Tag Archives: consultant

How To Find New Major Gift Prospects?

Partner with a prospect research professional! As a fundraiser, why should you partner with a prospect research professional to find new prospects? Couldn’t you use a research software product or buy a prospect list?

Whether you look inside or outside of your database, you can easily generate a prospect list at the click of your mouse. Silicon Valley is certain that data technology solutions can fix whatever ails us – and in theory, why not? But in practice our data is every bit as fallible as we humans who create it.

Prospecting for donors follows this same pattern. Sure you can get a list of prospects from software, but you will be stumbling over errors in no time. Things like a donor who made a memorial gift when her dad died, but is unlikely to give at that level again. Or a common last name erroneously matched to wealth.

And then there are the prospects that are omitted. Where is the woman who volunteers in your program and lives in that multi-million dollar home? Or what about the young couple that make a small annual gift, but you know they have inherited wealth?

It doesn’t mean that the wealth screening or prospect list is useless. It means you need someone who understands the data and fundraising to partner with you to refine the list. You need a well-trained prospect research professional.

Following are five ways that partnering with a prospect research professional can get your major gifts program galloping:

  1. Verify the data: A wealth screening zips through thousands of records. When a researcher performs a double-check on your highest-rated prospects, you don’t waste time with duds.
  2. Track progress: Without a way to track your major gifts progress, your chances of achieving your goals drops dramatically. Prospect research professionals excel at tracking and reporting.
  3. Deliver custom information: Every organization is different and each fundraiser is different. Partnering with a prospect research professional creates a give and take resulting in information delivered how and when you need it most.
  4. Creative sourcing: The prospects you need might not surface with the usual screening products. Well-trained prospect research professionals creatively source the right prospects inside and outside the database.
  5. Translate and adapt: As the fundraiser, how well do you need or want to know the details of data technology? A well-trained prospect research professional translates the software, adapts, and delivers it to you in a form you can use.
Data technology is amazing and has transformed the way we fundraise. There’s no question about it. However, being able to achieve major gift fundraising success requires more than data.

When you are ready to dedicate time and attention to cultivating, soliciting, and stewarding major gifts, enlisting the services of a well-trained prospect research professional will produce the forward momentum you need to achieve major gift success.

Alert! Speakers Now Give Tweetable Insights

As I was honing my tweeting skills at the 2013 AFP International Conference this week, it did occur to me that some conference sessions lent themselves better to tweeting than others. In the same way that the general public has been trained to speak in news-byte sentences in the hopes of being featured on television, clearly some presenters are leading the way in presenting tweetable insights – whether they are doing it consciously or not!

Looking back on the AFP conference session I presented with Helen Brown and Debbie Sokolov, we could have created more tweetable insights in our “theory” overviews, but I don’t regret that we included Debbie’s storytelling. Presenting the structure for thought and learning and then weaving it into a real life story helps with retention and deepens understanding. Stories provide the context to which our brains can connect the theories. Maybe the answer is to provide the tweetable 140-character summary on the PowerPoint slide while the story is being told!

And there is another issue with the tweeting craze and really, with the information overload. As we all board cars, trains and airplanes to head home and return to work, once tweeted, is it forgotten? What do we do with all of the information we learned? How do we act on it? Will we be able to translate a trend or someone else’s story into our reality?

One of the things we lost forever at the end of our presentation on prospect research was the pile business cards people left for us. We turned around and poof! They were gone.

If you were one of those generous card givers, I hope you will comment here or email us so we can continue the conversation. Please also email me, Jen Filla, or Helen Brown or Debbie Sokolov if you learned something new, but are struggling with *exactly* how to implement it, if you need the *detailed* steps to make it happen.

Our presentation was designed to be an overview and yet our attendees were craving the details, the formulas, the exact solutions:

  • Some of that detail is readily available and we can point you to it.
  • Some of your questions can be answered in a short conversation.
  • And sometimes those exact solutions require an assessment and a plan.

For me, the biggest joys at the conference were being a part of the more than 4,000 people dedicated to philanthropy and fundraising and being a part of the giving by contributing a new book, some prospect research tactics and techniques, and new friendships.

About the Author

Jen Filla is president of Aspire Research Group LLC where she works with organizations worried about finding their next big donor, concerned about what size gift to ask for, or frustrated that they aren’t meeting their major gift goals. She is also co-author of Prospect Research for Fundraisers: The Essential Handbook.

You can follow Jen on Twitter: @jenfilla

Seriously? Would a consultant work with You?

It’s a tough job to hire a consultant, but have you ever considered how hard it is for consultants to find the right clients? Have you ever stopped to consider if you would make a good client? Maybe it’s a question worth pondering before you spend your hard-fundraised money!

Obviously a consultant is searching for clients who have budget dollars and a need that fits her skillset, and clients are searching for consultants who have great skills and fees within reach. But assuming those two conditions are met, following are five questions I ask when evaluating a potential client and the reverse questions you might ask as you evaluate a consultant.

(1)  Is the client prospect likely to be successful with my help?

I frequently work with major gift programs. The client needs to have fundraisers capable of cultivating and soliciting donors successfully. And those fundraisers need to operate under leadership that provides the setting and the tools for creating a compelling case for support. All the research in the world can’t overcome those two critical elements.

Reverse:  Is the consultant trying to sell me more than I can handle or less than I need? When the project is completed, will I be raising more money than before?

(2)  Does the client prospect have a plan, or are they constantly in crisis mode?

Prospect research provides information, insight and process. When someone is unable to decide on a course of action, changes direction frequently, or has “urgent” requests that are then cancelled, it is often because there is no real overall fundraising plan or strategy for achieving goals. I’m happy to make a sprint when needed, but only when it moves everyone forward, not in a circle.

Reverse:  Does the consultant clearly paint a beginning, middle and end to the project? Does she identify meaningful milestones along the journey?

(3)  How easy is it to communicate with the client prospect?

Every organization is different and I lost my mind-reading talent years ago. If someone is unwilling to take the time have a conversation, I know that there is a good chance I will not meet (unknown) expectations and I probably won’t be able to develop the kind of deeper relationship I enjoy with my best clients. We don’t have to be dearest friends, but I want the opportunity to make my clients very successful. That requires a return phone call.

Reverse:  Does the consultant do a good job of rephrasing my needs accurately and explaining the process without being too detailed? Does the consultant return my phone calls and emails promptly?

(4)  Is the client prospect ready and willing to commit to the project?

Most of my projects require the client to put time, effort and resources into it. From something as simple as setting up a remote login to the database, to planning, evaluating and testing new systems and procedures – all require the client’s time and energy.

Reverse: Has the consultant explained what will be required of me to make the project successful? How will my efforts affect the timing and outcomes of the project?

(5)  Does the client prospect trust me enough to tell me what’s really wrong?

I have been approached by potential clients who want to talk about prospect research, but when we have the conversation, will only describe a perfectly working scenario or will focus on a small problem and refuse to discuss the problem that is impacting dollars raised. Being able to have candid conversations is critical to success. Sometimes trust takes time, and sometimes it never happens.

Reverse: How well does the consultant discuss a solution with me even when it makes me uncomfortable or requires a difficult transition?

When you step back and look at the whole picture, the consultant-client dance is not all that different from most relationships. There needs to be some chemistry – you have to like each other. And you want to agree on fundamental values and philosophies and avoid unproductive drama. Make a list of your basic criteria (such as, must return phone calls promptly) and then have some conversations.

Other Articles You Might Like

5 Ways You Know You Need a Research Consultant

3 Consultant Relationship Types That Succeed. Which One for You?

The Shocking Truth about Prospect Research Consultants!

About the Author

Jen Filla is president of Aspire Research Group LLC where she works with organizations worried about finding their next big donor, concerned about what size gift to ask for, or frustrated that they aren’t meeting their major gift goals.

Got Software. Got Research?

Many fundraisers know they need research on donors and prospects, but what is the best way to get it? Should you buy a software subscription? Are there any other options? Let’s answer those questions with a story.

A Software Tale
November has most of us thinking about Thanksgiving and other holidays around the corner. But many accountants are thinking about closing out the books and the approaching tax season. Imagine for a minute that you overhear two guests talking at one of the numerous holiday parties you find yourself attending. Bob Business Owner tells Ann Accountant all about how complicated his finances are for the past year now that his small business is growing and expresses some concern about how it will impact his taxes.

“What are you going to do to make sure your tax filings best reflect those changes?” Ann Accountant asks.

“Oh, I splurged and purchased the latest version of TurboTax this year,” says Bob.

Ann looks genuinely confused. “How does that help you make decisions?”

Important Outcomes
TurboTax is great software, but when your finances are complex a software package is not going to help you make key decisions about your tax filings. When the outcomes are truly important, software doesn’t usually make the grade. Software can’t think, strategize or get creative about its approach.

There are many wonderful software options that meet prospect research needs. I have my own favorite subscriptions and purchases. Software speeds up the time it takes me to research individuals by grouping important resources together. Software makes data analysis possible, and fast.

But software does not recognize that what seems like a random company incorporated by your prospect is likely to be a family limited partnership with at least $10 million in invested assets. Software does not recognize that you were not able to mail your usual spring appeal two years ago and that is why giving frequency went down.

What About You – The Fundraiser?
So how do you know when to buy software? Or when you need a person who has expertise? Or some combination? Whenever you have a fundraising goal or objective, ask any potential vendor or consultant whether their solution will get you where you want to go. The answers may surprise you. But let’s illustrate it with another story.

An organization wants to launch its first campaign. They have campaign counsel to coach them through, but they need to prioritize their database and get detailed information on their best prospects. This campaign is very important to the future of their organization and they have a tight budget. The CEO is a visionary and she knows that spending a little more in the right places can have transformative results. She hires a prospect research consultant who makes sure they get as much out of their database screening as possible.

The consultant works closely with the fundraising team, including campaign counsel, to segment their best prospects and code them in the database to work in tandem with their relationship management system. Through this process the team recognizes that they need to restructure their approach based on the giving potential found. Instead of struggling near the end of the campaign, the team knows exactly when to change gears and re-focus their energy on a different prospect segment. It works!

At this point you might be saying to yourself:

“That’s all well and good, Jen, but how do I pick a good prospect research consultant? I’ve heard of organizations who have suffered with bad advice and bad information. I don’t want to be one of them!”

Choosing a prospect research consultant – any consultant really – can be confusing and risky. Take the time to communicate clearly what you want to accomplish. Is the consultant listening? Or doing all of the talking? Did you check references? Look for posts in the future on how to choose and manage a consultant.

Other Articles You Might Like

5 Ways You know You Need a Research Consultant

Mistakes That Nonprofit Organizations Make Hiring Consultants – Karen Eber Davis

3 Consultant Relationship Types that Succeed. Which One for You?

The Shocking Truth About Prospect Research Consultants

About Aspire Research Group LLC

Headquartered in Tampa Bay, Florida, Aspire Research Group was founded so that every development office could have the benefits of professional prospect research. Known for our creativity and clear communications, we work with organizations who are worried about finding their next big donor, concerned about what size gift to ask for, and frustrated that they aren’t meeting their major gift goals. Do you need to close more major gifts?

www.AspireResearchGroup.com 727 231 0516

3 Consultant Relationship Types that Succeed: Which one for you?

If you know what type of consultant relationship you want before you hire, you will be better able to evaluate the skills, approach, and personality of the consultant. Better evaluation means you will be much more likely to achieve your desired outcomes. Never underestimate the human element! Here are three fundamental relationship types to consider:

#1 – Restaurant Menu: Just Do It For Me!
Imagine it is a Friday night. You are tired after a long work-week and decide to take the family out to dinner at a local restaurant. You order pecan-crusted grouper on a bed of spinach and just as you are about to sip your glass of wine the chef appears at your side. He asks you, “Do you know how to get the pecans to stay encrusted? No? Do not worry! Come back to the kitchen in five minutes and I will show you.” Ummm. Not exactly what you had in mind. In fact, it would be irritating and awkward.

If you need a problem solved and you do not have the staff or resources to tackle it, you want a consultant to come in and do it for you. This consulting relationship is not unreasonable and can be a great way to get your organization moving forward.

As an example, you may need your donor database analyzed to determine best prospects for major gift and/or annual appeals. You know that there are consultants who can examine your database and make effective recommendations. You receive the ratings imported into your database and review the suggested prospect segments or groupings with the consultant. Then it is up to you to “eat” your “meal” – you need to engage and ask your donor prospects for gifts.

#2 – Cooking Class: Teach Me How To Do It Myself!
Now let’s imagine it is a Saturday morning and you arrive with your coffee in hand, ready for your cooking class. As you enter the classroom you discover the morning meal completely prepped and ready to go into the oven. You wonder, “How am I going to get my egg mixture fluffy like that next week when my in-laws are visiting?” And then, “Why did I pay for this class if I don’t learn how to make the dishes on my own?”

If you need to solve a problem that requires you to implement the solution on a regular basis, you want a consultant to walk you through how it works, using her expertise to shorten the time between learning and using your new skills. This kind of consulting builds your organization’s internal capacity by teaching staff valuable new skills.

As an example, you may be preparing for a campaign and want to be able to qualify major gift prospects as needed. The consultant trains your staff member how to do the research herself and creates a worksheet so that she can methodically establish a capacity rating and inclination rating to be entered in the donor database. Now the staff member can “cook” the “meal” with the same great results every time – she can prioritize new prospects quickly and effectively.

#3- Catering Instruction: Do It For Me and…Coach Me on Implementing!
Continuing with our food analogy, imagine you are hosting a big dinner party – your first ever! You hire a catering company. They arrive with all of the different courses cooked and ready. You and your spouse are given a list of all the foods and when they need to be served. But the best part is that they dress all the tables with linens and leave you with a server. She makes sure everything happens on time, prompting and reminding you along the way. Her expertise ensures all goes smoothly. Your party is a smashing hit!

Experienced fundraisers and managers know that having a consultant who can deliver a finished package and continue to coach on effective implementation can be the perfect solution. This kind of consulting gets the initiative up and running quickly, building the skills of the entire team along the way.

As an example, you need to transition from haphazardly securing major gifts to a major gifts program. The consultant analyzes your donor database, imports the ratings and works with you to develop a complete moves management system – rating, moves and reporting. Then she coaches you through the first year, tweaking the system and making suggestions to keep you on track. Your team has the “food cooked” and can efficiently “serve” it – your team has prospect management tools and they are methodically moving major gift prospects toward gifts.

Be aware of the kind of relationship you need and want to reach your goals. Then communicate that clearly as you interview a prospective consultant. It is the first step toward hiring the right person for you and your organization – someone you like and trust with the skills to get you to your destination.

Aspire Research Group has worked in all three types of relationships with clients, depending upon the problem to be solved. Do you have a prospect research problem and aren’t sure how to solve it? We would be happy to discuss it with you. Call 727 231 0516 or email jen at AspireResearchGroup.com.

Other blog posts that might interest you:

5 Ways You Know You Need A Research Consultant

The Shocking Truth About Prospect Research Consultants!

5 Ways You Know You Need A Research Consultant

You know you need a prospect research consultant when…

  1. Your donor profiles don’t tell you anything you didn’t know.
  2. You know a prospect screening will boost your giving, but choosing a vendor and ensuring the results actually translate to gift strategies has you too nervous to buy.
  3. Your prospect researcher resigned – in the middle of your campaign!
  4. You know why prospect research is critical to your goals, but convincing your leadership requires an outsider.
  5. You understand various prospect research tools and methods, but don’t have the time or skills to put those tools in place at your organization.

Aspire Research Group is *passionate* about professional prospect research. Why? Because we are fundraisers! Call 727 231 0516 and ask for Jen or email jen at aspireresearchgroup.com. We love to talk prospect research!

The Shocking Truth About Prospect Research Consultants!

Go ahead and shock me!

Did you know that a prospect research consultant isn’t successful unless you, the front-line fundraisers, are successful? Shocking, but true! If I provide you with irrelevant data, or too much data, then you are less prepared and less strategic in your fundraising. You won’t raise as much money for your mission. I won’t get re-hired. And you won’t tell your friends good things about me.

I was reading an article in an excellent research magazine, Connections, published by the Association of Professional Researchers for Advancement. The provocative suggestion was that prospect researchers must move from “pushers to partners”. I never felt like I was an information pusher. But I have had front-line fundraisers tell me about their disappointing experiences with “pushers”.

When I founded Aspire Research Group, my goal was to bring professional prospect research to all sizes of organizations. We have been reaching that goal! And whenever I work with a client there is always some level of back and forth communication going on.

Whether it’s donor profiles, data mining, or prospect tracking, I need to understand who you are and what you want to achieve before I can provide you with information solutions that get you to your destination.

When you work with a prospect research consultant, be sure to make time for questions on both sides and for feedback after the work is delivered. If you do this, your consultant will be able to provide continually better services to you.

Consider the donor prospect profile as an example. You need more than house values and occupational titles. You need to understand what makes your prospect tick, why she has made gifts, and how her assets translate into wealth and possible gift opportunities. You need more than data – you need the information that will inform your fundraising.

Want to hear some shocking success stories? Want to find out how to improve your fundraising strategy with prospect research? Call Jen Filla at 727 231 0516 or email jen at aspireresearchgroup.com.