Is Disruptive Technology Changing Relationship Management?

PrintYes! Relationship mapping is a disruptive technology with the power to change our relationship management process and procedures. But, no worries! Change will probably come slowly.

Disruptive technology makes for great headlines, but most technology slips into our life a little bit at a time. We don’t have small computers; we have smart phones. We don’t have a wired house; we have a phone app to adjust our heating and air conditioning system.

Mapping out the connections between our prospects gives us linkage. This is one of the three pillars of a good prospect: Linkage – Ability – Inclination.

So far the technology has worked best in for-profit situations like the financial management industry. But companies like Prospect Visual and Relationship Science are nimbly adjusting their products to provide value for the nonprofit industry.

How might relationship mapping be disruptive?

Right now, higher education has the biggest opportunity to make relationship mapping a disruptive – and competitive – edge to their fundraising. Why? Because they have a natural prospect pool (their alumni) and an avalanche of data on those prospects.

Data points include degree, club membership, event attendance, birth date, and so much more! And they have year upon year of graduating (and non-graduating) students. All of this means that higher education can deeply analyze relationships between their alumni.

It’s disruptive because that university might discover that the way they have typically assigned prospects to gift officers is counter-productive. Most organizations segment the prospect pool by geography and/or school of study. It all made sense because that was the data that was available to use for segmenting. Throw in relationship maps and you now have a new perspective.

For example, if my prospect is densely connected – has the most connections to other people – why wouldn’t I assign the densely connected prospect *and his connections* to the same gift officer regardless of where they live? That is a game changer!

And that’s just a shallow view. Deeper analysis will likely reveal other more meaningful ways to assign prospects to gift officers based on how they are connected and other data modeling.

But I work for a smaller institution. What about me?

Huge institutions are always on the trending edge. And while it’s exciting to hear about, it’s not terribly applicable to the majority of nonprofit organizations. Or is it?

Recently I have had some thrilling moments using the relationship mapping tool offered by Prospect Visual. We’ve been working with a client who is trying hard to get a fundraising initiative off the ground with corporations and foundations. But it’s new so everyone is a bit unsure about where to start and how to make the cold calls. And then staff turned over. A familiar scenario to most of us!

So when they asked me to do some deeper research on their top prospects I really wanted to give them confidence to approach the prospect. I really wanted my research to persuade them to pick up the telephone. But how? By giving them a name of one of their own that is connected to the prospect, of course.

And I did it!! It didn’t work for every prospect and sometimes the connections seemed tenuous, but I found connections I would never have found otherwise. I delivered an obvious, and much more comfortable, first phone call to make – to one of their own.

Not so very long ago, finding connections was limited in scope and extremely tedious. Now, using Prospect Visual, I can identify possible connections and then dig a little deeper to verify them. It’s as transformative to my work in research as the microwave was to home cooking!

What Should Every Nonprofit Do Right Now?

Maybe you don’t have a prospect researcher on staff, are not in a position to purchase a subscription to a product like Prospect Visual, or don’t have the resources to outsource research. Even that should not stop you from getting on board the data wagon. And make no mistake – success in the game of life has always been about information!

Eventually relationship mapping and other data tools will become incorporated into your donor database or in some other way made easily accessible. When that happens, you need to be ready. Here’s what you can do:

  • Collect Data. It’s not an option anymore. You should be collecting all of the data your prospects give you. Go way beyond contact and gift information: directorships, education, work history, event attendance, phone calls, mailings, conversations. Whatever they tell you, add it!
  • Invest in Data. You should value and invest in data management. Hire smart, talented people. Keep them happy so they stay with you. Listen when they talk about consistency and longevity in recording and maintaining information.
  • Create a Data Culture. Maybe you’ll think I’m getting a little extreme here, but why not allow the love of data to color the glasses you view your human resources through? From board members to janitors, hire people whose behaviors reflect decision-making based on data.

Of course it’s all about the Relationship!

Relationship management, prospect management, or moves management – whatever we call our system of engaging and staying in touch with our supporters and prospective supporters – starts with a connection.

Relationship mapping can give us a whole new perspective on how we are connected to our prospects and donors. First we climbed a tree to get a good view -we used a database to view our donors- and now suddenly we are looking down from a helicopter -with relationship mapping.

At first it can be a bit disorienting to be able to see so many connections, especially because false connections are mixed in with true connections. But best practices are being developed and tested.

If you are interested to learn more about how relationship mapping can add new perspective to your prospect management efforts, contact Aspire Research Group or check out the resources and videos below.

Other Resources You Might Like

 

Prospect Visual

Prospect Visual

Melody Song on NodeXL

Melody Song on NodeXL

Marc Smith on NodeXL

Marc Smith on NodeXL

Relationship Science

Relationship Science

 

How to Write Better Prospect Profiles

NewspaperViewSMBoiling down a global corporation into just what matters to a specific organization is WORK! And that’s when I realized how important sales writing skills are to prospect research.

