the practice website, you should search the physician directories of any local hospitals. While these directories usually only provide basic information on the physicians who practice at the hospital, it’s valuable to understand at which hospitals your prospect has privileges, since this information can affect a doctor’s salary.
Secretary of State
According to a 2008 Health Tracking Physician Survey, 56% of physicians either own or are part owners of their practices. As such, it is important to determine who owns the practice at which your prospect works. You can usually find this information on the particular state’s Secretary of State website. If you discover that your prospect owns or partially owns the practice, then you can search for the sales of that practice and, when determining your prospect’s capacity, include sales instead of an estimated salary.
In addition, doctors often give via their practices. If your development officer plans on soliciting a doctor, then it’s important for the officer to understand whether he is soliciting just the doctor or the doctor and the practice. If the doctor co-owns the practice, then it’s possible that the doctor will be able to convince the partners to join together and provide a larger, joint gift.
A number of other databases exist that you should check in order to glean additional information on your prospect.
The first is the WebMD search. This database provides you with basic information on the doctor, including area of focus, practice location, and years of experience. This information is important if you are trying to determine whether the doctor is close to retirement age and, as such, might be interested in discussing a planned gift.
HIPAASpace is a great website to use to verify the data that you’ve already located. Updated daily, the site includes practice location, area of specialty, gender, and whether the doctor is an owner of his or her practice.
Medesprit is similar to LinkedIn, but for doctors. It can be a treasure trove if you can locate your doctor on this site. The information is self-reported and can provide everything from professional memberships and awards to employment history and interests.
American Medical Association (AMA)
While this search could technically fall under a specialty association search, I prefer to use it for every doctor I research. My reasoning is as follows: The database contains similar information on both members of the AMA and non-members. Regardless of whether your prospect is an AMA member, the information provided is often useful.
Qforma’s Most Influential Doctors
This list contains thousands of doctors who are considered “thought leaders” in more than 300 cities in the United States. If your prospect happens to be on the list, then it’s likely that he or she is well-respected in the field. Not only could these doctors be strong prospects, but they might also be able to influence others within the medical community to give to your cause.
This website allows you to compare two doctors in regard to their interests and services. It can be useful for helping your development officer prioritize whom to visit when you don’t have any wealth or giving information on which to base your decision.
The website also provides patient reviews of the doctor, which are vital when conducting due diligence to determine whether to solicit a prospect for a named gift or transformational gift.
Doctors often volunteer their services and time to local nonprofits and specialty-related organizations. GuideStar, which is free, allows you to search for nonprofit organizations based on name and location.
If you determine that your prospect is, in fact, involved with an nonprofit organization, you can pull up the organization’s most recent 990 to learn his or her connection is to the organization, what the organization gives to, whether the doctor has an influence over those giving decisions, and whether the doctor is being paid to provide his or her services and time to the organization.
Once you’ve gathered basic information on your doctor, you’ll want to delve deeper into the doctor’s specific areas of interest by looking at memberships in specialty associations. You may have already located this information in the above databases. If so, you can simply look up those organizations and verify the doctor’s membership via their membership directories, if they are public.
If not, you’ll need to check the American Board of Medical Specialties’ Certification Matters database, which allows you to determine through what organization(s) the doctor is certified.
Identifying membership in a specialty organization is important for two reasons. First, it indicates an interest in a particular area of medicine and, second, the biographies in these databases often provide additional information on, and a photo of, the doctor.
Also keep in mind that membership in these organizations is often voluntary, meaning that the doctor has such strong interest that he or she is willing to spend money to be involved. As such, it’s likely that the doctor would be willing to provide funding for a program within this area at your organization.
State and Local Associations
Not only does locating your doctor in state and local association directories provide additional biographical information for your profile, but it can also provide insight into the doctor’s connection to the community.
For example, if a doctor is a member of the Indianapolis Medical Society, but not the Indiana State Medical Association, it could mean that the doctor has a strong connection to the Indianapolis community, but not to Indiana as a whole. Such information is often useful when determining whether your prospect may be interested in funding programs that benefit only individuals within his immediate community or wider-reaching programs.
