Search engines like Google, Yahoo, or Dogpile, are great research tools. Unfortunately, unlike books or magazine resources in a traditional library, web pages continue to change even after they are initially published by their authors and indexed by search engines. According to one study conducted at the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth, the Internet offers about 800 million web pages. Old news about an available grant, a corporate merger, or an executive change will not help you with your approach for funding or with your cultivation of current donors — especially if another organization has already responded. The challenge facing organizations competing for funding support is to be on target with their approach and with their timing. Fortunately, technology offers a resource beyond Google.
In the fundraising world where resources are limited, push technology has provided an affordable and accessible resource for identifying prospective donors, cultivating current donors, and keeping track of industry trends. Push technology allows information to be delivered or “pushed” directly to a user who subscribes to it, rather than the user having to go look for the information on an Internet site. Electronic newsletters are one form of push technology and fall under the general heading of a “News Alert.” A News Alert is an email that is automatically sent to you when there is news about a topic of interest. Subscribing to an electronic newsletter is useful for tracing trends in a particular sector such as fundraising, government, research, etc.
Another type of News Alert is an e-mail notification of all recent articles meeting pre-determined criteria. By specifying words likely to appear in articles about a donor or topic, a subscriber is able to be as broad or narrow with the criteria as desired and the news or internet service subscribed to finds and delivers the information as it appears online. The more targeted you are with specifications, the more related the articles you receive will be to your needs and the less time you will spend reading unrelated news returns.
With this type of News Alert, fundraisers can establish a tracking system on top donors, board members, alumni, and even competing organizations. Following news about your competition and even your own organization can prepare you to strategize approaches or steward good works. Creating a News Alert to track competitors’ latest initiatives and most recent gifts from benefactors may turn out new leads or information on donors who you may be cultivating yourself. In addition, and although it may seem silly, in large organizations a News Alert may be the best way to stay tuned-in to the latest ventures between your organization and the community or affiliated board members, volunteers, or figure heads who are representing your organization in the community.
To sign-up with a variety of news or Internet services to receive a News Alert, your organization will need an e-mail address and access to the Internet. Because each news or Internet service is restricted to searching only information posted within its domain, it is best to subscribe to multiple News Alert services to create a web more likely to capture news as it becomes public. Some services require a fee, but there are also some very good free services: (This list is by no means a complete listing of available resources, but it is a good start!)
Corporate Specific News Alerts provide beneficial information useful for keeping up to date on company financials, executives, and legal transactions.
- News Alert Inc. a free service offering stock quotes and news stories for an unlimited number of ticker symbols-this is a good source for public corporations. It offers full text of premium news sources from Knight-Ridder Tribune and UPI.
- Bizjournals.com is a great source for company information that allows you to narrow searches to a small selection of local news regions throughout the U.S.
- CBS MarketWatch requires a free registration to set up news alerts. Full text is free for current news from wire services. For other articles and reports, bibliographic and summary information is offered with the option to purchase full text.
- Forbes People Tracker is a good source for tracking news about public company executives. If an executive changes employment, the news alert will provide you the updated information regarding to salary and position as long as the new place of employment files with the SEC.
- Forbes Portfolio Tracker provides you with information on markets, acquisitions and mergers and recent articles published in Forbes.
General News gathered from search engines is valuable and helps coordinate your sources. If you register with a particular search engine, just remember that the News Alert searches are dependent upon information from postings registered with that particular service.
Yahoo! Alerts lets you create a news alert that will check sources such as USA Today, Associated Press and Reuters, as well as a number of major local daily newspapers.
Google News Alerts and Googlert are separate services that will search Google’s index for news postings related to your criteria. Both services offer subscribers the option of changing the frequency of searches. Googlert is not affiliated with the Google search engine.
Philanthropic News Alerts, in the form of News-E-Letters, will provide you with current happenings in the nonprofit sector. Excellent philanthropy news-e-letters include: Philanthropy News Digest, and CharityChannel eNewsletters.