Researcher, are you cheating your organization out of money?

As a prospect research professional, do you routinely underestimate the giving potential of your organization’s prospects? Take the quiz below to find out!

  1. Have you ever taken the gift capacity amount and reduced it because the prospect had never made large gifts to your organization?
  2. Have you ever used a gift capacity rating calculator and lowered the result manually because you just couldn’t believe the prospect could give that much money?
  3. Have you ever calculated a gift capacity rating based only on assets you could get numbers for, even though the prospect was in a top wealthy list or had a lucrative occupation?

If you answered “yes” to any of the questions above, you might be suffering from Concrete Moneyitis.

Concrete Moneyitis is a syndrome characterized by the following symptoms:

  • Belief that visible philanthropy and visible assets are the only evidence on which we can rely
  • Belief that capacity ratings are straightforward mathematical calculations
  • Belief that donor prospects are just like you and me
  • Fear of being “caught out” for erroneous assumptions or inaccurate information

Okay. Concrete Moneyitis is not a real syndrome. I made that up. But it is a real “thing”. It’s about our own personal money issues interfering with our work to connect people interested and capable of giving with our organization and mission.

I am a prime example of this! When I graduated high school I was 16 years old. Nice head start on the adult life, right? That summer I gave birth to a baby girl. The following 13 years I worked and scraped up enough time and money to earn my bachelor’s degree. I counted every penny and spent lots of creative energy figuring out ways to provide for my family and my education.

As a result, when Bill Gates made his first big splash in philanthropy I was very judging. How could he have been so ruthless, squashing competitors on the fine line (or over the line) of legal business practices, and now be “saved” by giving it away? Was it fair for him to get super rich on the “backs of others” and then get lauded and praised for doling out cash where and how it suited him?

I consoled myself that at least he was giving it away. I knew of too many of the very wealthy who didn’t make any philanthropic gifts.

And then I jumped into the business of performing prospect research as a consultant. Working for all shapes and sizes of organizations, having to price my services, and becoming savvy in the ways and means of the ultra-wealthy brought me in direct conflict with my judging money beliefs.

As a person, I still have a set of money beliefs that guide my behavior. As a prospect research professional I do my absolute best to set those beliefs aside when I do my work. I know and stay fully conscious of the fact that the people I research are NOT like me. Their giving is different from mine – and not just in size!

I work for amazing organizations whose missions make a tremendous impact on lives and on our environment. I don’t need to decide on the big philosophical questions about wealth and philanthropy. I want and need to be a part of the fundraising team, helping donor prospects connect with organizations in ways that meet both parties right where they are, in the present.

I challenge you to consider how your beliefs about money and philanthropy might be affecting your work as a fundraising researcher. I challenge you to worry more about under-rating prospects and less about being “right”. How many times has a gift officer asked for thousands – perhaps millions – too little because you wanted to provide a “conservative” estimate of wealth?

Your organization is worth overcoming a little bit of fear, isn’t it?

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