Tag Archives: planned giving

Prospect Research Woman

March is always an interesting month – International Women’s Day and now Research Pride Month. It also happens to be the height of snowbird season in Florida where I live. The snowbirds arrive in full force in January and by March are facing the end of their extended vacation. As a condo-dweller, our recreation committee swings into high gear during this time and I partake in BUNCO, a dice game attended only by the women. We wouldn’t turn away a man, but they take off on those nights in search of the best happy hour deals and the cheapest eats on the beach.

We self-segregate because the snowbirds in my condo buildings came of age when a man couldn’t imagine attending a baby shower and a woman ruled the domestic space. This kind of segregation is almost incomprehensible to my daughter. In her world men and women plan the wedding together and they both attend their friends’ baby showers. Have we reached the age of inclusion?

Consider the world of prospect research. We use algorithms to find and match quantifiable assets to individuals and statistical modeling to predict likelihood to give. We deal in math and numbers. And math and numbers don’t lie. Or do they?

As Preeti Gill shared in her coming-of-awareness story, “What About Women?“, sometimes it’s not about what you find, but what you are not finding that matters. And in fundraising there are a lot of women and other minorities who are not being found, or when they are found, not being pursued because the right “numbers” are not found.

We know from Forbes Billionaires List that 75% of wealthy women did not earn the wealth they own or control. It doesn’t mean that they don’t have it. It does mean that as your prospect research professional I probably won’t be able to point to as many of those comfortable numbers you know and love – publicly held assets in her name.

We know that women prefer to volunteer and investigate organizations before making a significant investment. But that often means you will see many small gifts in one year adding up to a substantial sum or unlisted volunteer roles. And that means it’s likely that as a prospect research professional I won’t be able to point to the one BIG gift or the nonprofit board roles you cherish as such great indicators of wealth and inclination.

Prior to hearing from Preeti Gill I absolutely demonstrated bias in assessing wealthy women’s ability and inclination (and likely any other minority I’ve researched). The irony is not lost on me that just as I lament that so many women still feel pressure to perform a full-time career simultaneous with performing full-time domestic duties, I am biased against wealthy women. Me! A prospect research woman.

Yes, men and women attend baby showers together now, but primary parental and domestic duties still fall unevenly on women in most households. Yes, women have accumulated remarkable wealth, but fundraising is still struggling to update its “categories” or “mental shortcuts” that have worked so well in the past. And although information technology has improved our ability to do so many things, it inevitably incorporates the conscious and unconscious biases of its creators.

How exciting is it then that fundraising and prospect research is dominated by women? We are in the perfect position to openly examine potential bias and deliberately develop methods to counter it. We can write a different story, choosing different words and different numbers to represent different constituents – all of them hot prospects!

I’m proud to a member of a field that shares the way Preeti Gill shared her story; that collaborates the way APRA Pennsylvania welcomed the Prospect Research Institute to host roundtables together in Greater Philadelphia; that advocates the way that Research in Fundraising is doing in the United Kingdom; and that celebrates in the way that Helen Brown has anointed March as Research Pride Month.

No matter what your particular fundraising role is, take the time to share a little research pride. Ask your researcher what s/he does or share how prospect research has impacted you. If you are a prospect research professional, share the research contributions you have the most pride in. Be a part of the conversation on social media, too. Make your posts with the hashtag: #ResearchPride.

I and a whole bunch of other researchers will be looking for your stories!

More Resources You Might Like

Common Prospect Research Myths

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!

Getting Real with Residential Real Estate

This post debuts the InfoSeeking4Researchers series! I decided residential real estate would provide a great conversation starter. It appears simple, but is laced with multiple perspectives depending upon organization size, skill levels, prospect capacities and more. As in, a deceptively simple topic!

I have started the conversation here, but I’m expecting you to finish it. Each conversation starter I write will be emailed to InfoSeeking 4Researchers subscribers and posted here on the InfoSeeking blog under the 4Researchers category. You can subscribe to the e-newsletter to get extra tips and resources, or follow the blog category. Wherever you read it, I encourage you to post your experiences, tips, and questions as blog comments so everyone can benefit.

