Last week I talked about the admirable foresight that transplanted American Lawrence Johnston had in planting a cedar tree in his English garden that he knew he would never see grow to its full glory. As I mentioned, I think of Johnston often when I am planning ahead for what’s to come here at HBG. [Read more…]
Back in July of 1907, an American named Lawrence Johnston bought an English manor house for his mother, Gertrude. Built in the 1600s, the house and its surrounding 287 acres of mostly farmland were a suitable place for Johnston to try out an experiment.
Over the next seven years (before he went off to serve and return from the Great War), Johnson and a small team of staff created something new at Hidcote Manor: a master outline for a garden containing a variety of rooms and vistas that would showcase the flowers, bushes, trees, and shrubs there, as well as the topography of the land. [Read more…]
An alumna of the university/donor to the museum/former grateful patient and her husband made a jaw-droppingly significant charitable gift that was in all the newspapers.
There were two problems with this:
- The gift was made across town.
- The alumna/donor/former patient hadn’t been a rated prospect.
Everybody asks: why wasn’t she on the organization’s radar? Her evident wealth should have been surfaced long before. Why hadn’t it? What was Research doing wrong? [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…]
This week’s article comes in the form of a podcast that I just recorded with two of the most knowledgeable and generous GDPR-whisperers that I know in the fundraising community, Adrian Beney of More Partnership and Nicola Williams of The Factary.
Both Adrian and Nicola have been researching and consulting with other experts to understand the law for months, and they’ve written many articles, have been speaking at loads of professional conferences, and have provided useful resource lists for all of us to find guidance on the General Data Protection Regulation that comes into effect on May 25th. If the rest of us are not up on the new regulation, it’s not through any lack on their part to get the word out.
But because of that, they’re very busy people, so I was especially excited when they both said yes to a podcast interview. I know that you’re going to find the conversation we had to be well worth your time. I’m sincerely grateful to them for their generosity to our community, and for their willingness to be a resource to help nonprofits in the US figure all of this out.
As I’ve mentioned before, this is a European-based piece of legislation, but every company and nonprofit in the world will have to comply with it if they have EU-based constituents in their database. The GDPR regulates (amongst many other things) WHAT data you’re allowed to hold, HOW LONG you may hold it, and the WAYS you must communicate to your constituency their rights regarding that data. There are certain pieces of information you CANNOT hold in your database (without explicit consent), and many of them are demographic data we here in the US take for granted as being relatively harmless.
Ignorance of the law is no excuse, and fines for noncompliance will be steep: up to €20 million ($25 million) or 4% of an organization’s total revenue, whichever is greater.
If you’re unsure what GDPR is and how you should be ready, log in* to our learning media area to listen to this informative podcast with Adrian and Nicola. We’ve also included a number of useful resources with the podcast for further information.
*Registration to the Resource Library is free. It gives you access to a number of useful resources including podcasts, presentations, wealth lists, research resources, and our weekly newsletter. You will be asked for your name and email address. You may unsubscribe at any time and your information will not be retained.
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…]
Back in the early 2000s my team and I started a database of gifts of $1 million or more by individuals or family foundations to nonprofit organizations in Massachusetts.
A million-dollar donation was still fairly noteworthy 15 years ago, but in recent years the figure to hit for exceptional giving (and website PR announcements) has crept up to $10 or even $20 million for medium-to-large organizations. [Read more…]