BWF Spotlight—June 30, 2016

Prospect development teams have grown in complexity and scope over the years. Whether you are a team of one or a team of twenty, chances are you’ve implemented something recently that you didn’t imagine was possible as recently as five years ago, such as connection scoring or relationship mapping. You are proud of that accomplishment, but you know there’s always something else you could be doing to help your organization raise even more money to impact your mission and vision.

Who are your aspirational peers? What new tool, technology, or technique have they operationalized that you dream of being able to implement? What’s holding you back from doing this? Or, perhaps you aren’t sure what you need to do, but you know you have areas of your prospect development program that need fine-tuning.


Working with hundreds of prospect development programs, we have found the following themes have emerged as common challenges.

  • Consistency. As teams grow in size, onboarding new staff into a common, consistent way of performing prospect development activities, such as developing predictive models, assessing philanthropic capacity, or assigning prospects into development officer portfolios is essential. Training new staff in these processes is important, but in order to do so, you must first establish and document common methodologies.
  • Pipeline. Prospect development is uniquely positioned to monitor prospects at the prospect (individual name), portfolio (group of qualified prospects assigned to a development officer), and pool (total qualified prospects, institution-wide) levels. Organizations generally develop strategies to be very good at monitoring prospects through one or two of these lenses but find it challenging to operationalize all three lenses productively to help ensure that the right prospects are being cultivated and solicited by the right persons in the right ways at the right times. For example, you might have a great process to review individual prospect strategies and assign prospects into portfolios, but you might not be satisfied with your current process to monitor how long prospects have been in each stage: discovery, cultivation, solicitation, and stewardship.
  • Resources. Almost every organization is asked to “do more with less” as fundraising expectations increase exponentially. Resource needs include wanting to know how to use “big data” to identify which names from the overall prospect pool should be assigned to development officers, assessing the size of the prospect development team relative to expected deliverables and size of the overall development/advancement team, and reviewing new tools and technologies to consider incorporating into current systems and processes.

BWF has partnered with organizations in addressing the challenges listed above and others through:

  • Training. From prospect verification to developing prospect management reports, and from performance management to predictive modeling, we have worked with organizations with one prospect researcher and others with robust analytics teams to enable prospect development professionals to develop new skills for prospect research, prospect management, and analytics. We work with our clients to build a training program with components that will meet the unique and specific needs of your organization and its staff members.
  • Process/procedure documentation. We have assisted clients in developing, reviewing, and enhancing prospect identification, verification, and assignment policies and processes. Sometimes this takes the form of documenting processes that exist but have not been formally implemented; other times this means partnering with prospect development, development officers, and senior leadership to identify organizational objectives and develop enhanced processes that will meet these objectives.
  • Program enhancement. Many projects with clients begin with reviewing current staffing size/structure, products/deliverables, and resources. As we learn more about organizational objectives, having a solid understanding of the current program helps identify areas that could benefit from fine-tuning. These could include modifying the prospect assignment process and related research products (delivery methods, liaison assignments, and deliverable content), recommending changes in staffing levels or structures, and reviewing new research, reporting, and analytical tools and resources.

For over 30 years, BWF has partnered with leading nonprofit organizations to transform philanthropy. We know that it’s not just about benchmarking or best practices; it’s about helping your organization implement the right practices in the right ways for your organization. To learn more about how BWF can help you take your organization to moving beyond great, contact the prospect development professionals at BWF.

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