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Question: Where is there opportunity for prospect development professionals to better partner with key, under-served areas within advancement? Why do you think we've overlooked them?
Answer: The opportunities for prospect development professionals to partner are “large and contain multitudes” as Walt Whitman might have said if he were talking about our profession. Historically, Research offices have played a central role in building major gift cultures and operations at institutions relatively new to large comprehensive campaigns. We have been doing so predominantly
because Pareto’s 80/20 rule and Giving USA data historically tell us that it is the relationships we foster with individuals that lead to the greatest charitable outcome for our institutions.
Our profession has moved significantly from “research” (reactive profiles, capacity analysis, suspect identification) to “prospect development” (system tracking, system development, workflow and portfolio optimizations as well as prospect-by-prospect strategy development and pipeline management) and these have traditionally been the domain of individuals within the five-year pledge terms of major-gift giving.
My sense is that with the rise of the $1B campaign over the last decade and with it the rise of eight- and nine-figure lead gifts, the nature of the prospect and leadership-gifts has brought about a change. I suspect that across many institutions these lead gifts extend beyond five years and contain multiple parts, including estate considerations.
I know as director of prospect research from 2000-2008, I overlooked corporate and foundation relations and planned giving because of a need to build major gift infrastructure, because our prospect management systems require Planned Giving and Corporate and Foundation Giving to be shoe-horned into the individual prospect tracking systems, and because, in the case of planned giving, the profession hadn’t fully considered that program’s place in a campaign.
For example, it was not until the 4th and most recent edition of CASE Reporting Standards & Management Guidelines, published in 2009, that estate giving was incorporated into the guidelines as part of campaign counting. I’ll discuss some of this history at the APRA DC Annual Conference.
Despite its exclusion from CASE standards throughout much of the 2000s, estate or testamentary giving has been baked into the campaign planning and in actual practice for most of that time, factoring in between 20% to 30% of a comprehensive goal and/or total. In the end, however, institutions are large and contain multitudes.
I’m not sure they’ve been overlooked so much as prioritized based on the needs of the institution on a situation-by-situation basis. Some institutions may have very young constituencies and a strong corporate culture in which case developing strong corporate prospect development practices have taken a higher level of attention than planned giving. Still others may have prioritized forecasting, trend analysis and data analytics to drive strategy to meet increased pressure on ROI.
One of the exciting things about the APRA DC conference this year is the DC chapter’s focus on these very themes. David and Lori Lawson, always engaging and insightful, address ROI and Impact. Josh Birkholz examines Analytics. Steve Knight and Agie Yatsko integrate the profession’s two core functions, identification and prospect management. The opportunity for research professionals abounds.
-Chris Pipkins, Associate Vice President, Advancement Information Services, James Madison University