Tag Archives: major gifts

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!

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The Friends of a $55 million Donor

by Jakki Aviles

David Alan Tepper, founder of Appaloosa Management L.P., has recently announced that, through the David Tepper Charitable Foundation, he will be making a $3 million gift to Feeding America, one of the nation’s largest organizations that fight hunger.

Tepper’s philanthropy did not start with hunger-relief organizations. A gift he is probably best known for is his record $55 million gift to Carnegie Mellon’s business school. Tepper attended the school to receive his MBA, but certainly did not come up with the idea for the gift completely on his own. He was prompted by a friend and former professor, Kenneth Dunn, to donate. Tepper was convinced, but was also driven by naming capabilities– the school is now named the David A. Tepper School of Business.

Friends, however, seem to be the main source of motivation behind Tepper’s generous gifts. According to the Clark-Garwood Patch, Tepper was introduced to the hunger-relief area of philanthropy by a friend, Kathleen DiChiara, who is the founder and president of the Community FoodBank of New Jersey. She asked Tepper for his help in a campaign and he, in turn, got together $2 million between himself and others in his company.

According to an article in PR Newswire, the FoodBank is part of a larger network: Feeding America. Through being introduced to the hunger movement in his home state by Ms. DiChiara, Tepper was made aware of a larger cause that was in need of gifts. Feeding America tapped into a valuable source in Mr. Tepper. He is motivated by the causes his friends encourage, and was already donating to Feeding America’s hunger movement on the local level.

Perhaps the most interesting and valuable aspect of a donor like Tepper is his enormous wealth. The David Tepper Charitable Foundation first became interested in hunger in 2006. In a rather short amount of time, the Foundation moved from a local charity to donations to the national charity. As Tepper’s giving progression has shown, he is capable of giving to all sorts of hunger charities and does not need to be dedicated to just one. His wealth allows him to give on a level that many only dream about.

Tepper’s wealth and wide-range of interests should be a major clue-in for fundraisers looking for donors. As he has demonstrated, his engagement in charities like Feeding America is relatively new, and highly influenced by a friend dedicated to the project. As a fundraiser you need to be careful not to overlook the social networks within your reach. Although Tepper may not have come up with the idea to give to hunger based on his own inner passion for the cause, he is still giving– in large amounts. Who’s to say he could not be influenced to put his money into another great cause?

Are there any David Teppers lurking in your donors’ social sphere? Would you know if there were? Predictive modeling, wealth screenings and donor ratings all focus on the names you have in your database. The social reach of your board members and existing major gift donors might not reveal a David Tepper.

At Aspire Research Group we have helped organizations use prospect research to find their David Tepper in two ways:
(1)  Researching an individual identified as wealthy and/or interested in the mission – Sometimes a fundraiser will read about a David Tepper in their community (you are reading local and philanthropy news sources, right?!) Through in-depth research, Aspire Research Group focuses on business, volunteering, giving and social relationships. Using this information the fundraiser can begin to connect the dots back to her organization, with Aspire Research Group providing quick follow-up answers as part of the profile service.

(2) Exploring the relationships of someone known to the organization – Especially with major gift donors, a fundraiser will come to Aspire Research Group looking to find ways to leverage the donor’s business and social spheres of influence. Being informed before sitting down with the donor helps to keep the meeting focused and productive.

If you want Aspire Research Group to help you find your very own David Tepper, give us a call at 800-494-4132 or email jen at aspireresearchgroup dot com.

A Call to Donors Who Can Appreciate the Mission

“The worst thing for artists is not to have the money available to carry out the ideas they have in their heads,” says Mark Bradford, explaining the thought that went into his $100,000 donation to create the Artists2Artists Fund.

Bradford would know. An article in the Wall Street Journal describes him as once being a financially struggling artist himself; one who was greatly helped by the award of a $50,000 fellowship grant from nonprofit organization United States Artists (USA). It’s important to him now to make available monetary grants for other artists who are in the same spot he once was.

An artist born and raised in Los Angeles with two degrees from California Institute of the Arts according to art21, Bradford is the lead donor to the Artists2Artists Fund of USA, which is designed in an innovative way as to best use social networking for community fundraising.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the  Artists2Artists Fund will be financed by established artists, and will match funds received through USA Projects, which is a social-network fundraising website. Artists can create their own pages on the website, where their works and ideas for future works will be displayed. People donate money for a specific artist to USA, which matches their gift. Of the funds raised, 81% goes to the artist and the other 19% covers program and website expenses.

So how does a nonprofit come by a donor as valuable as Mark Bradford? Look to his story. He is someone who appreciates the value of USA’s mission because his success, at least in part, grew from it. Bradford was the recipient of aid, and is now the leading donor to USA’s budding project. And his donation goes beyond just money– along with the $100,000 major gift he provided, he is also helping USA blaze a new trail for arts philanthropy by starting up a social-network fundraising website and encouraging successful artists to give back.

It is interesting that no gift from Mark Bradley could be found to the California Institute of the Arts where he received two degrees. One of Mr. Bradley’s primary motivations to give to USA was giving back. Why didn’t he want to give back to his alma mater? Did the Institute ask? Do they just not publicly recognize their alumni gifts? After a visit to their website I couldn’t even find a place to make a gift. From appearances, it would seem that the Institute missed a golden opportunity with Mark Bradley.

Mr. Bradley’s primary giving motivation appears to be to give back, but he also gave back in a way that mirrors his art and expressed values. In his art he re-purposes paper, twine and other materials he finds out in the world. He makes art possible from various discarded materials. The Artists2Artists Fund takes small gifts from many people and pulls them together to create a matching grant to an artist. Technology makes it possible to turn small gifts into a real opportunity for a struggling artist.

USA recognized that one of its previous aid recipients was now a successful artist. They took the time to listen to his interests and created a gift opportunity that matched Mark Bradley’s needs as well as their mission. Do you have a way to identify those who receive your services and move on to financial and other success? Once you identify the person, do you have a way to find out how to best connect?

Aspire Research Group helps organizations across the country find better ways to connect with donors. By preparing comprehensive, in-depth profiles on donor prospects we have helped clients just like USA learn enough about their prospects to reach out in a meaningful way by identifying board memberships, peers who could solicit, past giving history, wealth and so much more. You can bet that USA did their research before asking Mark Bradley for a gift. Have you done yours?

To learn more about donor prospect profiles, visit www.AspireResearchGroup.com or call (800) 494.4132.

Score a touchdown with prospect profiles

Graphic by Gabriella Fabbri

Just to tickle myself today I Googled “prospect profile” to see what would rise to the top. It turns out that the sports world is keen on prospect profiles! A potential player is identified, gets profiled and then eventually the best bets are picked for teams.

The top search hits were all prospect profiles of sports players including an NFL draft prospect scouting report on Brandon Spikes (okay I added the keyword “Florida” to get this one).

I now know all sorts of details at a glance about him and can read some narrative for even more. Turns out that he played for the Gators in Gainesville, he apparently attempted to gouge out another player’s eyes once, and he can run pretty fast for being such a big guy.

Sports is a HUGE business with equally large profits. There is no way they are going to pick players willy nilly. And what tool do they use? A prospect profile. Hmmm.

Major gift fundraising is VITAL to your organization’s fiscal condition. How important do you think a professionally researched prospect profile is before you go on your next major gift solicitation visit?

Maybe the answer depends on how successful you want to be.