Residential real estate is one of the first things we researchers look for and yet sometimes we overlook the nuanced information it can provide. I was reminded of just how much it can shape prospect strategy as I was reviewing a prospect profile with a new client… but I’m getting ahead of myself. First, let’s discuss presenting the information. Second, I’ll give an example analysis. And third, I’ll start a list of examples that I hope you will add to!

Presenting Residential Real Estate

As the years roll forward, I have moved to presenting more of my researched information in tables. It ensures that no matter who does the work, everything looks the same, and it also helps me remember the pieces we need to check for. My real estate table looks like something like this:

Property Year Valuation
[depending on the level, I might include a picture here]

1234 Best Vista Drive, Indian Shores FL 33785

  • Pinellas County Gulf-front residence; 5-bed, 4776 sq ft interior
  • Purchased in 2002 for $8 million
  • Owned by Pillsbury and Jane Dough
  • Revolving line of credit recorded in 2007 for $1 million
2013 $11 million

I choose to present an estimated market value, which I round so the end user doesn’t interpret it as an exact value.

  • Are you presenting your research in a document or does everything go directly into the database?
  • Are there places in your database to include the bullet points above that will print in a database generated profile?

A Quick Analysis

So what do I now know about Mr. and Mrs. Dough?

  • They own a big house on the beach.
  • They purchased before the real estate market tanked and paid cash (no mortgage).
  • They took out a loan during the recession, which happened to coincide with when Mrs. Dough launched her new and very successful business.

And that means…

  • They already had wealth when they bought the house and leveraged that wealth during the recession to launch a business when the business market was quiet. I’d say they likely have significant capacity.

Other examples of things I have learned through real estate

  • When the property is owned in a trust named after the prospects and listing them as trustees, I want see if the trust name on the deed record states exactly what kind of trust it is. Holding the family home in trust suggests to me that they have done some estate planning, which the gift officer will want to take into consideration.
  • One prospect held a property in trust in his name and yet he was living in a retirement home. When this was pointed out to the gift officer, he told me that he had heard the prospect’s daughter was having troubles and that this house was likely bought for her use. So it’s not likely the property is going to factor into a gift, is it? Good to know.
  • When a prospect has owned the property 10+ years and still resides in the home, even if only part-time, it suggests a different approach to life and wealth than someone who buys and sells the primary residence as often as you might sign a car lease.
  • When there is a mortgage, and especially if it is a large one, it suggests that there must be a certain amount of income to support those mortgage payments. A mortgage calculator is a handy tool to get an estimate.
  • There’s a big difference between a successful real estate investor who sits on vacant land through the downturn (because she paid cash) and one who is stuck holding vacant land (because she has debt)!

Now it’s Your Turn!

Our profession is rife with experienced, intelligent and very creative people who also share. Won’t you share too?

  • Do you have examples to share like the ones above?
  • What nuggets of info routinely gets ignored, but shouldn’t?
  • Or should we spend less time on real estate and more on something else?

Click on “Leave a Comment” below or any of the social media buttons.

5 Tips for Finding Your Prospect’s Children

Knowing whether a donor prospect has children is a critical piece of information, but even more important for planned giving prospects. According to a study by Russell N. James III, J.D., Ph.D., Assistant Professor at the University of Georgia*, the absence of grandchildren as an indicator of likelihood to make a planned gift trumped even giving history – by a wide margin. Yes, go ahead and read that sentence again!

After those findings were presented at AFP’s International Conference I received multiple inquiries asking if there was a way to append child relationships to the donor database. Thank goodness the answer is “no”! I’m not confident that a centralized database of familial relationships is in our best interest generally. But it sure would be a powerful piece of information in our ability to predict inclination to give.

Whether you are a frontline fundraiser or a dedicated prospect researcher, there are a few ways to tease out information about children when it might not otherwise be obvious.

1.  Biographical Sources

The first places to look are biographies, obituaries and wedding notices – any place where family information is described. Sometimes it is tucked at the end of the executive’s company biography and may or may not include names. Sometimes the Who’s Who listing is detailed. Other times a search engine might find a genealogy page for your prospect’s family.

2.  In the News

Many of you have access to newspaper and other news databases online with the use of your public library card. Other news articles show up in search engine results. This is often a good place to find references to children and grandchildren.

3.  Search on Address

I like to use Lexis Nexis for Development Professionals (LNDP) and perform a “People” search using only the home address – especially when the prospect has lived there for a long time. But you can also use a site like www.switchboard.com and do a reverse search by address. Any search that will give you a list of the names of the people who have been associated with that specific address is useful. The bonus from the LNDP search is that those addresses are referenced against voter’s registration and other sources and a birth year is often included in the search results. This gets me closer to uncovering how likely those associated names are to being children, instead of other family members.

4.  Giving and Private Schools

When a prospect gives regularly to a private school, especially one from which s/he did *not* receive a diploma, I like to perform a search in Google of the school’s website. You can use the Google Advanced Search form, or type in your own. It looks like this:  LastName site:schoolname.edu   Many times I have found likely children’s names, and sometimes even grandchildren who are attending or have attended that school.

5.  Social Media

If your prospect is active on Facebook, Twitter, or other social media websites, you might be able to tease out family relationships. Many times the prospect has tight privacy controls, but it is surprising how much can still be discovered in the public domain. I have even encountered prospects who keep detailed, and very public, blogs online.

Once I have found a likely child’s name, I have often been rewarded by doing a couple of searches on only the child’s name. The younger generation is more comfortable sharing online and the child, especially if post high school, might share parent names and pictures more publicly. This helps us with making an accurate match, but we need to be careful when approaching the donor prospect.

Children are special and protected relationships, and the last thing we want to do is make the donor prospect feel like we are stalking her with our prospect research techniques! Without trust there will be no gift. Because of this, we as fundraisers need to be skilled at opening the conversational door to allow the prospect to tell us what we already know.

There is always room for error when we search for information anonymously. If you are a prospect researcher working with a new frontline fundraiser, it is worth having a conversation with him about how important it is to allow the prospect to confirm the information we find.

Other Posts You Might Like

Why Use a Researcher When There’s Google?

3 Actions That Demonstrate Your High Prospect Research IQ

* “Causes and correlates of charitable giving in estate planning: A cross-sectional and longitudinal examination of older adults”, a study conducted by Russell N. James III, J.D., Ph.D., Assistant Professor at the University of Georgia and published in 2008 (data from 1996-2007 collected by the University of Michigan Health and Retirement Study)

Cooking up Planned Giving with Julia Child

by Kate Rapoport.

I met Julia Child when I was a senior at Smith College. It was the first annual Julia Child Day at Smith, an event designed to honor Ms. Child and the revolution she had brought to the way Americans think about food. Julia Child was a Smithie herself, having graduated in 1934 with a degree in history. Even in her old age, she was a force to be reckoned with, her strong voice carrying as she talked to her many admirers. She had had an affection for Smith in the many years after graduation and had decided in her later years to include the college in her planned giving.

In Nonprofit Essentials: Major Gifts, Julia Ingraham Walker outlines the different types of planned gifts. These include gifts of marketable securities, donated art or other real property, charitable lead trusts which provide a stream of income over a period of years to the non-profit and then revert back to the donor at the end of the agreed upon time, and real estate that is gifted to the non-profit which the non-profit then sells.

Ms. Child chose the planned giving option of donating her house to Smith College. In 1990, she entered into an agreement with Smith, formally donating her house to the college, but keeping the right to live in it for her lifetime. She had lived in her home since 1956 and had filmed one of her famous cooking shows in the kitchen. The kitchen itself Child left to the Smithsonian, giving Smith the right to sell the house after her death.

In 2002, Ms. Child decided to move back to California, her childhood home. She accelerated her gift, giving her home in Massachusetts to Smith while she was still living. The proceeds of the sale of her home supported the construction of Smith’s Campus Center. Ms. Child died on August 12, 2004. An etching on a window of the Campus Center Café honors her generosity to Smith. Of the many ways to honor a donor, I think that that was a fitting tribute to Julia Child, who is rumored to have cooked for her friends and classmates while at Smith. There has also been a Julia Child Day every fall since 2003, continuing to honor the impact she made on Smith and the world.

The choice that Ms. Child made to give Smith College her house allowed her to make a significant gift to an institution that she strongly believed in supporting, while allowing her to live in her home until she made the choice to go home to California. That is the beauty of a planned gift. It gives a donor the chance to support a non-profit organization with a major gift, while still allowing her to use her resources during her lifetime.