Alma Mater Website(s)
It may seem like a logical step to search a doctor’s alma mater website(s), but you’d be surprised how often this slips through the cracks. These websites can be a wealth of information, containing alumni directories, newsletters, spotlights and alumni updates, and articles about the doctor’s time in school. The doctor’s student interests can hint at what programs he or she might be interested in supporting.
Closest Medical School
If you will recall, in the Florida license database example above, we saw that some licenses list schools at which the doctor is a faculty member. To a similar end, it is important to check the faculty listings of any medical schools near where your prospect lives and/or works.
Faculty membership is important for three reasons. First, it shows a desire to pass on knowledge and expertise to the next generation of doctors. It’s only a small step from this desire to a desire to fund programs for future doctors.
Second, your prospect’s position within the school may say a great deal about him or her. If the doctor is a high-ranking member of the faculty, it’s likely that he or she is spending more time at the school—and possibly doing research—than actively practicing. However, if the doctor is a part-time faculty member, it’s likely that he or she is teaching only a few classes a semester and spending more time practicing. In addition, if the prospect is a volunteer clinical faculty member, his or her desire to give back to the next generation is very strong. As such, the prospect may be interested in helping to fund internships, residencies, and fellowships for medical students.
Third, medical school websites often include information of a more personal nature, such as hobbies, interests, and family details. This information allows your development officer to create a deeper, more personal connection with the prospect.
Don’t overlook local newspapers as a source of information on prospects, especially prominent prospects like doctors. These articles can provide you with information on causes that the prospect is passionate about, family specifics (such as the names and ages of his children and where they attend school—if you discover that the child attends a private school, you must consider the impact of private school tuition on the prospect’s ability to give), and connections that the doctor may have to the community via community boards and/or programs.
An important aspect of providing a capacity rating on a doctor is salary compensation. If you’re able to determine that a doctor owns the practice and you’re also able to locate the sales for that practice, then your job here is complete.
However, if you are unable to determine whether or how much a doctor owns of the practice, then you’ll need to provide the development officer with an estimated salary. The best way to create this estimate is to compare a number of salary surveys and then use an average of the salaries for the area in which the doctor practices. The salary surveys that I often use, in addition to Salary.com and Glassdoor, are the Medscape Physician Compensation Report 2015, Forbes’ 2012 salary survey, Becker’s Hospital Review for 2012 and 2013, and The Atlantic‘s 2015 salary survey.
Becker’s Hospital Review is a unique resource in that, in addition to an average salary, it shows how much certain areas of practice (e.g., orthopedics) bring in to a hospital on an annual basis. This information could be useful to a development officer meeting with a high-ranking executive at a medical practice or hospital. The officer could use it to convince the executive to fund training programs in certain areas because the training will pay off in dividends in the future.
Doctors often own properties in more than one state, especially vacation homes. As such, you should always search for additional real estate in your prospect’s name or with your prospect’s mailing address. You can perform these searches with several pay databases, including iWave.
Farmland, boats, and airplanes (including shares in airplanes) are common investments for doctors. You should always use the free databases available to attempt to determine whether your prospect owns any of these investments.
Doctors heavily involved in research—or who previously or currently work for pharmaceutical and other research-oriented companies—may own patents. While it is difficult to value a patent, the fact that a doctor owns a patent indicates a strong interest in that area and a possible interest in providing funding for research in that area.
Another way to determine a doctor’s area(s) of interest is to look at recent gifts to nonprofits and industry PACs. Nonprofit giving searches are usually conducted via pay databases, such as NOZAsearch and iWave, but political giving can be done via several free websites, including Influence Explorer.
If you’re researching a doctor who was previously in the military, you can verify his or her military service in order to determine whether the doctor might be interested in funding a particular veteran-related program.
I hope you find the above information useful to your research. Feel free to email me if you have questions, and don’t forget to look for my next blog post about researching nurses!
Check out the apps that every researcher or fundraiser should download to be more productive in EverTrue’s “Fundraiser’s Toolkit for 2015”:
Emily Davis began as a research associate at the Indiana University Foundation and was promoted to development analyst in 2011. In addition to assisting her science- and health-related clients with research, she has completed research for the IU and IU Foundation presidents as well as on international prospects. She received her undergraduate degrees from Ball State University and her master’s degree from Indiana University Bloomington. In her free time, she enjoys completing freelance editing and formatting work when not watching Thomas the Train with her toddler.