Welcome to Prospect Development Pride Month! Two years ago, several thought leaders in prospect development claimed March as a month to highlight the value that prospect research, relationship management, and analytics teams provide to their organizations. You can follow the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #ResearchPride.

At the beginning of March, BWF’s senior associate in prospect development, Bond Lammey, served on the faculty of the CASE Development Researchers Conference. One of the panel discussion topics was, “How prospect development professionals can serve as consultants with senior leadership and frontline gift officers at their organizations.” We applaud all the significant partnerships that many of our clients in prospect development have created with their fundraising partners. Based on the panel discussion, Bond wanted to provide some suggestions on ways to enhance these partnerships.

  • Position yourself/your team as problem solvers. Take the approach of learning the other party’s concerns and questions before offering solutions. Many prospect development professionals are eager to demonstrate value before fully understanding the scope of the question. In working with generalists at Bentz Whaley Flessner, I’ve observed them enter a vice president’s office and simply ask the question, “What keeps you up at night?” This approach allows the other person to speak broadly about concerns and will put prospect development professionals in a better position to tailor solutions specifically to meet these concerns.
  • Take a page out of improv comedy’s book—just say, “Yes, And.” With rare exceptions, leadership and frontline officers at our client organizations agree that their prospect development team is comprised of bright, ambitious, well-intentioned individuals. However, when asked why this team isn’t brought in for strategic conversations, the answer is related to team’s bandwidth. As an industry, we’ve trained our colleagues to fill out forms and to wait 5–10 business days for results. Establishing a process is important, but we don’t want this process to get in the way of being viewed as a strategically helpful partner.Improv comedy’s most famous rule, “Yes, And,” can help us here. The basic idea is to accept whatever idea the other party suggested and to build on it. The end goal might be nothing resembling the original suggestion. But, keeping an open mind when the initial issue is raised will go a long way towards keeping the dialogue open in order to arrive at a solution that all parties can appreciate.
  • Own your role as an industry expert. Whatever your role is at your organization, recognize and own the fact that you have expertise that your senior leadership and frontline officers don’t have. When the time comes, don’t be afraid to speak up as an expert. This might be raising the important point at a prospect strategy meeting that the prospect that your organization has targeted for a $25,000 solicitation has made a $1,000,000 gift elsewhere. Or, you might be providing important information to senior leadership when you identify a correlation between visit counts relative to gift size of accepted proposals. If you don’t have the answer, feel free to say that as well. Then see what you can do to come up with a solution for questions that involve prospect development.

When prospect development teams are enabled and appropriately structured to act as consultants with senior leadership and frontline officers, the benefits to an organization are substantial. If you are a prospect development professional, be a problem solver, keep an open mind, and find your voice!

Bond Lammey and our specialty services practice consultants provide comprehensive counsel to prospect development teams and institutional senior leaders looking to grow, develop, and increase results. Contact us to learn more. Together, we transform philanthropy.

Originally published March 16, 2016

Copyright © 2016 Bentz Whaley Flessner and Associates, Inc.

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