I forgot how difficult it is to do lots of profiles. But it was a first assignment from a new client and my best contractor was busy. So I took them on and it was fun…and hard work.

You should also know that I’ve been prepping to co-lead a workshop at APRA’s conference in Las Vegas in July on Improving Your Profile Techniques. Between organizing my materials and researching lots of profiles I’ve had lots of questions swimming in my head such as…

Exactly which pieces of information should be included and where? How does the way we communicate over the request impact the quality of the work we provide? How much do we, or should we, “sell” the prospect to the gift officer?

The Prospect Profile Collection

Teaching something has a way of making me question everything I think I know. So one of the first things I like to do is collect good resources. And one of the three guiding principles behind the Prospect Research Institute is Shared, so I created The Prospect Profile Collection online.

The collection is a work in progress, but it already has a number of recent blog posts on prospect profiles and nine profile templates, including a surprise profile. If you go on the page and spot the one that’s different from all the others, be one of the first few to comment and you never know what pleasant surprise might arrive in your snail-mailbox!

Do you have a prospect profile template you’d be willing to have added to the collection? Please contact me and let me know!

The Big Takeaway

While I can’t share here all of the content I’ve been preparing for the APRA workshop and the Institute’s first online course on profiles, I can give you at least one takeaway…

Start thinking like a journalist!

If you do nothing else differently you will still have improved if you present your material the way a newspaper reporter would. Why? Because journalists are taught to put everything important and attention grabbing in the first few paragraphs. Heck! The first sentence! The reader must be irresistibly drawn through the article…all the way down to the last few paragraphs with all the dull, ordinary facts.

Now read your last profile over again. Wonder why that gift officer was reluctant to add the new prospect you identified to her portfolio? Look at the narrative on occupation. How much of that is really necessary? Writing less is never easy, is it?

Now imagine if you could transform your profile into a front-page newspaper article. A headline that got the equivalent of retweeted all over your development office! What would it take? Don’t be afraid to play with this one. Playing is a great way to shake our minds out of old habits and gain new insights. Let’s try one for a children’s hospital.

Dina Delight is an executive at a global company who has made two million-dollar gifts and is passionate about pediatric cancer     …Or…    Million-dollar donor, Dina Delight, passionate about pediatric cancer, is EVP at Biggie Co. where we have a really good connection!

If I were a gift officer I would be very excited about Dina Delight! Of course, condensing our prospects into a scintillating headline is not appropriate in the fundraising office. Our prospects deserve way more respect than that. But if you try to make an attention-grabbing headline about the next three prospects you profile, I’ll bet that you wind up going back to shine a light on the pieces of information that are most important to developing a relationship.

Are We Salespeople?

Which brings us back to selling the prospect to our gift officer. Selling often has a negative connotation. We imagine a sales person trying to make us buy something we don’t want or need. But we are all sales people. Every time you try to persuade your child to eat a new food, or your spouse to buy a new and bigger TV, you are selling. It’s no different in prospect research. If you don’t believe me, read about it.

When we recognize that we are selling, that we are persuading our gift officers why or why not to pursue a prospect, now we have a path to learn how to do it better. When it comes to prospect profiles, writing like a journalist and selling our story to the reader is a skill that will set you apart from other researchers.

Ready, Set… GO!

Start with the articles listed below, or check out Prospect Research Institute’s Profile Peer Review Program or Introduction to Prospect Profiles online course. And if you’re attending APRA’s pre-conference workshops, I hope to see you there!

 

Other Articles You Might Like

 

Score! takes the edge off analytics

I just read Score! cover to cover and here’s why I think you should too…

With Score! Peter Wylie and Kevin MacDonell have written a highly accessible book that works effectively as a beginner’s guide to driving your organization’s decision-making with fundraising analytics. It’s no surprise to those of us in the prospect development field. Peter has been writing entertaining and informative books and articles for years and Kevin’s CoolData blog is encouraging and full of easy-to-understand visuals. Both of them write about personal experiences that nicely demonstrate the ideas and concepts in the book.

This is not a do-it-yourself manual. Peter did that already with his book Data Mining for Fund Raisers. This book is for leadership and for aspiring analysts alike who want a guide to getting something great to happen. No-one feels like a fool for not knowing how analytics works (or even how to define it) and although Peter calls out leadership’s common foibles, an ambitious leader can easily swallow that pill because it helps him navigate past the pitfalls.

The book is conveniently grouped into three sections so you can decide what you want to read. Part one, Becoming a Data-Driven Organization, discusses how analytics can help you make decisions that lead to success. Part two, Your Data Driven Job, discusses what it’s like to pursue analytics in your prospect development career. Part three is devoted to case studies.

