Tag Archives: prospect profile

Pictures and Patterns: Decision-making with Fundraising Insights

Imagine you emerge from a strategic planning session and your task is to raise more money from corporations. Your organization wants to expand its reach and you need to take the thousands of corporate donors in the database and transform them into a fundraising program. Why? Because everyone “feels” like there is a lot of opportunity there. Where do you start?

One of the most common mistakes in fundraising is to make decisions and invest money and resources in strategies that are based on intuition and anecdotal evidence alone. Let’s face it, sometimes it works, and maybe that’s why the behavior is so persistent. But much of the time data-weak decisions fail miserably, often slowly and painfully with lots of fingers pointed. There is a better way.

Leverage the talents of prospect research to paint pictures and identify patterns!

Well-trained prospect research professionals are methodical and analytical. That means that we enjoy solving problems, untangling messy information, and putting order to chaos. Share with us your dilemmas, your problems …your fundraising hopes and dreams. We can help you succeed!

In the new corporate fundraising program example, it means painting a picture of our corporate donors:

  • Where are they located?
  • How many of them are there and at what giving levels?
  • How long have they been donors?
  • Are they small, closely held companies, or large corporations?

And then identifying clusters and patterns:

  • Are there groups of donors in particular industries, geographic locations, or company size?
  • Do the donors that give the most and most frequently have anything in common?
  • Is there anything about the data that can help us understand the giving behaviors? Can we see any correlations between data points?

There is no standard checklist for exploring this kind of information. It requires a keen understanding of the fundraising being undertaken matched with an analytical mind trained in using data to solve problems.

When a prospect research professional works with you to explore your data and make an initial assessment, you can decide on strategies and tactics that will raise the most money now and in the future.

For example, you might discover some companies are more “ripe” for a new approach than others. If they have been giving frequently and increasing their giving, visiting them and discovering their philanthropic needs might uncover a unique corporate approach for your organization that you hadn’t thought of!

Knowing that your best donors are dominated by small, closely held companies gives you the opportunity to find out why. What makes your organization so attractive to them? Are they really individual donors in disguise or do they have company objectives for their philanthropy?

Uncovering an unusual pattern, such as expressions of faith on the company website, might give you an insight that challenges the way you perceived your donors and that opens the door to much deeper relationships.

Fundraising success through insights is not so much about the tools – data mining, statistical analysis, profile research – it’s about giving the donor story inside your data a voice.

When you hire a prospect research professional to help you understand your data, you are hiring someone with a unique skill set – someone who can uncover and communicate the “story” inside your data.

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Can you Achieve Faster-Better-Cheaper Profiles?

“I need a profile on this person today…can’t you just Google it?” It’s the kind of question that makes prospect research professionals cringe. But why shouldn’t a development officer want it faster, better, and cheaper? Why is your organization paying thousands of dollars a year for research tools if it still takes forever to get the information needed?

So what’s happening to cause this disconnect between development officer and prospect researcher? I suspect there a few causes, but first, let me tell you a story…

As a consultant I charge a flat fee for projects. I want my clients to be able to budget, and as a professional I should have a fair idea of how long it will take to do the research. Profile-type research falls into this category. And it’s this kind of pressure that keeps us razor sharp. It’s me and the team against the clock!

That’s how I “rediscovered” one of my favorite tools the other day – DonorSearch.net.

Faster-Better-Cheaper with DonorSearch.net

At Aspire Research Group we’ve taken on a few new clients that, in addition to standard profile research, needed some “situational” research done. Things like prioritizing, quick checks to be sure assigning for a visit is appropriate, or key items researched to prepare the president. So I asked myself, “How could we manage our time researching, keep up the high quality of information, and make it the right price?”

In my quest, I took a fresh look at our tools and settled on DonorSearch to start our projects. Of course, being able to upload a small batch of names for a prospect screening is a time-saver, but even when we entered only one name into the Integrated Search, suddenly everything was at our fingertips. DonorSearch had made so many updates to their product – the combined result meant we could be very competitive.

