Here at HBG, we have developed our own way of doing what I call “getting at information sideways,” meaning asking questions that help us get a better understanding of candidates. We ask a lot of open-ended questions that can be interpreted a variety of ways, and how the candidate decides to pick up the ball can be illuminating. [Read more…]
Last week I started this mini-series about Tom Kalil’s thought-provoking article, “Policy Entrepreneurship at the White House; Getting Things Done in Large Organizations.” Before I go on, I’d like to reiterate: don’t let the long title put you off reading it, nor make the mistake of thinking that it only has value for people in behemoth-sized fundraising offices.
Kalil puts forth 12 maxims that he and his colleagues found to be true for getting things to happen, and I’ve seen evidence over the years that each of these recommendations have been true for fundraising shops that are achieving strong results.
In most fundraising shops, the research, prospect identification, operations, and relationship management teams don’t tend to be located on the bridge of the ship. But that doesn’t mean that leadership can’t come from those areas, and – I’d argue – it’s important that it does.
So if you missed last week’s installment on how the first six maxims apply to our work, go take a look – I’ll wait here. When you’re back, just start below to catch up.
Maxim 7: Find and recruit allies
Kalil encourages us to develop and collaborate with a network of allies, including “idea people;” the assistants and chiefs of staff for the powerful in your network; “Doers” – people who follow up when they say they will; people with a lot of social capital; and people who are eager to make an impression or further their career.
It’s never a bad idea to build a collaborative network when you want to create change, and thinking strategically about who might want to help you in your endeavor – rather than going it alone – is always smart. Build up a network of supportive champions to help, especially when you may be rowing against the current.
My addition to Kalil’s list would be to include people that you trust to tell you the truth if a plan needs more work (or is just a bad idea).
Maxim 8: Think of the end at the beginning
I laughed as I read this, because I really think this should have been Maxim 1. Think of every time you’ve done a successful wealth screening, or planned a multi-stage project that worked, or been involved in a database conversion that actually went live on time. It was probably because your asked yourselves thing like:
What do we want our campaign reports to look like? That helped determine the fields you needed to populate in your database and the information you needed to know from donors and prospective supporters.
What do we want to learn from our wealth screening? Thinking about that first guided you in what records to send to the vendor.
How many prospective donors at what levels do we need to meet our goal? Imagine not having thought of that before planning your capital campaign!
Success isn’t ever guaranteed, but it’s certainly a lot more secure if you think of the end result first, and then back-fill the details for how you’re going to achieve it.
Leadership from the top, the middle, or from the lowest rung means that you’re helping think about these details for your department or for your specific position.
Maxim 9: Save the world one document at a time (or “write it down, make it happen).
Sometimes things become important – or accepted divisional policies – simply because they’re written down. They become codified and made routine. If a policy or series of activities are important for your department’s (or your entire division’s) success, consider creating a step by step manual, or road map for people to follow.
I can think of all kinds of ways I’ve seen this used in successful fundraising shops, from prospect research and prospect management manuals and user guides, to “Research For the Non-Researcher” links pages, to gift planning fact sheets, to gift processing manuals, to internal podcasts and presentations on key topics.
These documents can become especially helpful when there is a transfer from one person to another, or to solidify a process for doing something.
Maxim 10: Make the schedule your friend
Indefinite deadlines are the enemy of getting things accomplished, and in this maxim Kalil outlines the benefits of creating an event (or, sometimes, an artificial deadline) to move things along.
Certain people are brilliant at setting (what some might consider false) deadlines (say, for example, for when a profile is needed), but the fact is that setting a deadline – even if it’s a made-up one – is brilliant. Sometimes that deadline just a dart-throw at the calendar – “I would like the information on this date, but I could take it later if I needed to” and no one should ever feel bad about asking if a deadline is set in stone or moveable.
Creating false deadlines for yourself is also not a bad move if there a task that you wish would go away. Getting it over with by creating a deadline for yourself to move it off the schedule frees you up for more creative work after.
Maxim 11: Use standing meetings effectively
Many of us know the experience of Death by Prospect Review Meeting. Tom Kalil shares 4 direct questions to help you never have a 6-hour meeting again. (or maybe it just felt like six hours…):
- What are you trying to accomplish?
- Have you worked to “pre-sell” your position to key participants in the meeting?
- Should you bring a document to help shape the discussion and signal your interest in the topic?
- Are clear next steps and assignments coming out of the meeting and captured in minutes?
Answering these questions yourself well in advance of each meeting will help you provide efficiency and leadership that everyone in the room will appreciate, and your preparation will mean that your goals will have more of a chance of being met.
Maxim 12: Have a large and constantly growing “toolbox.”
This maxim hits me right in my core, because two things that I strongly believe in are continuing education and understating the context within which we’re working. As you’ve heard me say many times before, prospect research is a field where we have to take responsibility for our own learning – whether it’s advocating for our place at the table or our seat in a conference chair. It’s only through understanding what the tools are and how to use them that we will succeed professionally – and help our organizations succeed on a collective scale.
It also means taking ourselves out of our comfort zone to shadow a fundraiser or attend an event or read a book that informs our work. Or to look outside our normal wheelhouse – a White House, for example – to get ideas on how to be more entrepreneurial and serve as leaders, no matter where we sit on the org chart.
Hierarchically speaking, fundraising intelligence doesn’t usually sit at the top of any nonprofit organization’s organization chart. In fact, the most junior member of the Research team usually inhabits one of the boxes at the bottom of the chart, in my ongoing study.