Part one launches with scenarios that are happening in advancement offices every day, but when highlighted in a short paragraph make one blush with embarrassment. You also get great information on obstacles you are likely to encounter as you seek to invest in analytics and a helpful discussion about whether to hire someone new or train an existing employee.

One of the salient points made in the book from start to finish is that fundraising analytics is all about valuing affinity – the relationship someone has with your organization. Wealth ratings and other external data is nice, but only works really well when paired with affinity. The wealth screening companies have drowned the marketplace with sales, advertising, and educational content that does not shine such a bright spotlight on using analytics to find and leverage the conversation your prospects and donors are having with your organization as recorded in your databases. Score! gets you back on track.

If you are facing the challenge of clueless leadership that does not value data, then this first section falls a bit short. Given Peter’s years of consulting I was hoping for a few guerrilla tactics and approaches to persuading leadership that analytics is the new, shiny object every leader has to use. Instead the authors give us brief vignettes of some of the good stories where leaders model the kind of behavior that encourages analytics efforts to succeed.

Part two is where the aspiring analyst gets some very thoughtful and perceptive advice about the skills needed to take on these kinds of tasks. By including a chapter on soft skills, and putting it first, there is a clear message. You can be awesome at analyzing data, but unless you can translate your results into information others can use and understand, you are not likely to achieve success. Kevin’s CoolData blog is a living example of good and useful presentation. As a bonus, Kevin and Peter share their personal stories on how they came to analyze nonprofit data for a living.

Part two also has some gems that surprised me and made me think more deeply. Although I have been using the term fundraising analytics as an umbrella term here, Kevin and Peter give you an education about the difference between data mining and analytics. You also get some terms and techniques defined – a few fundamentals. But don’t worry! The authors walk you through some step-by-step starter tasks. The highlighted quote is just one of many that should assure you that you won’t break anything by trying.

“Don’t let missing, incomplete, or suspect data stop you from jumping right in and trying to work with it just as it is.” (p.91)

Part three is a series of case studies. As the authors emphasize, these are not do-it-yourself instructions. They are case studies that illustrate the types of questions you might ask your data and some answers others have found. Kevin and Peter do a great job here of outlining the steps they took and then going into detail about what happened as a result. These case studies will give you big picture ideas to guide you as you craft your own projects. They are helpful to leadership too because they demonstrate winning applications.

In particular I was intrigued by the call center data case studies. And, of course, just a few days after reading the book a fundraising colleague described to me how she does not give to her alma mater and will not give to them, yet they have been calling, emailing and writing her repeatedly each year. She just rolls her eyes.

A huge shift is just beginning to happen as younger generations earn and accumulate income and wealth in an era of rapid changes in information technology that is creating new and changing expectations for communicating. The popular LifeHacker blog wrote a recent post with this title: How Can I Donate to Charity Without Getting Harrassed By Them Later?

It will be those organizations that listen to the conversations in their data and respond to them that will win those donors’ trust…and dollars. Score! is written about analytics in higher education, but the lessons apply equally to human services organizations. Don’t miss out. Buy, read and Score!

Don’t believe me? Read what Susan Bridgers of APRA Carolinas has to say about it!

Want to catch up on the most current buzz? Search the Twitter hashtag: #scorethebook

Warning! Wealth Screenings Create a Skills Gap

MindTheGapSMReally good wealth screenings are changing the way we fundraise and they’re bumping campaign results ever higher. That’s definitely good. Yet wealth screenings are putting research decisions into the hands of non-researchers. Like you. Is this a good thing or bad thing? It’s up to you to decide!

I’ve been having more conversations with nonprofits about training prospect researchers. And they haven’t been the typical “I want to set up shop” conversations. The director of development doesn’t want me to help them choose a research subscription or craft a profile template.

She wants me to teach the researcher things like recognizing when prospects have wealth types in common (recognize patterns) or to focus more on the information that will help the gift officer to create a cultivation strategy (fundraising analysis).

Notice I said I’m talking to the director of development (or advancement) – not the director of research. Non-researchers are being pushed into taking the lead on research decisions. And I blame wealth screenings. (Technically, it’s more than screening for wealth. Vendors now give meaningful ratings and data analytics too.)

What exactly is changing?

Imagine you are the director of development for a smallish university, hospital or human services organization (and maybe you are). Your fundraising goals keep getting higher every year and you’ve brought some 7-figure gifts through the door. Your database manager has transitioned into your full-time prospect researcher.

