Prospect identification is a bi-polar experience for many prospect researchers and analytics professionals: it’s both pure joy and deep-seated frustration. Not all of the time, but mostly.
On the one hand, it’s creative. It’s super fun. (And at work, yet!)
Prospecting sure beats the heck out of doing profiles. Not because profiles aren’t interesting in and of themselves, but because prospect ID projects come from *your* heart. You dream them up, you make them happen. Sure, the project may be in response to a request, but how you fulfill it uses your own chosen palette to create the masterpiece.
But then, on the other hand, you pass off the list of names and what do you hear back? Crickets.
Days. Weeks. Months, even.
This is a problem, my friend. And it is YOUR problem. Nobody else’s.
Because on that list of names is the couple who are going to give the money for a scholarship which will be awarded to that smart disadvantaged kid who is going to become the scientist who figures out exactly what will defeat a horrible scourge disease in about 10 years.
Or that will give a battered woman a safe roof over her head next month.
Or deliver your shut-in neighbor a hot meal.
Or bring the joy of art to a preschooler.
Or bring a thought-provoking, educational documentary to the airwaves.
Or whatever critical thing your organization does.
That prospect list may just be a bunch of names on a page right now, but that page is powerful. It is pure, raw, potential. And you know that. When you have spell-checked it for the last time, you know the gold that’s there before you hit ‘send.’
It’s a big deal.
It’s your job to make sure it lives up to its promise. And don’t give me the “But! But! But!” here. Not until you’ve tried these five things. If you try them and you’re still not seeing any action, your office has Larger Issues to deal with, and it’s time to talk with your supervisor.
So how are you going to use your steam power to motivate others to take action on this great prospecting work?
- Don’t ever do a prospecting project in a vacuum. If you start a project on your own you’re going to finish it alone. Create every single prospecting project in mutual collaboration with a front-line fundraiser. Someone who goes through the process with you and brainstorms with you is going to be just as excited to receive that list as you will be to deliver it.
- Spend time talking with simpatico fundraisers to find out what it is they need from you in order to convert your lists into action. It’s more about what they want than what you think they should have. This will help pare down (or ramp up) the information you share and the format you share it in. Maybe they hate Excel lists and want the info in Word. Maybe they need to see a relationship map. Maybe it would be beneficial if the two of you sat down together to review each name and talk about what got you excited about that individual’s potential.
- Walk a mile in their shoes. How else will you know what fundraisers truly need if you don’t? If you can’t spend a day shadowing a fundraiser, or a half day going with them to a donor meeting, interview them about the process of meeting with cold prospects. Learn what it is that is the hardest part of making first contact with a prospect. What are the road blocks for them? What concerns do they have? What are the easy parts? Can you imagine an entrepreneur spending months building a product with no idea how their customer will actually use it? You are that entrepreneur.
- Treat the final report with the enthusiasm and care that it deserves. If you’re not excited, why should anyone else be? This list is gold, remember? If you just throw it over the transom with a (seeming) lack of eagerness or follow up, why on Earth should anyone else get excited about it? Take the list in your hand and deliver it in person. With gravity. Or joy. Or a bow. Or the school’s hip hop dance team. Whatever works.
- Lead with confidence. This is your area. When we consult to help organizations build their research, analytics, or prospect management departments, we always ask stakeholders “Where does this department take a leadership role?” Prospect identification is one indisputable area where Research and Analytics should lead. As Alice Walker said, “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.”