Imagine with me that it’s Saturday afternoon. You are flat out busy today, and tonight you have exactly two hours to prep and cook dinner for guests. One of the guests is a good friend, but the other two you don’t really know all that well. They are friends-of-friends in town for the weekend.
Is this the night that you’re going to pull out the 25-ingredient recipe for a gourmet French dinner? Julia’s cassoulet, perhaps?
Non. First, you’d never even get the duck fat rendered in that amount of time. And second, wouldn’t you go with something shorter to prepare? A time-trusted recipe? Something good, quick, and appropriate to the situation? With just 10 (or even five!) ingredients?
And even if you had the two days you would need to prepare Julia’s cassoulet, wouldn’t it be just a little bit de trop for a first meeting?
So why, when a fundraiser is going to meet a prospect for the very first time, would a researcher create a full profile? Isn’t that also just a little bit too much?
Maybe you’ve always done it this way. Or maybe someone asked for more, and someone else did, too, and before you knew it, a full profile was created before every first meeting. It happens. And maybe it’s okay. But it’s probably overkill.
How to know when a lot is too much
Here’s one way to tell: take a look at your conversion ratio. For each of the times you created (or requested) a full profile before a first meeting with a prospect, find out how many of those individuals went on to make a major gift.
If your record is 50% or more, then you should have a case study written about you in every fundraising book that exists. And your whole team should get a big fat raise.
But if, as I suspect, that ratio is closer to 5% or less, isn’t it time to take a hard look at how much information is needed for that first visit? Working together, frontline fundraisers and researchers should create a menu of the 10 (or even five!) critical pieces of information every fundraiser should know before a first visit.
Doing a study like this can provide you with actionable information. Which is exactly what prospect research is.