As you gear up for the biggest-ever campaign you are faced with some challenges:

  • Your researcher has been churning out profiles for eight hours a day for months. She’s become a profile zombie!
  • Yes, your researcher can find information, but she doesn’t seem to really understand how prospect cultivation and solicitation works, which makes her work less helpful. She’s disconnected from the actual fundraising.
  • You’ve been prioritizing with wealth screenings and ratings, but now that information is a jumbled mess in the database. You don’t know how to fix it and your researcher is busy doing profiles.

Why are the wealth screening vendors to blame?

Because now that raw data has become more tightly matched, you have enough confidence in it to prioritize your donor prospects and get out on your discovery visits.

You don’t need a prospect researcher to do much.  Until you do.

The path to prospect research used to be a bit wider and longer. In the new, shortened time-frame your prospect researcher isn’t always ready to do more when you are.

So, you, the development director are tasked with managing prospect research in a way you never anticipated. How can you bridge the gap between your researcher’s current skill set and where she needs to be?  Grab your manager’s hat and explore some capacity building opportunities!

MOTIVATE by connecting your researcher with outcomes

Slow down the profile mill ever so slightly – just enough to establish a system to track completed research in your database. Maybe it’s a contact or action item. Whatever field you use, make sure you can pull reports that will demonstrate things like which researched prospects made a gift and were visited.

If you really want to have a little fun, track the researcher’s capacity rating in its own field so you can compare that against the screening rating and against the ask and gift amounts.

We all want to feel like our work creates something. Knowing that her work led to a really big gift is going to be motivating!

But tracking your research efforts is just a first step. Make sure there is opportunity for regular communication between the gift officer and the researcher. You want your researcher to hear how the gift officer sees wealth on those visits. You know what I’m talking about. The “he belongs to this club” or “she had to drop at least a thousand dollars on that handbag”.

Get the gift officer and researcher in a conversation about wealth and a lot of great education will happen both ways. Including more motivation. More teamwork.

INVOLVE the researcher in creating solutions

Work with your researcher to identify ways to solve problems like too many profiles and not enough new prospect identification and qualification.

  • Are gift officers getting too much information too soon? Maybe there should be guidelines about what actions need to happen before a comprehensive profile can be requested.
  • Is your researcher spending too much time digging deeper than needed? Have him track how long it takes to do profiles over a few weeks and reflect on the results. By watching the clock can he get more focused?

You may need to take a lot of the lead in the beginning, but loosen the leash as much as you possibly can. Prospect researchers are notoriously good at learning new things and problem-solving. Give them some room and many can become really good managers.

CREATE some structure around research

As your researcher is getting re-energized and challenged to solve problems, you need to recognize where to create structure to keep everyone and everything moving in sync. You are no doubt under a lot of pressure to make miracles happen in wickedly short time-frames. Keep your eye out for imbalance and act quickly.

  • Is the researcher spending an hour talking shop with a gift officer? Direct her to create a more formal research request process and channel those wonderful conversations into an established prospect review meeting.
  • Is your researcher creating a fully functional but too complex prospect management system? Continue to let her create it, but challenge her to make it simpler. (Playing a little dumb is a perfectly acceptable way to get someone to stretch a little. You have my permission!)

BIG fundraising doesn’t happen without prospect research

It’s a fact of fundraising that you need to harness the power of prospect research to raise the kind of money your mission needs and deserves. And yet, new tools like wealth screenings can allow a skill gap to creep up on you just when you need it the LEAST.

You don’t have to become a prospect research guru to make good decisions about it. And you don’t always have to fire and hire. Strengthen your managerial skills and use them to stretch and grow the prospect researcher and other staff that have an aptitude for prospect research.

Motivate. Involve. Create. And you and your organization will find yourself doing some really BIG fundraising!

And if you need a little outside help to train your staff, evaluate your procedures or create some, Aspire Research Group and the Prospect Research Institute are only a phone call away at 727 202 3405. And we have email too!

Other Articles You Might Like

Curious About Canada? A Primer for Prospect Researchers Who Don’t Own Hockey Sticks

Guest post by Preeti Gill

On this April morning, it’s -5 Celsius and the snow is blowing lightly.

I saunter in to my local Timmies, order a double double and a honey crueller, drop a few loonies on the counter and sit down for a while. It is tax time and I need to netfile before the CRA deadline. I look up from my keyboard and there’s Tony, the local hockey sensation, carrying his pet beaver on his shoulder…

Eh?

Oh, Canada, where donughts (not donuts), yoga pants and timed tweets were perfected. The land where conservative fiscal policy helped our big five banks cushion Canadians (somewhat) from the economic downtown of 2007/08.

I find that where we’re from makes us exotic, especially for other Prospect Research professionals who are always on the lookout for new resources.  When Jen and I brainstormed around blog ideas, she seemed intrigued by my Canadianness.

“How far is Ottawa from Toronto?” she asked this Vancouverite who is ill-equipped to comment on any Ontario-related matters.

