Coming Out (Again)


As you may recall, March is Prospect Research Pride Month.

It’s also Development Services Pride, Operations Pride, Relationship Management Pride, and Analytics Pride Month. It’s a time to celebrate each of us who work behind the scenes every day as part of Team Overhead to ensure our nonprofits’ fundraising successes.


Because there are still misguided folks out there who actually believe that the business of creating a better world can be done with donated chewing gum, dental floss and duct tape. MacGyver may have used that amalgam to fashion an escape from a sticky situation, but you never saw him pulling a million refugees over a border with them.

The days of being members of Overheaders Anonymous are over.

Dan Pallotta, president of the Charity Defense Council and TED Talk speaker reminds us that

“low overhead is not the way the world gets changed… poor executive compensation is not a strategic plan for ending hunger or poverty or curing disease… inadequate, donated resources are not the path to global transformation.”

Jon Stahl, Communications Director at Philanthropy Northwest, adds his strong voice to the discussion in his artfully-written post “32 Theses About Nonprofit Compensation.” As part of the case he builds in 32 steps, he writes:

“The skills and talent nonprofits need to solve big social problems are complex. We need to be able to draw in people with a broad range of experiences, skills and talents. Failure to do this not only hurts us tactically, it limits us strategically.”

Fundraising leaders and thinkers around the world are cottoning on that educating the public, whether through partnering with the Charity Defense Council or speaking out in blogs, newsletters or publications like the Stanford Social Innovation Review is key to helping people understand the impact of investing in good nonprofit management.

Join us. Add your voice.

It’s not just educating the public, though. For some of us in research, relationship management, and analytics, we have to keep educating our own colleagues about the important work we do as well. We all have concrete success stories to tell about the impact our work has had on our nonprofits’ bottom lines. This coming month, share yours. 

Here’s what else you can do:
IamAPRA shirt3

Take a look at the great video that APRA has posted to remind us of the key role our professional association has in providing networking opportunities, advocating for us, and providing education.

  1. Use the hashtags #IamAPRA and #ResearchPride in social media this month to tell the world what you’re most proud of. Maybe it’s something about our profession overall. Or a recent project you completed, or something your nonprofit achieved because of your work. It doesn’t matter if it’s large or small; impact is impact!
  2. Don’t be shy: get out there and volunteer for APRA or your local chapter as a speaker, newsletter writer, conference room monitor or board member. Stepping up professionally elevates your status with co-workers and supervisors who will take note of your leadership. Plus, there are many reasons to love it (lobster suit not required)
  3. If you’re a frontline fundraiser, take a moment this month to praise the fundraisers behind the computer screens who help you achieve your goals. If you can do it through social media or a personal blog it will have exponential reach. If you’re not a social media person, then a hand-written note or a box of goodies goes a really long way to acknowledge their important contributions. Your acknowledgement of your colleagues in research, advancement services, relationship management and analytics will be profoundly appreciated.
  4. If you’re a manager of a research or operations department: take a look at the reports you’re providing to your supervisor on a monthly basis. Do they highlight the impact you and your team are making on your organization’s bottom line? Don’t just list the boring numbers – illustrate to communicate.

Happy Pride Month!

When I get in control of the world

Airplane cockpit

When faced with mindless bureaucracy, or an inefficient line at a commercial or government establishment, my mom was known to mutter, “When I get in control of the world…” and then she’d voice her solution. As a kid, her answer usually made sense to me. As a teen, I would sidle off pretending I didn’t know her. As an adult, I started hearing the exact same sentence coming out of my own mouth. When I get in control of the world…

Wouldn’t it be nice to be in control of the world sometimes and be able to change the stuff that doesn’t make any sense?
Like long lines at women’s bathrooms at events when the men’s line is empty, for example.

Or more seriously, things like… [Read more…]

Play well with others? Good for your bottom line!


How good is your customer service? Here at HBG, we talk a lot about how we partner with our clients. I’ve noticed that our devotion to customer care flows over into the way we work together as a team, too. As HBG Operations Assistant extraordinare Alisa Morgan found out, it works the other way as well. Here’s what Alisa found out:

When someone mentions customer service, we immediately think of ourselves on the phone or in the store receiving some product or service in exchange for payment. “Did that rep greet me, take my order and solve my problem with a smile and a thank you?” [Read more…]

Corporate board perks: a proxy primer

AquariumToday I’d like to talk about executive compensation and the fun perquisites (“perks”) that make looking at a company’s proxy statement really interesting. Perks are those little extra somethings that make the financial lives of company executives and board members just a little bit easier. Like a shiny lure, perks attract the most talented ‘big fish’ and help retain them once they’re hooked.

