Prospect Research & Management, Talent & Training

Raise your hand if you’ve never heard the adage “if it’s not in the system, it didn’t happen.” No hands? That’s what I suspected. That being said, who among us hasn’t also experienced examples of data living outside the system as a result of the tools within a fundraiser’s arsenal not “working” for them? Maybe it is confusion regarding why it is important to use the system, maybe it is reluctance to share information, or maybe it is uncertainty over how the data will be used. Regardless, the result is the same. Even the top fundraising shops face challenges with system use, impacting your organization’s ability to see a comprehensive view of prospects, make informed decisions about solicitation strategies, and stay abreast of the prospect pipeline. One way to impact change in this area – join forces with the systems trainers within your organization.

Systems trainers and prospect development professionals each bring vital information to the table, but often where organizations fall short is in building strategies to form an effective partnership between these two sides. The goal of any systems training should be satisfied participants who believe the experience was worthwhile on many levels and who leave as informed users empowered to use the system in their daily life. So how can your organization leverage prospect development’s insights, skills, and relationships to inform the tried and true facets of a systems training program?

Know the audience.
The most impactful trainers understand the distinct needs of their audience and weave those needs into the training framework. Prospect development is uniquely positioned to educate trainers on the desires, challenges, and needs of fundraisers, which can be used by trainers to understand the requirements of a fundraising position. Depending on the size of your institution, this may result in developing a specific track for fundraisers to continuously grow and expand their skills. For others, this may mean incorporating fundraiser specific examples into a broader training session that includes all different types of staff members.

Understand context.
Training sessions don’t happen in a vacuum, but one frequent complaint about systems training is that it is too focused on the “buttonology” and doesn’t effectively communicate the nuances of why a particular task or data is important. How do we combat that perception? Capitalize upon prospect development’s understanding of management’s key goals and metrics to align curriculum with the reports and expectations that management will use to monitor fundraiser and program performance.

Measure knowledge retention.
Post-training check-ins are an important facet of any training program, but the reality is that a majority of post-training questions occur “on the job” as fundraisers use the knowledge previously learned in the classroom in their daily work. As a result, prospect development tends to be the first call when a fundraiser has a system issue or question. Using this outreach to provide feedback for the training team is an important step in ensuring the continuous improvement and refinement of the training program.

While at the outset it may seem that systems trainers and prospect development teams don’t have much to offer one another; however, a strategic partnership between these two sides can grow into a powerful alliance that engages fundraisers to use, rely on, and even champion your organization’s systems. When fundraisers use the system, everyone wins. Finding the right way to induce fundraisers to utilize your database requires not just technical training skills, but also the critical insight and guidance only prospect development can provide.