What I can offer is a quick primer on today’s Canada for Prospect Researchers outside my homeland, strong and free.  Here you’ll find some interesting “Timbits” about what’s new and where to access information about your friendly Canuck prospects and donors.

We are accomplished

Our Government hands out accolades to everyday and high-profile brave and successful Canadians.

Our peers also honour each other.

We are diverse

Immigration is primarily driving population growth. Environics intelligence notes that in our major urban centres, Toronto and Vancouver, nearly half of the population identify as members of a visible minority group. So the minorities are fast becoming the majority.

Canadian Immigrant magazine profiles successful new Canadians in business and other areas.

We are rich

  • Well, they are (not me) –> Canadian Business Rich 100 2014 [List]
  • The left-leaning Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives studied the wealth gap in Canada and discovered that the wealthiest 86 Canadians could purchase an entire province today. [News release]
  • How much did Canada’s top 100 CEOs get paid last year? The Globe & Mail is due to update this list with 2013 figures soon. [List]

We give back in a big way

  • The late Doc Seaman left $117 million from his estate to the Calgary Foundation last year. It’s the largest ever gift to a Canadian community foundation.  (Did I mention we’re getting older, as well?)
  • The Slaight family gave $50 million to a consortium of five hospitals in Toronto.
  • An impressive 13.3 million Canadians volunteer 2.1 billion hours, according to Volunteer Canada.
  • KCI provides an addictive scroll of recent Canadian giving by individuals, corporations and foundations.
  • Blackbaud’s new Giving Index provides a monthly snapshot of our generosity. (Things are looking up.)

We are social

…but slightly more conservative in our approach to shameless self-promotion!

  • There are 8 million+ LinkedIn users, as of 2013. [Infographic]
  • Twitter opened a Canadian branch in Toronto primarily to drive advertising and sales.
  • Planning timed tweets? You may be using HootSuite which was born in Vancouver and is rapidly expanding, thanks to securing $165 million in financing.
  • Can’t get enough of Canada? Consider attending the upcoming APRA-Canada conference in Toronto this fall. This is a highly-anticipated and well-organized biennial conference with a focus on Canadian-based research resources, issues and trends.

About Preeti Gill

Preeti-2Preeti Gill is passionate about all things prospect research, pipeline management and charity capacity-building. She works at Canada’s largest community foundation in Vancouver and blogs at Sole Searcher [preetigillyvr.blogspot.ca]. With true patriot love, she welcomes social contact here and there:

3 Good Reasons for a Research Request Process

Whether you work in a large office or are a solo researcher, a process for managing research requests quickly becomes important if you expect to use your time efficiently.

I’m talking about a process, not a form, for managing requests, because many offices have quite happily and successfully abandoned the notion of a form to ensure human interaction for better communication.

Besides, discussing the process allows you to piece together a system that works best for you, your team, and your organization. Discussing the process does not give you the exact steps you should take in your office, but that’s research, right?

There is rarely a predetermined path to answer a question, but there’s a method. Research is not a model airplane kit; it’s a bucket full of building blocks with some suggested projects.

I recommend creating a list of the types of research requests you receive. It might look something like this:

  • Qualification and Solicitation Profiles
  • New prospect identification
  • Suggested prospect assignments and prospect management reporting
FlowChart

Click to see larger

Now build a flow chart for each request type. It could be a more graphical visual or like the list pictured, but it disciplines you to think through the process. Get as detailed as is helpful. By documenting the process you can identify where you might alter it to solve a problem.

Why not create a flow chart that starts with the fundraising goal the task supports? This will help everyone on the team recognize that you are not in charge of managing the printer, but of managing critical information that will help reach the goal.

Following are three really good reasons to create a process for managing your research requests:

1. Consistent communication produces consistent behaviors.

Let’s face it. Many frontline fundraisers have never worked with a professional researcher before. Myths abound. If you want consistent behaviors from fundraisers, like providing you with complete information on a prospect, you need to consistently communicate.

Following are some ideas:

  • Create standard profile types that include items the fundraiser has identified as most important for common scenarios. Then create the request form with those standard options, but also a place for the fundraiser’s specific needs and anything that helps you better prioritize your time on the request, such as “Yes or No. I anticipate asking this prospect for a major gift this year”. It doesn’t matter if the fundraiser ever knows the form exists. It helps you remember what to ask.
  • Create the expectation that you will call before doing the work to ask additional questions. Be sure you call and ask additional questions, which could be on your request form. Before long the fundraiser might begin providing the answers before you ask!
  • Make a habit of under-promising and over-delivering. If you want the fundraiser to trust that you will get the work done on time, set your standard turnaround time so that you can deliver at least a day early. Call immediately if you expect to be delayed.