Think of a proxy statement (aka the DEF 14A) as an aquarium of large and small moving objects that flash silver in the sunlight. Some things are easy to find, like annual compensation. Other things you need to look more carefully for as they glint in the weeds: like the perks. According to many sources (including this one and this one), corporate perks are on the wane. But they’re not extinct yet, and companies are very clever about the creative ways they compensate their executives. [Read more…]

Where in the world to find info about company insiders

foreign biz pressIt’s not only the United States government that requires publicly-held companies to publish information about their key insiders. When you’re trying to get information about corporate insiders around the world, it’s nice to know that many other countries require disclosure as well. Here’s a quick trip around the world with touchdowns in some key markets.


Through the Sedar website, there are at least two forms you can use that report biographical and compensation information for officers and directors. Form 51-102F6 (“Named Executive Officers Compensation”) and the company’s proxy report each provide valuable information about company insiders. Do a quick search here, or visit the company’s website for more information.


Besides the company website, Companies House and DueDil are the places to go for information about companies, both public and private, in the UK. For publicly-traded companies [Read more…]

Researching company insiders

NYSEWe may think of companies as nameless, faceless conglomerates, but the fact is that each one is run by a group of people known as company insiders. They are individuals whose responsibility it is to provide direction, advice, and the scary responsibility of strong-willed fiduciary duty if the company’s blue chips suddenly turn red.

These leaders may be called directors, trustees, or board members; the terms are used fairly interchangeably. [Read more…]

What you and the 1% have in common

What could you and the 1% possibly have in common? HBG Senior Researcher Rick Snyder brings us into the new year with insight on how we can gain a deeper understanding of those we research – and benefit ourselves as well!

It's not all lobster and caviar...or is it?

It’s not all lobster and caviar…or is it?

I have to confess to having occasional twinges of envy in the course of my research and I would guess that’s true for most prospect researchers. We spend a lot of our time looking at people’s seaside vacation homes or reading about someone taking their extended family on a two-week African safari – things that are out of reach to most of us. But while the lifestyles or careers of our prospects may not be attainable to us, there is one attribute common to many of the 1% that the remaining 99% of us can realize. [Read more…]

Social media and high net worth individuals

Dark Eyed JuncoAlthough more people are piling into an ever-growing array of social media outlets every day, it’s still fairly rare to see a Klout score or Twitter summary on a prospect research profile. Maybe it’s because we major gifts specialists assume that it’s only Xers and Millennials using these platforms, and they’re not yet ready to make large gifts.

But according to Ledbury Research, which studies the habits and demographics of high net wealth individuals (HNWI) in the United Kingdom, at least 75% of HNWI use social media regularly.

The largest group actively uses LinkedIn (47%), which makes sense since so many are businesspeople, but Facebook (42%), Google+ (17%) and Twitter (13%) are also used regularly. [Read more…]

Capacity Ratings, 747s, and Volvos

When Volvos dream

Mark Noll, AVP of Research and Development Services at the University of Rhode Island started a conversation earlier this week in an article titled “Why Capacity Ratings are Bunk and What You Can Do About It.” In the post, Noll discusses the difficulties of assigning an accurate capacity rating to prospects. There’s just too much we prospect researchers – and frontline fundraisers – will never know about the totality of someone’s assets and their liabilities. Noll provides a solid lesson on what actually goes into a capacity rating. And what is logically missing. [Read more…]

Take Your Seat at the Table

Today I’m delighted to share an article with you written by guest blogger and HBG team member Grace Chandonnet. As you’ll see, Grace is an eloquent advocate and guide for those of us planning a move toward the strategy table in our fundraising operations.

Businesspeople in Meeting

As a prospect researcher, you have access to some eye-opening tidbits of information, which makes you exceptionally valuable to the fundraising team. The trick is to get others to see it—and to give yourself a seat at the table.

Recently, I started a new working relationship with a gift officer. In our initial meeting, she came right out and asked me to include my observations and opinions in the research that I provide to her. This was a gratifying milestone in my 13-year research career. As researchers, we often talk about how it can be difficult for research to get a seat at the strategy table and here was a frontline fundraiser asking me, unsolicited, with the implicit idea that my opinions were welcomed and valued. This gift officer gets it! [Read more…]