For example:

  • Time Management: The big name family business was clearly the source of wealth, but why was the prospect not listed on the website? Open Corporates in the Integrated Search demonstrated a long list of companies where he was a director – many with the same word in the name. From there a quick Google search revealed his specialty in the family business. Faster.
  • High Quality: There was a large, outlier gift to an organization with a strange name. I didn’t want to put it in the list without checking, but didn’t want to have to do a distracting search. A click on the source link gave me a searchable PDF – and lo and behold – it was an organization with a mission similar to the client! Better.
  • The Right Price: By letting the tool do all of the upfront “grunt” work finding relevant information we spent less time gathering and more time thinking, and that meant we could charge the right price. Cheaper.

Ask the Librarian: Can’t you just Google that?

But if you really want your research to achieve the business mantra of better-faster-cheaper, you need more than a great tool like DonorSearch. You need to start with a really good understanding of the need and continue with really good communication throughout.

So why do researchers get asked to Google it in seconds flat? Let’s go ask the librarians! Librarians are trained to interview the customer. When you go to the reference desk, the librarian has to figure out what you are trying to accomplish and then help you navigate your way to success.

While we don’t view the reference librarian as an expert on the subject matter that brings us to the library, we do view the librarian as someone who has received training in library science and is an expert on helping us find information. The librarian is a professional.

The “just Google it” request suggests that any amateur without training can perform quality prospect research, which can be insulting … but it also happens to be a great opening for a really good conversation to clarify the  problem to be solved.

Professionals are Always in Demand

The more that software tools are able to do, the more important prospect research professionals become. Librarians don’t worry that books will put them out of business!

And on the flip side, the more that software tools are able to do, the more we must use our communication and problem-solving skills to provide flexible, custom solutions.

If you manage a prospect researcher, if you are a prospect researcher, or if you want to be a prospect researcher, you can arrive at better-faster-cheaper profile research if you recognize the importance of great training (including communication skills) and tools. It’s what qualifies us as prospect research professionals!

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Cure Analysis Paralysis with this Visual

In this wonderful era of exciting, off-the-shelf prospect research tools and one-click-away data analysis, how is it that we still struggle to prioritize our donors and prospects? But we do. The results come in, the scores are assigned and yet there are still way more highly-rated prospects than our staff could possibly contact. Which names do we call on first?

Human brains are not wired to interpret and act upon long lists of names with appended information, such as those found in our databases and Excel spreadsheets. And when you need 50 names, but there are 300 that all have the same top score, it can be paralyzing!

Whenever I hear about data visualizations I always see pictures of charts and graphs in my mind’s eye. But when I was grappling with how to deliver a prioritized prospect list to a client recently I decided against charts and graphs. I wanted something that would give them a colorful visual with graphics, but also actual donor prospect names with dollar signs.

The organization had decided to create a more formal corporate giving program. It had been happening accidentally and now they wanted to get serious. So she sent me a list of over a thousand of their best donors based on giving history. My job was to sort it out and send it back.

We decided to focus on two variables that we labeled engagement and gift potential. Engagement was based on RFM scoring, which stands for recency, frequency, and monetary and represents a giving history analysis. We also appended some estimated sales and other data to determine gift potential.

As you can see from the picture below, the key to the data visualization was limiting the presentation two only two, easily understood and highly relevant variables. (The information in the grid is fictional.)

Click to enlarge

Following is how you “read” the picture for this donor list:

  • Stars = high engagement, high gift potential
  • Loyal = high engagement, low gift potential
  • Opportunities = low engagement, high gift potential
  • Likes = low engagement, low gift potential

I knew that my client, a talented fundraising professional, really wanted to begin her efforts with a fighting chance of receiving major gifts in the first year. Who wouldn’t want that? It was up to me as a researcher to understand how to translate the organization’s fundraising program intentions into data points, create or get those data points, and then translate it back into fundraising actions.

My client didn’t need to understand exactly how I sorted and filtered to assign donor prospects into each of these categories. She needed to be able to recognize some names, be pleased and surprised to see some names she didn’t recognize, and be able to quickly make decisions about which ones she will call tomorrow.

No matter what kind of fundraising professional you are – front-line, prospect research, or something in between – you now have a simple way to visualize two variables that you can ask for or apply to the data yourself.

If you have a data visualization triumph I’d love to hear about it! Reply to this email or better yet, comment on the blog post.

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How do I make prospect profiles work for me?

I work with quite a few fundraising professionals who are taking a leadership role for the first time or are heading into their first ever serious fundraising campaign. Suddenly you have to figure out how to make the leap into managing significant gifts and create a major gift program that delivers. That’s a lot of pressure!
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So, of course, you demand – and get – a budget for prospect research. Way to go! Now what?

What is prospect research exactly and how does one USE profiles?

As I mentioned in Re-Wiring the Trusty Profile, it helps when you and your team discuss and recognize how and where traditional prospect research, such as profiles, fundraising analytics, and relationship or prospect management intersect at your organization. Even in a small team, you’re no doubt running a full development program. Research will likely touch many parts of that program.
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For example, I had a researcher describe to me how her initial snapshot profile went directly into the donor database for prospects that were assigned for a first visit. It was up to the gift officer to print the snapshot report and make the visit. Is that traditional prospect research (e.g., snapshot profile) or prospect management (e.g., proactive prospect assignment)? Well, it’s both, isn’t it?

But to know what you can get out of a profile, you need to know what goes into it.

In 3 Strategies to Choose a Research Tool I show you a graphic and describe the five building blocks of the profile. This structure identifies what information is relevant for fundraising, but your profile format could be any kind of mix-and-match from these building blocks.
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In Can You Really Trust Prospect Research? I talk about some of the commonly held misunderstandings about the voo-doo we researchers do. There’s a lot of confusion about what information we can find and how accurate or complete it can be.
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As a fundraiser meeting with donors, you are performing primary research. You find out all of the information we researchers usually can’t. In your face-to-face meetings you discover people’s philanthropic passions, family and health situations, and their interests and personal connections to your organization. What information do you need to perform those visits and ultimately ask for a major gift? Once you understand the five profile building blocks, you will be much better placed to answer that question well.

But the very best move you can make to use PROFILES WITH POWER is to communicate with your researcher!

With the five building blocks of the profile as your conversational guide, examine what you need to know at each stage of your interactions with donor prospects. What does your researcher recommend in terms of software subscription tools versus manual research?
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In some situations you might do well with a quick look-up in a tool on your own and a first visit before asking for a researched profile. And sometimes getting a researcher’s edge from out of the starting gate will deliver better results in a shorter period of time.
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Once you understand what you need and when, can you break it down into two or three types of standard profile requests? Of course you can always make exceptions – you’re the boss! But standardizing your practices will make it easier to manage expectations and easier to onboard new staff as you continue to grow.

Prospect Research is good and exciting work!

Discovering people’s paths to wealth and their expressions of philanthropy is sheer pleasure. As a prospect research professional I love being part of the team that connects people to the joys of giving. When I can work closely with a front-line fundraiser to cultivate and solicit a transformative gift it’s a breath-taking experience!
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The power of profiles can be yours – especially if you treat your researcher as one of the fundraising team. Who knows? Your prospect research professional might just turn out to be your secret weapon!
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More Resources

 

Learn to perform basic prospect research and find information on your prospects – fast!

 

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To Advocate or Not to Advocate – there is no question!

advocate
“Advocate” by Nick Youngson, is licensed under Creative Commons 3 – CC BY-SA 3.0

Something big and very exciting is happening in the field of prospect research. It is at once both thrilling and terrifying, but then again, the best things in life usually are! Do you know what I am talking about? Prospect research has become the center of attention concerning the use and abuse of data in nonprofit fundraising.

The Thrilling Aspect

For years prospect research languished in basements, yearning for that exclusive seat at the leadership table. Thrillingly, prospect research professionals in the U.K. have been thrust into that seat with all the anticipation of slowly ratcheting up the roller-coaster-mountain and the subsequent terror of being dropped with a 5.5 G-force speed down the other side.
It’s official. Data is a big deal. And the guardians and operators of data in non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are prospect research professionals.
So after working long and hard behind the scenes, after advocating to fundraising leadership for the use and respect of prospect research, we have arrived at the leadership table. And my, what an entrance we have made!

The Terrifying Aspect

In the U.K., the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has been fining charities for violations of the Data Protection Act 1998. The fines have ranged from a low of £9,000 to a high of £25,000. The IOC has done a lot of interpretation of the Data Protection Act 1998, and has surprisingly used emotional language.
The fines include best practices in prospect research such as the following:
Is this the end of prospect research in the U.K.? I doubt it. There will be changes as NGOs adapt their data and privacy policies to carefully reflect their fundraising practices. Some NGOs will even seize this as an opportunity to share their fundraising “data story” with the public.

New Perspective Fueled by Advocacy

After this terrifying plunge, the interpretation of the Data Protection Act 1998 by the ICO may shift as NGOs, fundraisers, prospect researchers, donors, and other constituents react and lend their voices to the conversation. For example, the Institute of Fundraising issued a report, Good Asking, exploring why charities research and process supporter information.
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On the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, instead of a tightening of data privacy, the U.S. has been experiencing a loosening of data privacy. On April 3, 2017, President Trump repealed a set of privacy regulations requiring “internet service providers to request authorization before selling sensitive customer data to advertisers, or using that same information for marketing campaigns.” (Click for article)

What Can You Do? Advocate!

Whether you are in the U.K., the U.S., or any other country, we prospect research professionals are most often the guardians and operators of fundraising data in our organizations. We may have little or no leadership authority (yet), but that doesn’t mean we can’t advocate for our profession and for solid data practices – before we find ourselves the subject of unflattering news headlines.
It’s easy to say we should advocate, but what might that look like in real life? Following are three steps to help you advocate effectively:
  1. Define the change you desire. Just as in goal setting, clearly defining the change you want to effect is important. Are you advocating for the creation of a data privacy policy, or are you advocating for your prospect research position or department?
  2. Determine your strategy. Strategy comes before tactics. Who needs to be persuaded to make change happen? Where are the obstacles to the change you seek?
  3. Craft your tactics. Tactics are the kinds of actions you take to fulfill your strategy and effect change.
Consider the story of Suzanne Harris at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It is a classic case of advocacy gone right! Suzanne wanted to introduce RFM scoring. She talked up RFM scoring and quoted gurus in the field. She built a relationship with IT to create an automated score that could be refreshed. Then the Development Department threw a party for all staff, on a day fundraisers were likely to be in the office, and used games to educate and demonstrate the value of the new scores.
Advocacy isn’t just for associations or organizations with a cause. It’s something all of us do all the time. We advocate for a raise, to have dinner at a certain restaurant, or to visit somewhere special for vacation. Advocacy becomes more complex when there are more players and procedures in between the current status and the change we desire.
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Considering the level of strategic complexity we navigate when we provide insights in prospect profiles, analyze prospect portfolios, and perform data mining, we can handle advocacy!

More Resources You Might Like

Warning! Anyone can do analytics.

colorfulTwo of the strongest characteristics prospect research professionals have in common is insatiable curiosity combined with a surprising boldness. We are proudly generalists! And very good at it too.

I was inspired by a visit to the Philadelphia Museum of Art in September where an APRA Pennsylvania member shared how she fearlessly tackled fundraising analytics to upgrade the organization’s major gift prospect pools.

Suzanne Harris is a Research Analyst and her supervisor is Sarah Cadbury, Director of Prospect Research and Management. A new researcher, in 2014 Suzanne was a successful student of the Prospect Research Institute’s inaugural Introduction to Prospect Profiles course. When she joined the Philadelphia Museum of Art she jumped right into a campaign and the prospect identification and tracking that goes along with that.

Sarah had created a campaign rating – the amount a specific prospect was anticipated to give – as a way of sorting and compiling the campaign gift table. They also had external vendor ratings, including a capacity rating from 2014. As discussions swirled around segmenting prospects effectively it became clear to Suzanne that a score based on internal data was needed.

At a previous organization Suzanne had read Joshua Birkholz’ book, Fundraising Analytics: Using Data to Guide Strategy, and had become interested in creating an RFM (Recency, Frequency, Monetary) score, but she hadn’t quite figured out how to adapt the book’s method to their constituency.

At the Philadelphia Museum of Art she was using the Raiser’s Edge donor database. Raiser’s Edge provided summary financial data, which was exactly what she needed to calculate RFM.

But still, Suzanne struggled with how to make it come together for the Museum. She began having conversations internally with database/IT folks. She emphasized how the RFM data would be used and why that was important.

She attended an APRA conference where she heard Joshua Birkholz talk about the value of fundraising analytics. Upon returning to the office she read her notes out loud, verbatim, to persuade people of the importance of a score like RFM.

Then, finally, it all came together in one meeting. Suzanne sat down for about an hour and half with an internal database guru and they worked out how the RFM could be automatically calculated using an intermediary Access database. They cherry-picked the data points most relevant to the Museum and created the scores based on them.

Suzanne’s “I can do anything” generalist attitude, combined with her ability to boldly persuade others of the importance of an internal score had resulted in success!

Marcy Serkin, Deputy Director of Development for Development Operations, suggested they roll out the RFM scores with a party. So they did. The party was an inclusive, all-staff party. People who had no idea of what ratings were learned about them. They threw the party on a Monday because the Museum is closed on Mondays and the gift officers are usually in the office.

Much like any other product launch party, they introduced RFM with a theme, fun activities, and education. Inspired by the art of Lisa Frank, they chose a colorful rainbow and unicorn theme.

Data Mining: Because Unicorns Don’t Find Themselves.

They created custom stickers and let people “taste the rainbow” with Skittles candy. They played a game, too, where everyone had cards with RFM scores. The last three people standing – the unicorns in the room – all had high scores and were not assigned to a gift officer. Their prize was a swipe at the unicorn piñata!

Suzanne is not a statistician or a data scientist. She is a prospect research professional. A generalist!

She used her prospect research knowledge to persuade others about the importance of internal scoring and to collaborate with her to create and launch the scoring so that it could have a positive impact on the campaign – and even beyond the campaign to annual fund and planned giving.

Suzanne is a prospect research hero! You can be, too. Be confident in your skills and boldly persuade others to use research effectively for fundraising.

More Resources You Might Like

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Join the Resource Collections online community to access this video tutorial.

 

Net Worth: Nasty, Nice, or Neutral?

cash-1169650_1280There was a cry for help on the PRSPCT-L list-serv: “I’m a new researcher and my boss wants me to provide net worth on a prospect. He says it was the previous practice to do this and I can get what I need to calculate it from Dun & Bradstreet.” What would your response be?

To begin, a simple definition of net worth follows:

Assets – Liabilities = Net Worth

The Three Common Responses to Net Worth

If you mention “net worth” in the prospect research field, you will likely hear one of the following three responses:

  1. Don’t do it! Or you will be voted off the prospect research island!
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    The argument against estimating net worth is usually this: If we cannot find or know the values of all assets and liabilities (which of course we cannot), then we have no business estimating net worth. This is often a strong, unequivocally held opinion.
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  2. Hide that you are doing it by using another term or keep it behind the capacity rating calculation.
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    This is the most common practice in our field. Instead of using the words “estimated net worth”, researchers rephrase with a term such as “estimated wealth”. Even more common is to use the results of wealth surveys, such as the chart on page 19 of the Capgemini 2016 World Wealth Report, to estimate net worth based on a known asset such as real estate and then take a percentage of estimated net worth as the gift capacity.
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  3. Boldly present estimated net worth.
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    There are researchers who feel comfortable presenting estimated net worth. Some provide disclaimers or educational explanations to communicate better generally or to clarify outlier situations.

Easy Formula, Tricky Calculation

Assets – Liabilities = Net Worth

The formula looks so simple, but this is deceptive. As prospect research professionals we know that we can’t discover and value all of a prospect’s assets or liabilities. It is the reason we use the word “estimated.”

Among the challenges in estimating net worth, there are two that jump out quickly:

  1. Many assets (and liabilities) are troublesome to value – none more than private company ownership.
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    I have discussed the difficulty of private company valuation before. A common route to wealth is to start a private business, and many of these successful entrepreneurs want to “give back”, among other motivations for giving.
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    And it brings us back to our fellow researcher’s list-serv plea. Dun & Bradstreet (DNB) sells data, including estimated values of a private companies. Assuming we know how much of that company our prospect owns, we could use the DNB dollar amount to estimate the prospect’s ownership value. Or could we? DNB uses its own formulas to estimate and can be very far off the mark.
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  2. Are we talking about titled ownership such as a name on the deed, or influence over money, such as sitting on a grant-giving family foundation board?
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    Our prospect could be a child of a wealthy family with very few public assets identified. And yet, we may find she has influence over millions of dollars in a family foundation. Estimated net worth and gift capacity clearly diverge at this point. You might estimate a low net worth, but still consider her to have a million dollar gift capacity because of her influence over grant giving.

Logic and Emotion – Let them Collaborate!

There is nothing simple about money. Money is one of the most emotionally volatile topics you can discuss, and those emotions flow into the workplace. Addressing your own emotions and biases about money is the first step.

You might want to seriously consider whether your difficulty imagining the wealth of multi-billionaires is affecting your ability to logically estimate net worth or gift capacity – and whether you have negative emotions attached to great wealth accumulation. Emotions are not your enemy. Ignoring them is.

Now you are ready to balance how you and your gift officers “feel” about your prospect’s potential wealth with the logical, quantifiable assets and liabilities found in the public domain.

Following are the most frequently used tools or ratings:

  • Estimated Net Worth
  • Gift Capacity Range
  • Affinity (how close they feel to your organization)
  • Philanthropic Inclination (do they give at all?)
  • Linkage (how are they connected to your organization)

When used responsibly, estimated net worth is one more tool prospect research professionals can provide to assist frontline fundraisers in creating major gift solicitation strategies. Don’t be afraid to use it!

More Resources You Might Like

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Join the Resource Collections online community to access this handout. Use it to facilitate discussion with your gift officers and leadership.

 

Why a Really Good Prospect Profile Isn’t Good Enough

chess-454098_1920I don’t know if this has happened to you, but all too often I find an amazing product – a special soap or leak-proof mug – only to discover a few years later that the company is out of business and the amazing product is gone forever. Good products perform, but successful companies steward their customers.

We researchers provide great products – such as prospect profiles – that perform, but are we stewarding and listening to our end-users? All too often we are not.

We complain that our end-users think we can press a button and print a profile; that people tell us we should just Google it; or that gift officers demand every prospect be deeply researched before making the first phone call.

You are not going to want to hear this, but I’ll tell you anyway. It’s our own fault!

We accept work requests without any conversation. Sometimes we even create complicated forms to avoid contact. If we really fall down the rabbit-hole we obsess over the process of requesting, completing and delivering. And then we deliver as if we dropped the profile over the cliff never, ever to be seen again.

Okay, I am being dramatic.

But imagine if we did things a little differently…

  • We talked to the requestor. “Gosh, Jan, this prospect just made a $10M gift to us two years ago. Was there something specific you were hoping I’d find? Oh, you are looking for planned gift opportunities. Sure thing.”
  • We talked to the requestor. “Hello Josh. Do you have a few minutes to talk? Great! I wanted to ask you about Mr. Bucketloads. I had so much fun researching a hedge fund manager. It doesn’t happen every day. So I wanted to be sure I presented his information clearly. What did you think of the occupation section?”
  • We talked to the requestor. “Liz, thank you for taking time to meet with me. Another year has passed and as I was reviewing my work I realized that you have asked for twice as many profiles as anyone else. I’d love to know what you like best, what we could change to make them better, and how you feel it helps you raise more money.”
Are you noticing a pattern here? Talk to the requestor.
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Mass Produced vs. Fine Art Masterpiece
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When we ignore our end-users, our prospect profiles become a mass-produced item. We are training end-users to ask these kinds of questions:
  • This is cookie-cutter stuff so why can’t I get more faster?
  • Why are we spending so much on research? I bet we could find a way to do it cheaper.
  • A specific piece of information is missing. I’m not sure we’re even getting quality.
  • There is an error here. How many other errors are in the work?

When we talk with our end-users – creating relationships where questions are regularly asked, ongoing dialogue occurs, and improvements are made to the product – trust builds and our prospect profiles become perceived as fine art masterpieces!

We are training our end-users to ask these kinds of questions:

  • I really want to see a specific item on the first page to help make decisions in the prospect meeting. I wonder if the researchers can add that?
  • The vendor at the conference says many research departments use their tool. It’s amazing! I have to ask our researchers about it. They would know if it’s hype or not.
  • This profile is fantastic! I feel so much more confident about my gift proposal.
  • Geez. There is an error here. It’s probably just a mistake, but I’d better mention it.
This is Chess, not Uno.
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Building relationships and trust is a slow process with setbacks and triumphs along the way. You need the focus and attention required for a game of chess, not the immediate gratification from a card game of Uno.
And the reality is that sometimes our ability to build relationships is complicated by the hierarchical staffing structures of our organizations. If we have no contact with the vice president, it’s tough to build a relationship.
We can find a million (mass-produced) reasons why we can’t build relationships. It’s the top performer who collects (fine art masterpiece) relationships. Make no doubt about it, you can too. One conversation at a time.

More Resources You Might Like

Fundraising + Science = ?

test tube2Did you have a chance to read the Chronicle of Philanthropy in April? The one titled “Science Unlocks the Secrets of Giving”? Because it was … provocative!

I am a prospect research professional. I love data! Poring over the latest wealth study and pulling out bullet points and formulas to use in researching prospects brings me joy! So why did the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s coverage in April make me uncomfortable?

First, I’d like to say that being uncomfortable is not altogether a bad thing. Pushing outside the comfort zone can yield growth and innovation. And I really hope that happens when it comes to applying science to fundraising. But something isn’t lined up properly.

What Using Science in Philanthropy Means 

As I argued in my Innovate or Die article, fundraising must change in response to the economic, cultural and other shifts occurring. What the Chronicle of Philanthropy articles were suggesting was that fundraising should be using the human research and fundraising-specific research studies to craft fundraising strategies and programs.

Human research? Yes really! Such as neuroscientific research delving into what is happening in the brain when someone gives. Research into “how the body’s hormones can affect the reward-giving dopamine levels in our brains that create feelings of generosity and trust”.

There was also a short story on how an organization gave up on an experimental fundraising strategy that involved direct mail with a do-not-solicit-option for the donor that promised not to solicit ever again if a gift was made. The organization was uncomfortable with having no way to build a relationship with the 46% who had made a gift under the do-not-solicit-option … even though they were raising more money from those gifts than with the traditional approach.

I understand the discomfort, but I don’t understand mailing to all those people who will never give again anyway. (Don’t be over-optimistic here; how many of your donors have permanently lapsed after the first gift? Do you even know? And do you continue to mail to them for years, hoping?)

Changing Perspective, Not Changing Values

 A slight shift in our perspective on donors can better align our organization with reality. We can maintain the same mission and values, but when we recognize that our donors are not “our donors”, but “people who have a made a gift to our organization” we have room to see things differently.