2. Measuring outcomes requires good tracking.

Your process needs to include more than receiving a request and delivering the work. What are your key performance goals? How are you providing value to the fundraising effort?

Following are some scenarios:

  • Does your CEO insist on in-depth profiles for every name that crosses her desk? Go ahead and do them, but mark the record with an action of “Profile completed” so you can pull a report that tells you total giving for each person you researched. Now at the end of the year you can present your CEO with how much money it cost (your time, subscription resources, etc.) and how much was raised as a result. Effective? Or time for a change?
  • You may be tasked with identifying and qualifying prospects for a campaign. Tag the records that were identified and your capacity rating so you can pull reports throughout the campaign to see how many of those prospects turned into donors. Make sure leadership knows without you those dollars would not have been received!
  • You know you are identifying high-capacity prospects with affinity, but the fundraisers won’t visit them. Sit down with the most ambitious, successful fundraiser. Review the capacity ratings of her prospects. Demonstrate how she could raise so much more with the new high-capacity prospects you identified. Then track her progress so she can share her secret to success (you, of course!) with the rest of the team.

3. Documentation gives you the ability to work faster and smarter.

It takes time to document your work and to track information as described above. Researchers do it (and often love it) because documentation allows us and our organizations to achieve more.

I may spend a week keeping a detailed time log to discover just how long it really does take me to perform a specific research task and how much time I spend on administrative trivia. And now when I get a flood of requests, based on my documentation I know how much I need to outsource.

Following are some typical types of documentation:

  • Cheat Sheets on how to do advanced functions in research subscriptions – because you might not use those functions every day, but they are powerful when you need them.
  • Reasoning and steps behind your most-used database reports – because when your reports require changes, you don’t want to have to start from scratch.
  • Reasoning and steps behind the way you record your researched information in the database – because you need to be consistent if you expect to do any automatic reporting.

Communicating consistently, thinking about the outcomes first and documenting tasks underpin a smooth and successful research request process.

Do you have a specific question or some great advice for researchers looking to implement or improve their request process? Please share!

Other Resources You Might Like

Three Reasons Why Research Request Forms Are a Terrible Idea

List of Prospect Research Blogs

Assert Yourself, post by Preeti Gill

Top Secret! How to Bulk up your Prospect Pool

HappyKeySMIn this article I’m going to share the secrets of finding great prospects. Maybe you’re one of those fundraisers who is always reading the Business Journal scouting for a lead, but they don’t pan out. Do you wonder how those other organizations pull in the big gifts? Or maybe you’re new and all the best prospects are assigned to senior fundraisers. You can get great prospects too!

If you read a lot of blogs (like I do) now is where you get skeptical. Is she just going to give me theory I already know (and hasn’t yet helped me find good prospects) or will I get at least a couple of nuggets I can actually use? I’m aiming for the latter. The “trick” is that you still have to work hard!

Fundraising research theory tells us that you need to know who you are looking for so you can spot them. We use jargon like linkage, ability and affinity. And there are tools that give you a competitive edge with that. But you can do it even without bright, shiny tools.

The First Thing…

The first thing any good fundraiser (and prospect researcher) needs to do is learn what it looks like to be wealthy. Watching soap operas may seem like a good education here, but much better is reading through some of the wealth reports like the Knight Frank Wealth Report 2014. You’ll find links for other reports in the sidebar on your right.

And the second first-thing-any-good-fundraiser-needs -to-do is get in front of people, especially donors. You should read and get in front of donors at the same time. Start with known donors because they are the most likely to give (again) and it’s always better to get a gift, right?

Call, visit, and read.

When you are reading about the wealthy at the same time as you visit prospects you’ll start making the connections. When the prospect talks about how he and his wife are taking classes in gemology and he has a watch collection, you’ll remember what you read about this being an investment hobby for the very wealthy. And when a different prospect brags about taking regular trips to Europe on mileage points you’ll recognize that what you thought were luxury vacations probably aren’t.

You can do that without any tools except your eyes and ears. Well, I guess you need to use your mouth to place the phone call…and, okay, guide the conversation. But you get it, right? Recognizing the wealthy – the truly wealthy – takes an education.

Get Your Toolbox Dirty

Getting an education on spotting the wealthy still isn’t likely to fill your prospect pool with GREAT donors – those with linkage, ability and affinity. If you have tools that assign ratings to the prospects in your database, use them! Don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t work out perfectly the first few times.

For example, you might pull a report of people who rate high for ability and likelihood to make a gift, but find most won’t take your phone call. You may need to add additional criteria depending on your organization. Maybe it’s “donor within the past two years” or “attended an event in the past two years” or some other criteria that makes it more likely they will let you visit with them.