But I’ve also known for a while that org charts can be deceptive. It’s the culture of a place and the specific people in the boxes that are usually the drivers of who has the ‘power’ and who doesn’t. Certain people, regardless of box geography, are able to reach beyond borders. [Read more…]
As #ResearchPride Month comes to a close I wanted to say thank you to everyone – practitioners and our kind vendor colleagues alike – who participated with loads of tweets, podcasts, blog posts, articles, and even re-posting oldies-but-goodies from years past. It’s been another great month of sharing.
One of the main themes that I noticed this year was the outpouring of gratitude for the way our profession is generously collaborative, and I think that’s something we shouldn’t take for granted. [Read more…]
I had a nice email back-and-forth with a colleague the other day discussing a new trend she was seeing in the field. As the conversation wound down to a close, I wrote that I looked forward to seeing her at the Apra International conference (Pittsburgh! August 8-11!). She came back for one last reply, saying that after nearly 20 years of going, the vice president of fundraising was asking her for justification of the expense. [Read more…]
What are some of the things you like best about fundraising and our professional community? One of the ways we are as successful as we are is because of the colleagues that help and teach us. This week in honor of Research Pride month, HBG’s Kristina Gropper shares some of her favorite things about fundraising intelligence and shows her gratitude to colleagues who have helped her along the way. Do you have Research Pride stories to share? Let us know if you post an article or blog and we’ll share it at the end of this article! ~Helen
March is prospect research pride month! 31 days dedicated to creating awareness and celebrating our efforts as prospect researchers. The month also marks my first anniversary at the Helen Brown Group, and it has been an amazing twelve months.
There is a wonderful closeness and comradery that I share with my fellow HBGers, which is truly ironic since most of us work remotely. I have gained so much knowledge and insight in my first year here. In the spirit of prospect research pride month, I wanted to share some key takeaways from my first year:
Ask your brain trust: At HBG, there’s a friendly, helpful, incredible team of researchers. I’ve relied on colleagues to help with everything from ranches in California (thanks, Heather Willis) to co-ops in New York (thanks, Kelly Labrecque and Kenny Tavares). It’s been great getting input from others helps to craft a stronger profile. Do you have a brain trust? What do you rely on them for?
Start or join a work book club: So far, the HBG Book Club has read David Callahan’s The Givers and Brooke Harrington’s Capital Without Borders. We are in the midst of Jake Bernstein’s Secrecy World. Having a weekly call to discuss these relevant tomes is a workout for my brain. The information gleaned from these discussions has already been applied to our profiles, and there’s palpable excitement when we read an interesting chapter (like Bernstein’s chapter on freeports).
Tweet and share: At HBG we are encouraged to participate in social media and contribute to the prospect research community online. I was shy at first, but then Rachel Dakarian hosted a training on Twitter, which made it less intimidating. By tweeting (and retweeting) and sharing articles and blog posts on LinkedIn, I’m contributing to the prospect research community instead of being a wallflower.
Get out there and do it: Rachel and I are presenting at Apra of Greater New York’s ProspectCon on March 16 (there are still spots available for the afternoon session, by the way). We’re both passionate about our topic: profiling ultra-high-net-worth individuals and wealth managers.
Wishing you all a month filled with pride and collaboration. We are a uniquely supportive profession, and this month is a great time to celebrate our accomplishments and teamwork!
Research Pride articles
Marianne Pelletier of Staupell Analytics shares her pride as the middle generation of a multi-generational family of researchers – three different professions, one super-sleuth trait – in My Bourne Legacy.
Crystal Leochko’s article, #ResearchPride for Life, is a celebration of her path to prospect research, the mentors who helped her build a career, and the great resources new researchers can use to strengthen their skills.
Except for the few of us who work at our main office in Watertown, most everybody at HBG works from home. One of the (many) nice things about that is that you can listen to podcasts without bothering anyone else in the office (except maybe your furry 4-legged office-mates). [Read more…]
This past year has been enough to make anybody’s head spin. What would have been the normal amount of news in one of 52 average pre-2017 weeks has been crammed into 341 news cycles of increasingly elevated astonishment. Nearly every day feels to me like watching a piranha feeding frenzy in the Amazon.
Will we end up losing our capacity to relax? Or to believe that we aren’t just missing something in our newsfeed if we don’t immediately see evidence that something shocking has happened overnight? [Read more…]
Listen up, all you new-to-prospect-development folks (and anyone who has a brand-new researcher on staff)!
Great prospect development training sessions are coming up SOON (like, next week and next month!) and you really can’t afford to miss them. Why? [Read more…]
This week we welcome HBG Senior Researcher Heather Hoke to share her knowledge on the blog. Every year, nearly a third of attendees at our professional association conference are brand new to our field. The Apra conference in July is one of the best places for new researchers to find in-depth training and unparalleled opportunities to network, test-drive critical resources, and learn from experienced colleagues. If you don’t have the budget this year but still need information to get you started, Heather’s article will help launch you with lots of advice and resources.
I have been a development researcher for more than 15 years and have had the opportunity to meet many new researchers starting out in our profession who need to learn the basics. It’s an exciting time for them, but our field can be a bit overwhelming.
I have met folks just starting out in a non-profit or educational institution with no prior experience or training on how to do prospect research to advance fundraising. And sometimes, to make things more difficult, there may be no researcher on staff to guide them. [Read more…]