The science might be saying that we are raising more dollars by not stewarding people who don’t want to be stewarded, but from a new perspective we can translate that into … we will respect the wishes of people not to be contacted and we will honor those who do want to be contacted by spending more of our resources building relationships with them.

The science says we will and are raising more money with a specific strategy. Our shift in perspective allows us to say we will and are raising more money using the same integrity and values we have espoused all along – the donor’s right to make choices.

Sure, neuroscientific research studies can be a little bit difficult to decipher and boil down to actionable bullet points. Yes, fundraising research can be in opposition to long-standing traditions and beliefs about donors.

It can make us uncomfortable.

We have to question our resistance. We have to change the angle from which we view the situation. Why would we not want to respect the wishes of someone who has made a gift to us? Even when it is a wish not to be contacted.

Research is suggesting, nigh, demanding that we do our fundraising differently. Innovate or Die!

But we must do ‘different’ with a balanced approach. We must shift our perspective so that we can make decisions that accept reality and yet still align with our mission, values and the trust the public has for our organizations. The trust they have in us.

More Resources:

Forbes Billionaire List Alert: What you’re missing

dancingwomensmWomen may be just under half of the world’s population, but they represent 11% of the 2015 Forbes World’s Billionaires List. Of the 197 women on the list, 29 are self-made billionaires. These may not sound like inspiring numbers, but consider the women on the rise.

Elizabeth A. Holmes is the youngest self-made woman billionaire – ever.

And she happens to be female. And she founded a company using her scientific prowess. So if you’ve been reading all the nasty headlines about how women suffer from misogynists harassing them in the tech field, consider that some uber-successful women have simply stepped around that hot mess!

Ms. Holmes is 31 years old, has retained 50% ownership of her company Theranos valued at around $9 billion, and makes time for philanthropy:

  • Board President for Improve International, an organization launched by fellow Georgia Tech alumna Susan Davis, which is devoted to education, partnership, and monitoring the sustainability of water and sanitation projects worldwide
  • Active mentor for young professionals within Elavon, a payment processing company
  • Volunteer at Georgia Tech, participating annually as a judge for TAG’s Educational Collaborative
  • Member of Women in Technology and On Board
  • Financial supporter of Girls Inc.

The real question is this: If Ms. Holmes wasn’t on the Forbes list, would you even know she existed?

Because I bet there are many sweet major gift prospect gems inside your databases and within your organization’s social circle, but you have no clue.

How Do Women Hide in Your Database?

Of the 168 non-self-made female billionaires on the list, many inherited their wealth from fathers and husbands. But don’t let that fool you. They own it! Did you pay attention to those women before their fathers and husbands died? You should have.

Even before they are widowed these women are usually the influencers and even the drivers behind household philanthropic decisions.

In her debut publication What About Women? prospect research professional Preeti Gill suggests you take a walk through your database …as a woman.

  • When a couple makes a gift, do you credit them both?
  • When you have a couple as donors, do you create a separate record for the woman?
  • What salutation does the woman have?
  • Are you paying attention to how she wants her name listed?

How Do Women Hide Among Your Organization’s “Family”?

Perhaps the easiest way wealthy women are hidden and not recognized by the organizations they love is when they are never entered into the database to begin with. Way too many organizations do not track and include volunteers in their fundraising vision and plans. Your prospect research professional can’t find major gift prospects in your database if they aren’t in there.

And what do we know about women? They do their due diligence before investing! And part of that due diligence is often volunteering for the organization.

Wealthy Women are Still Women

Ignore women in your fundraising at your own peril! Women are different from men. They think about money differently. They want different interactions with your organization from men. And they might even give differently from men.

Fundraising with a focus on women will require adjustments and adjustments require time, money and resources.

But very wealthy women are on the rise and they bring rewards:

  • Quick to make referrals through word of mouth
  • Frequently give unrestricted gifts, small and large
  • Loyal donors who advocate to others within their network

Are you interested in learning more and staying current on women in philanthropy? Click here to sign-up for the What About Women? email list.

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