Keep track of your efforts so you can repeat what works best. And, yes, this does mean you will have to make a lot of phone calls that end in “no thank you I don’t want a visit”.

It’s the same even if you don’t have tools that provide ratings. Without tools you have to get more of an education. You might use a free tool like the Washington Post’s interactive map** of the nation’s super zips to identify wealthy zip codes to search for in your donor database and combine that with “donor within the past two years” or other criteria that suggest a “warmness” toward your organization.

The Secret Weapon

If you are really lucky, you have a trained prospect researcher on staff. Use all your fundraising powers of relationship building to get this prospect research wizard on your side!

HOT TIP: your researcher is likely to get the most excited about searching out top prospects if you reward her with feedback from your calls and face-to-face visits.

With a prospect researcher on your team you are more likely to out-produce even seasoned professionals in the race for fundraised dollars. Really, really!

…and if you can’t support a trained prospect researcher full-time, you can always outsource. Just sayin’!

**Julie, Prospect Research Analyst in Pennsylvania and Groundbreaking Student at the Prospect Research Institute, shared this fantastic resource with the class!

Did you get a nugget or two?

I hope you found a useful tip you can apply in your office. Maybe you have great suggestions you’d like to share with others. Please comment and share!

Jenz Favorite Wealth Reports

Common Prospect Research Myths

magicLampSM

For best results, rub vigorously!

I sent a request out to prospect researchers on the APRA PRSPCT-L list-serv asking them to share common prospect research myths. Following is a summary of my favorite responses!

Myth: Everyone over age 60 is a planned gift prospect.

Fact: While age is a factor, affinity is also an important predictor of planned giving and statistical data modeling is even better at predicting who is a likely planned giver.

Myth: Lots of real estate holdings makes someone a major/planned gift prospect.

Fact: We have a lot of real estate investors, large and small, in the Pacific NW.  People buy a few apartment or commercial buildings as a retirement investment and they accrue in value, so development officers think the prospects can give big.  I have to educate them that, unless they are giving us the building, capacity is based on income from the building and that I calculate capacity differently for personal real estate and income-generating real estate.

Myth: We need to know the prospect’s net worth.

Fact: Net worth is all of someone’s assets minus all of their liabilities. We can’t know all of either, because that includes a lot of private information.

Myth: Prospect researchers can find anything about anyone, including: how much is in their bank accounts; personal tax records; credit history; social security numbers; or wills.

Fact: Much information is private, like the examples above, and is not available to us legally or ethically.

Myth: Google. You can find everything on Google. Researching is really just Googling a prospect. “I don’t need you—I use Google.” “If you just look harder, you can find out everything about him.”

Fact: Internet search engines can only find about 20% of what is available on the internet. Just ask Mike Bergman who coined the phrase.

Myth: You can just get a report from the “database” with everything, right?

Fact: While software companies that pull information together for us have gotten very sophisticated, there is no “one” database.

Myth: A prospect can be fully researched in less than half an hour, especially with one of those fancy research services we subscribe to—just push a button and a complete profile comes out, right?. Or better yet, do a “quick 10 minute profile” on a prospect. (Sorry, but is this ever possible — ten minutes?)

Fact: Searched, verified, and synthesized information barely starts with an hour. Anything less risks being haphazard, which might help in a pinch, but is far from ideal.

Myth: Very little data about a prospect is needed in order for the researcher to produce a comprehensive profile (such as: name spelled correctly, address, occupation, how someone is related to our organization).

Fact: Names are far more common than most people suspect and a good match requires as much starting information as possible.

Myth: When asked for “a little more information about so-and-so,” true prospect researchers intuitively know exactly how much more information is enough.

Fact: Good communication is a two-way street between the requestor and the researcher. Some process or structure usually helps too.

…And the last MYTH? Well, it isn’t one really. It’s a FACT: In ancient times, before the discoveries of electricity, personal computers, and the internet, prospect researchers lived in lamps and responded to vigorous rubbing.

Other Post You Might Like:

Can you really trust prospect research? 10 things you should know

Do Your Own Research? You Bet!

To Certify or Not To Certify – That is the Question

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEvery now again the question surfaces, like a blur in the photograph that may or may not be the Loch Ness Monster – should the prospect research field have its own certification? Many professions have certifications to demonstrate proficiency and professionalism in the field. Why not us?

Who is Doing It?

It is often helpful to look at other similar or related fields to discover how they have solved the same problem. For this article I considered the following certifications:

There are many certificate programs offered at nonprofit centers and universities around the country in these professions, but there is something special about having the premier association for your industry offer certification. It implies that a broad swathe of practitioners labored in love to create a comprehensive evaluation of what makes someone in the field good, if not great.

And many times it has the added benefit of being supported by lower costs and financial support in the form of scholarships.

