March is when the entirety of the Prospect Development profession joins together in celebrating our fabulousness. To me, #ResearchPride month is a reminder to our community to find our #PowerTone (or #PowerPose!) by speaking up and often, to demonstrate a sense of community among fellow professionals, and to highlight the added value we bring to partnerships with our key stakeholders. To me, the most important part of that triad is the latter bit about partnerships.
That might be controversial given it’s #ResearchPride month, but I’ve had the opportunity to work with numerous gift officers of varying background, experience, and seniority that have helped me find my own #ResearchPride. My working relationships with these individuals are make or break for my success in a shop. My #ResearchPride is not just in my personal contribution, or that of my team’s, but in the holistic partnership I have with my gift officers. So I wanted to share some of my personal moments of #ResearchPride that specifically highlight when gift officers have made me proud to be a researcher.
To the various road warriors I’ve worked with:
- Thank you for sharing your successes with me by stopping in just to update me on the positive impact my research had on your visit or ask. This is the Holy Grail for a researcher and literally all I need at times to keep going.
- Thank you for thinking of research early and often by bringing us in on conversations from the get-go. We are here to help, and it warms my heart when you embrace that.
- Thank you for entering your contact reports completely and in a timely manner without fail. This makes my day-to-day work so much easier.
- Thank you for submitting, without my prompting, updated biographical information directly to the biographical records team, instead of saving it in a contact report (oh, the horror!).
- Thank you for recognizing that while I may be your only research liaison, you may be the fifth gift officer I have seen that day. That empathy goes a long way.
- Thank you for leading with “I just have one question; I don’t need a profile.” That lets me know that you get what my team does.
- Thank you for acknowledging that not every request I get is of merit and taking the time to share a laugh about the ridiculousness that is often my reality.
- Thank you for your candid feedback and guidance about how a deliverable could have been more helpful. I’m always listening for those cues, and it increases our trust.
- Thank you to the fabled unicorns, the researchers-turned-gift-officers. You maintain the ultimate respect for the advancement services shop and you advocate for us to your tribe on a daily basis. You bring me only the most insightful, well-thought-out requests. You’re definitely my favorite gift officers. Shhhh, don’t tell anyone.
- Thank you to the impactful and visionary executive gift officers I’ve worked with and for. In my experience, you have helped change the institutional culture from inside the gift officer’s psyche, aiding a cultural transformation of the research team from servants to partners. You unfailingly offered your perspective as a gift officer, enhanced our strategic vision, brought focus to our priorities, took on naysayers, and went to bat with us (not just for us!).
- Thank you for your recognition of my contributions to Apra, my dedication to being best-in-class, and for partnering with me to create dynamic educational sessions by blending our perspectives.
In 2012, I made a very conscious decision to commit to my industry and make Prospect Development my career. My gift officer counterparts were influential in making my prospect research journey one of intentional and purposeful pursuit, and I haven’t stopped to catch my breath since. If that’s not #ResearchPride, I don’t know what is!
Answer: First I must admit that I’ve never expanded from a one-person shop; however, I have had the opportunity to increase the size of the research team as well as the biographical data team but any staffing and restructuring needs should be based on the growth and plan for the organization. Since the details on the organization were left out of the request, my response is based on a few assumptions.
Prior to making any changes, an analysis of the office and the needs would be very beneficial, if you haven’t already done so. How many development officers is the office expected to support? Will that number increase as well? What are the expectations and needs from the prospect research team? Profiles, quick capacity identification, analytics or a combination of all of these? Is your organization currently in a campaign? Are you planning to start a campaign?
The ratio of researchers to fundraisers in a perfect would be 1:1; however, that is rarely the case. If possible I’d suggest keeping the ratio 1:3. This would enable the researchers to establish a strong working relationship with the fundraisers and gain a sense of their workstyle, needs and expectations. Getting new staff trained and acclimated takes time and if you’re only a one-person shop to begin with, taking the time to train staff will decrease your productivity in the beginning. Starting each new researcher with simple profiles and research tasks that you can review together can be great on-the-job training. If you have the funds to hire an in-house analytics person, that would be a great asset too! Someone who can look at the donors, build a model of what a “good” prospect looks like and identify others in the database with similar characteristics can cut down on screening and consulting fees.
Roles and Responsibilities
If the needs of the organization permit it, I’d encourage you to have one new researcher focus on proactively identifying new prospects and culling the database for prospects that are giving below their potential, while the other focuses on reactive requests from fundraisers and senior leadership to ensure their needs are met for meetings, visits and events.
Below are a few resources you might find helpful:
Don't miss this lively roundtable discussion, moderated by our panel of prospect development professionals! Please come prepared with your burning questions on all things prospect development. Lunch will be provided. APRA DC members only. Click here for details and to register.
- Newsletter Chair: Elizabeth Dickinson, Newseum, Coordinator of Donor Relations
- Programming Chair: Catherine Flaatten, Share Our Strength, Prospect Research Analyst
- Social Media Chair: Ana Morgenstern, Newseum, Manager of Research and Prospect Development
The board would like to thank Katie Mire and Javier Rodriguez for lending us their wisdom, enthusiasm, and can-do attitudes. Thanks for your service to the APRA DC family!
The prospect development community and APRA Metro DC family experienced a tremendous loss this week. One of our board members, Daniel Greeley, passed away at the age of 29. He was the prospect researcher at the Land Trust Alliance and was a member of the board of American University's DC Young Alumni Chapter. Daniel was a driving force in our chapter and inspired many to volunteer with APRA. He was passionate about prospect development, his trips to nearly 100 national parks, being an American University Eagle, all things politics, his joy (and struggles!) as a first-time homeowner, and his family and beloved dog, Cinnamon. We will greatly miss his friendship, encouragement, optimism, and determination.
Some of you might have known Daniel from his work as the chair of the Prospect Research Track of the Curriculum Planning Committee for this year’s Prospect Development. He was so looking forward to attending and presenting at his first Prospect Development this year. Daniel was the author of the recent “Data Mining Political Giving: How to Read, Understand, and Use Political Giving Records in Prospect Research” cover story in APRA Connections, and had previously served as MARC Volunteer Co-Chair. Daniel had served as an APRA Metro DC board member since 2012, most recently as our Newsletter Chair.
As the APRA Metro DC chapter prepares for its annual conference next Thursday, the chapter will be reminded of the noticeable void Daniel’s passing has left in our community. In honor of Daniel’s contributions and impact on our chapter, the APRA Metro DC board of directors will award the Daniel H. Greeley Memorial Scholarship at our conference.
For those who want a clearer sense of Daniel’s character and unyielding spirit, one of his co-workers wrote a beautiful tribute to him: http://www.landtrustalliance.org/blog/memoriam-daniel-greeley
Additionally, his family established The Daniel Greeley Memorial Scholarship Fund at American University: https://securelb.imodules.com/s/1395/index1colnonav.aspx?sid=1395&gid=1&pgid=5701&cid=9061&bledit=1&dids=179
President, APRA Metro DC
Commitment: All levels of experience are welcome - we're looking for individuals who are passionate about philanthropy and want to get involved. We have quarterly, in-person meetings and and occasional conference calls when needed. It's a great way to build your resume and develop new skills with only a few hours of work each month.
Interested? Know someone who would be a great fit? Want more information? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
The Board of Directors hopes to fill these positions by June, so don't delay!
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.
This is the perfect opportunity for a chapter member who is among the following:
- New to prospect development, seeking a well-rounded foundation
- Employed at an organization without professional development funding
- Seeking new professional development opportunities outside of APRA
- Seasoned professional who is seeking continuing education courses
- Make a list of the projects and determine what is relatively easy/quick. Those could be done first. Or, take this same list and number it - 1 is your thing to tackle first, 2 is second, etc. Ask questions to make sure you understand the project's scope! Plan your work, work your plan.
- Most often you need to make progress on several things at once. It may be easiest to schedule the time on your calendar in work blocks. For 90 minutes (or 120 minutes), work on Project A, take a break, then do Project B for 90 minutes. Stick to it and don't let other things come into those work blocks (as much as possible). If you can have a wingman on these projects, all the better, since having someone else involved makes us all more accountable to get things done when there are competing priorities.
- This idea also works for ongoing activities. From daily, tackle item A; from daily, tackle item B. Or, every do X activity.
- Eat the frog: the thing you want to do least; your largest, most mission critical project; or something that you will certainly procrastinate on, do that first and get it out of the way.
- Spend time at the end of the day looking at the next day to be aware of what's needed. , check for the next week. Adjust your planning as things come up.
- Utilize more formal project management. Having a goal with specific tasks and deadlines may help you see the full(er) scope of things and move different projects forward at the same time.
- If you need others for these projects, get time on their calendars or email them now for the future so that when you are ready for them, the time is already scheduled or their answers are already to you!
Answer 2: I agree with everything said here and would add that once you've taken some time to determine the list and what's really important and then arranged them based on what you think you should tackle first, put the list and due dates in writing and share it with everyone involved. Set the expectations with your colleagues for when you'll complete the tasks and set expectations with yourself for when you'll have time to work on your own tasks. Involving others helps to keep you and your colleagues accountable.
Be sure to check out the Events page with details on the January Networking Happy Hour (1/19) and Professional Development Panel at USHMM (2/17).
If you're seeking new professional challenges this year, the Jobs Postings page is regularly updated.
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We look forward to seeing you in 2016!
Check out APRA Metro DC's updated events page as we kick off our new programming season! Again this year we will be hosting our Brown Bag series, Networking Happy Hours, Annual Conference and other events. Look forward to seeing you at future events!