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…]
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.
“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…]
If you’re a regular reader, you know that each month we feature special guests writing about their favorite topics. This month we welcome HBG Senior Researcher and member of the HBG Analytics team, Tara McMullen to share her thoughts about one of her favorite subjects!
Sometimes it’s hard to get started with a new program or type of technology because we don’t know what its power is. We don’t know what it can DO, so we stick with the old familiar way of doing things. But these days, doing things the same old way can leave your progress lagging and your program looking a little old-fashioned.
Sometimes the basic principles are good, they just need a little updating.
Maybe you are thinking about undertaking a campaign and aren’t sure if you have the critical mass or the right prospects to meet your goal.
Or maybe you are looking to create a prospect management system, and want a way to sort prospects into various stages in the pipeline.
Or maybe you are trying to find new potential volunteers for your board. [Read more…]
How are top-performing organizations pulling away from their peers? In many cases, it’s through an understanding and clever usage of analytics. This week we welcome HBG Senior Researcher and analytics student and practitioner, Heather Willis, to The Intelligent Edge. Heather shares some of the latest studies with tips on the most important things organizations should do to take advantage of the data available to them.
So: are you a Pacesetter or a Dabbler? What do I mean by that? As you probably already know, we are in the midst of significant change in how we deal with and use the massive amount of data that is being created and collected each day. [Read more…]
Last week I got a brand-new computer. I had put it off for several months a couple of years because it would mean that I needed to clean out my old one and decide what to keep and what to trash. [Read more…]
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. [Read more…]
Back before I started my career in prospect research in 1987 at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, I was the assistant to the director of finance for the development office at the university. My responsibility was to help my boss Jean track all of the money the university received; she had to make sure it went into the right bucket and was distributed correctly.
1. Take care of your gold. Chances are that your nonprofit received a larger-than-normal number of gifts last month, and many of them came from new donors. The money that came in will help you do your important work, but the gold I’m talking about is the information that came with each gift. You’ve just started a relationship with someone new that you hope will last a lifetime, right? Here are a few things that your organization should pay attention to:
You need new donors in major gifts, annual giving, planned giving, principal giving…okay, I understand: you need new donors in ALL areas of your fundraising operation. No worries. Here are just a few (of the many possible) remedies to help you identify and involve new donors.
Remedy #1: Have you taken care of donor attrition?
For many organizations, attrition numbers are scary-high right now. Do you know what percentage of your donors leave every year? It’s a lot easier (and cheaper) to keep a donor than it is to acquire a new one, so work at understanding how many are drifting away and why they leave. Then devise strategies to keep them.
Remedy #2: Do you know who your best prospects are?
It doesn’t matter if you work at an organization with less than 500 donors or one with a million. You need to get to know your donors better so you can find others like them. Data analytics – even basic queries – can provide characteristics of your best prospects to help you identify more people just like them. Slicing and dicing your data – even sparse data – will give you great answers. If you don’t have capacity to do it in-house, it’s very easy to find talented analytics experts to help you.
Remedy #3: Do you know what it is about your organization that donors love?
You may be surprised to learn that it’s not always a priority you’re pushing, but some other X factor that gets them jazzed. Ask them! Surveys are a great way to find out donor interests and opportunities you could capitalize on. (And don’t give me the old “but we’re not an alumni-based organization!” argument!) Alumni organization or not, don’t you have gorgeous t-shirts to give away as an incentive? Or what about a “Free ice cream cone in the splash park for donor survey responders appreciation day”? What do you have that prospects would value? Be creative and piggyback activities!
Remedy #4: Are current donors giving you what they’re giving other nonprofits?
An electronic screening can help you answer this question, and will help you elevate both annual fund and major gift numbers – probably significantly. Many of the vendors, in addition to providing asset information, also match the individuals in your database to donor honor roll lists of nonprofits across the US and United Kingdom. Someone who is regularly making gifts across town that are 10x what they give your organization needs to be asked for more.
Remedy #5: Maybe they don’t love you yet, but what about the ones who ‘Like’ you?
It’s a good bet that your nonprofit has some kind of social media presence at this point (and if not, it’s time to get a move-on). What have you done to convert those people who just Like you into future donors who love you? What can you offer them – of value – in exchange for their contact information? A study or white paper? Access to an invitation-only lecture? A free hour in the swimming pool? A ‘behind the scenes’ tour with the performers?
These are just a few of the many ways strategic prospect research can help you identify prospects. Thanks for reading – What ideas do you have for how you identify new donors?
If you’re not a prospect researcher, or if you’re new to the field, you might not know that we researchers have a running conversation going on every day on a listserv called PRSPCT-L (affectionately known as “the L”). Researchers, front-line fundraisers, and vendors to our industry post helpful resources, interesting articles, questions and the occasional “Friday Funny.”
Sabine Schuller (who always seems to have her finger on the pulse of what’s important in search) recently shared an article on the L, which she found in a monthly eBulletin published by the professional association of Strategic and Competitive Intelligence Professionals (SCIP). As we read it, Sabine suggests that we replace “competitive intelligence” with “prospect research”:
It’s an opinion piece by Dr. Ben Gilad, President of the Fuld-Gilad-Herring Academy of Competitive Intelligence, who – rather provocatively – claims that in-house competitive intelligence officers (prospect researchers) will soon be a thing of the past – made redundant by vendors and consultants who provide easier, direct access to information that decision-makers (front-line fundraisers) need. His thesis (for our purposes) is:
If fundraisers can get answers quickly themselves, or have it fed to them by push technology, why do they need an in-house person to do it?
Which is a good question – if fundraisers are truly getting their questions answered. But I don’t buy into the notion that they are. Or that all in-house researchers will go the way of the dinosaur.
Some small-to-midsize organizations might end up eventually dissolving their prospect research departments because (in the long run, with strategically outsourced help), it may be cheaper and more efficient to do so. And by prospect research, I mean profile-writing, prospect identification and data analytics, which are easier to outsource. Prospect management, the other leg on the prospect development stool, is harder – although not impossible – to outsource.
But for large shops like universities and medical centers, research would still be more cost-efficient to keep in-house as part of a dynamic and effective knowledge center. Why?
Experience. Context. Strategy.
In the long-term, small to mid-sized organizations may not want to (or be able to) afford to train and sufficiently support a researcher to the level and years of experience that makes the critical difference when the rubber hits the campaign road. At some point, it is inevitable that a good researcher will want to leave for a more challenging assignment with better resourcing. And then the small shop is back at square one, rebuilding again. It’s a cycle that gets expensive for a shop with limited resources in the first place.
Universities, medical centers and large prospect research groups like HBG can afford to invest in training and resourcing staff to build that experience and strategic knowledge. It’s worth doing. Look at the huge impact it had on Brown University’s campaign.
How do we professional researchers set ourselves apart so that the difference between what can be gotten from technology and what prospect research can do is apparent?
It’s easy: Fundraisers are looking for more than just information, deeper than what’s found in Google.
They want answers to questions like: What does this job title mean? What kind of assets are we talking about? What is the prospect’s lifestyle like? Who do they know? What do they care about? How much should we ask them for? How can we connect with them? Who else should we bring into the pipeline?
Experience, context and strategy. These are the things we can bring.
Is technology going to make prospect researchers obsolete? I doubt it, at least for now – especially considering Google’s obsession with personalized search, which takes them farther away from being a reliable professional search resource. When computers reach Star Trek level, when they can provide strategy based on all of the information provided – then we’ll be in trouble. But based on how Watson fared on Jeopardy, I think we’ve got a couple of years yet before we have to worry about that.
BUT: In order to stay relevant, now and in the future, we professional researchers must provide what technology does not.