What Do They Have That We Don’t?

Fundraising and library sciences are well-established fields so it’s not so surprising that they would have certifications. And since most in the library sciences receive a Master’s degree in library sciences, it’s not surprising that their certifications represent specialized areas of the field.

But if a relatively new profession like competitive intelligence has a certification, what might be holding prospect research back?

Maybe they have something that we don’t – a name for their professions … Fund Raising .. Competitive Intelligence .. Library Science

A Rose By Any Other Name Would Smell as Sweet

Prospect research is widely recognized within the field of fundraising. Do we need a better, more appropriate, more all-encompassing name?

As many of you know, I am launching a new company, Prospect Research Institute, and am doing phone surveys (so far 44 calls and 19 states plus Canada and Australia) as well as an online survey.

I was taken by surprise to discover that most of the people I have spoken to felt “prospect research” was limited to searching for information on identified prospects and did NOT include data analytics or prospect management.

But then during the ensuing conversation many lapsed unconsciously into using “prospect research” to reference the entire field.

APRA has come out clearly on the subject naming the field “prospect development”.  If we had a recognized name, would certification would follow?

Consider the association examples given. AFP’s CFRE is essentially a test you can take after meeting certain criteria, such as years in the field and dollars raised and requires continuing education credits. SCIP and SLA require completion of a series of courses as well as testing.

Even starting without a readily identified name, if there is a measure of the tasks required to perform our jobs, then training and tests can be developed and shaped into certifications. Perhaps then the names of those certifications could reshape the language of the professionals performing those jobs.

I don’t about you, but I am eagerly anticipating the release of APRA’s newest endeavor – The Body of Knowledge – which will outline what it takes to be good at what we do. And by that I mean prospect search, analytics and management.

graduationcapSMBut Do We Want to be Certified?

The remaining question to be deliberated is not can we have a certification, but do we need or want one?

Common sense suggests that a certification is useful for those entering the field or looking for promotion to a new skill level or skill set. Certifications demonstrate proficiency to employers, especially when they include testing and have a strong reputation.

But many questions remain.

  • In our relatively young profession, will a certification become outdated each time information technology creates new terms and expands the scope of the tasks we perform?
  • Would certification give birth to future generations of researchers with a higher quality, more uniform set of skills?
  • Would different levels of certification encourage more people to join the field or crossover to ever-growing specialties?
  • With a certified “definition” of our field would fundraising employers better recognize our value and create more specific jobs?

Speculation is all part of processing information and defining our future deliberately. I’d love to hear your speculations and opinions on certification in the prospect research field!

Do Your Own Research? You Bet!

KeyboardCoffeeSXCsmOne of the hot topics in the prospect research field is whether we researchers are going to be replaced by all of the great software products out there. With the click of your mouse you can search multiple public records databases and spit a profile out of your printer. Even data analytics has become more accessible with easy software interfaces. When it’s that easy, you’d be crazy not to do your own research! Right?

Well, nothing involving people and the parting of their money is ever that simple, is it? Yes, you can find raw information about your prospects and have it formatted into a printable document or have key items seamlessly imported into the donor database record. No, a software program can’t verify that information for accuracy or provide useful insights into donor motivation and wealth.

But there’s way more to the fundraising role of prospect research than donor profiling.

Prospect research is about managing information in a manner that leads prospects toward a gift. In that sense, everyone in an organization plays a prospect research role at some level. Program staff record accurate contact and participation information. Gift entry records the gifts. Frontline fundraisers record information about face-to-face contact.

The professional prospect researcher uses her skills in process and analysis to corral all the information and produce actionable insights, leading to solicitations and stewardship.

Are you confused? Let’s use an analogy.

Fundraisers expect everyone in an organization to participate in fundraising and they work to create a culture of philanthropy. From the janitor to the program staff, all the way up through leadership, everyone is responsible for representing the organization and giving people the opportunity to give in a meaningful way.

The fundraiser uses her skills to coordinate all those messages and contacts with donors and prospective donors, leading to solicitations and stewardship.

Fundraisers focus on messaging and people-to-people contact. Prospect researchers focus on information. They both work together make sure fundraising goals are met.

So, should you do your own research after all?

Of course! In this world we have to be constantly learning and using new tools. There are very few excuses anymore for not making use of software tools that provide you with critical information on your donors at the click of a mouse.

But a professional prospect researcher can take you way beyond prospect profiles and into a world where the power of your fundraising information is harnessed and used to drive your fundraising up to a whole new level of success.

With a prospect research professional your fundraising “shop” becomes a fundraising “machine” – persistently methodical, lean, and more productive.

Care to brag about your professional research staff? Wondering what it takes to find a professional prospect researcher?

Comment below or email Jen at Aspire Research Group.

Other Articles You Might Like: