Gravity Assist

New HorizonsOne of the most significant things I love about the prospect research profession is the way we help each other.

This was particularly evident last week at the APRA international conference in steamy New Orleans. About a thousand of us were there to learn and share information with each other. Tactics. Strategies. Resources. Reams of new tips and tricks.

If I had a dollar for every murmur (and sometimes exclamation) of delight I overheard because of a new resource shared or discovered, it would have paid for my trip. Our profession is so generous! We keep secrets about our donors, but we share our knowledge with each other willingly.

Every APRA conference I’ve attended has been a bargain compared to what I learned and the relationships I formed with the smart people I met. It’s a bargain worth haggling for.

I think that kind of generosity has a way of boomeranging back on you. Or as APRA President-elect Jennifer MacCormack said so eloquently in her TED-style APRA Talk,

Allies among your colleagues are like a gravity assist.

Think about that for a second as I share a space fact:

A year after its launch, the Pluto-bound New Horizons space probe got a super-powerful extra 9,000 mph slingshot-action speed boost from the gravity field surrounding its ally-in-space Jupiter.

Without it, the 9-year trip would have taken New Horizons 50% longer to reach our little Valentine at the edge of our solar system.

PlutoAllies at work are like a gravity assist. 

It’s powerful stuff. Prospect research allies can help you learn and be better at your job. How can you begin to gravitate toward researchers in your shop or across town?

Other fundraisers in your shop can provide a power assist, too. How have you started cultivating those relationships?

Happily, it goes both ways. The help they give you will slingshot them forward, too – ready for the next gravity assist.

Bookmark These Five Great Deep Web Research Resources

It’s really valuable to keep an eye on (and share!) the tools our colleagues in allied fields are using to do their research. This past week I stumbled upon these five great resources I wanted to share with you.


Verification HandbooksFirst off, I’d like to mention two books, the Verification Handbook for Investigative Reporting and the Verification Handbook; a Definitive Guide for Verifying Digital Content, both edited by Craig Silverman a leading expert on media errors, accuracy and verification, and (among other things), founder of Emergent and former fellow with the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University.

Both books are available free to download in pdf format (or you can purchase them if you’re prefer hard copies). They are written by experts in research, journalism and investigative reporting including Paul Myers (more on him in a minute), Fergus Bell, and Steve Buttry. Don’t miss chapter 10 of the Verifying Digital Content volume, called Verification Tools. There are tons of handy tools there for you to check out! [Read more…]

Prospect Research Training Event of the Year!

Lucky Dogs New Orleans

If you’re a fundraiser with a brand-new prospect research position to fill, where do you go to find the best candidates? Perhaps you are someone who was recently hired as a researcher, prospect manager, or who will be doing fundraising analytics or overseeing research – where are your peeps? [Read more…]

The 2015 World Wealth Report: 5 Essential Takeaways

Capgemini WWR cover

The 2015 Capgemini and RBC Wealth Management World Wealth Report is out! Every spring, it makes for fascinating reading for those of us in fundraising, and for financial advisors and wealth managers working with high net worth individuals (HNWI). [Read more…]

What you need to know about family offices

mansionAccording to INSEAD’s Singapore campus Executive Director Michael Prahl, the number of family offices in Asia and the Middle East will double over the next 8 years. As supersonic as that growth is, the sheer number of family offices in Europe (1,000) and the United States (3,000) are massive compared to their cousins in Asia (estimated to be at about 200).

With an estimated $4 trillion managed in family offices globally, we ignore to our disadvantage the impact and influence these investment and philanthropic powerhouses will have for the fundraising and social impact sectors.

To learn more about this, I interviewed HBG’s in-house experts on family offices, Kenny Tavares and Elizabeth Roma, to explain what it is about family offices that make them so important, and what resources are available to tap into.

Click here to download the podcast.

Act like it’s not our first time at the rodeo

John Paulson’s gift of $400 million to Harvard has released a surprising amount of ill-will and petty sniping around fundraising water coolers. Around our virtual instant-message water cooler, HBG Researcher Rachel Dakarian and I started talking about Paulson’s gift and donor intent (the inclination rating we discussed previously here on The Intelligent Edge). I asked Rachel to create an article covering our thoughts, so with thanks, I turn it over to her:

megaphilanthropy rodeo

You probably saw in the news recently that Harvard University announced its all-time largest donation: a $400-million gift from John A. Paulson to support the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. [Read more…]

Five critical actions to make your fundraising database work better for you

HBG Researcher Heather Hoke shares some great words of advice on making the most of our organizations’ most valuable assets in this week’s feature article.
Success Starts Here Freeway Style Desert Landscape
“Don’t gather data first and think about how to use it later!”

I was talking on the phone in April with Tommy Tavenner, Data Strategy Lead at the National Wildlife Federation, to get his perspective on data integrity when he said that. After I hung up the phone and for a few days later, his words kept resonating in my mind. [Read more…]

Going beyond capacity ratings

love signIn case you missed it (and click here if you did), last week on this blog Melissa Bank Stepno shared her knowledge and some wise words from her colleague, David Lamb, on capacity ratings.

Capacity ratings are an important factor in every major gift effort. They will not be perfect, (let me repeat that – they will never be perfect) and capacity rating are just one of several data points we use, but they are an important tool to help us rank our very top prospects.

One of the common misconceptions of capacity codes is that some folks new to the profession might think that capacity means “How much will they give us?” It doesn’t.

A capacity rating says, “what is this person’s total ‘wallet’ for philanthropic giving in a year to every organization they support?” [Read more…]

The Artful Science of Capacity Ratings

It is a great pleasure to welcome Melissa Bank Stepno as this week’s guest writer on The Intelligent Edge. I’ve long admired Melissa’s gift in seeing the big picture in prospect development and her ability to eloquently communicate and train on its finer details. So when she and I were chatting between sessions at the recent NEDRA conference, I grabbed the opportunity to ask her to share her thoughts here on capacity ratings, which has been a hot topic lately on the prospect research discussion forum, prspct-l.

Monet haystacks detail

How much can they give? What should we ask for? How rich is she? What’s his net worth?

Such short questions. Such common questions. Such important questions. [Read more…]

Analytics: The 16 little fields you need to get started

If you’ve been following our company blog for the past month or so, you know that we’ve been focusing on data analytics and what a powerful tool it can be to benefit fundraising. But maybe, like others I’ve been talking with recently, you feel that you’re not yet ready because your data isn’t pristine, or you don’t have enough data, or you just have too much else to do.

If you’re one of those folks who is feeling a little overwhelmed, I put together this brief video just for you. Really, all you need to get started in analytics are these 16 little fields. [Read more…]