Originally published August 26, 2015

How much of development work is aided by chance? Have you ever been in a meeting with a donor just as something momentous was happening in his or her life? Did you stumble upon this opportunity, or did you know about it ahead of time?

A former prospect research colleague of mine, Catherine Cefalu, used to tell The Tale of the Happy Fundraiser and the Sad Fundraiser. The Happy Fundraiser goes into a cultivation meeting with a donor with information about the donor’s new job, while the Sad Fundraiser begins the meeting asking the same donor how things are going at his old company, unaware that he has a job at a new company.

Ultimately, the positive conversation that the Happy Fundraiser had with the donor resulted in further discussions and a major gift commitment. The Sad Fundraiser did not progress in his relationship with the donor. You can learn more about this cautionary tale here (shared with permission from APRA and Catherine Cefalu).

This example demonstrates the value of having targeted, strategic information on a prospect or donor at the appropriate stage in the development cycle. In this case, both fundraisers might have wanted to know if there was any information to help inform the right time to solicit the donor. The Happy Fundraiser received information on the donor’s job change and subsequent upcoming wealth event. The prospect researcher at the Happy Fundraiser’s organization might have even set up a news alert on the donor that informed the researcher about the donor’s job change, which allowed the researcher to provide even more specific information to the Happy Fundraiser that aided in directing an ultimate gift conversation.

Do you have a prospect researcher at your organization? What sort of information do you receive on donors and prospects when they are first assigned to you? What about in advance of your first meeting or before you make a solicitation? How is the information provided by the prospect researcher different at each stage in your relationship with the prospect or donor?

The chart below demonstrates the questions that you might have about a donor at various stages in the development cycle, along with the sample deliverable you might receive from prospect research:

What can your organization do to leverage prospect research in order to improve your chances of being in the right place, at the right time, with the right information about your prospects and donors?

  1. If you have a prospect researcher, talk with him or her about implementing guidelines like the ones above. Guidelines will make requesting research easier and will lessen the amount of time it takes your researcher to deliver results.
  2. After meetings with your donors and prospects, let your researcher know how it went. Was the information you received accurate? Was it helpful? What else did you learn? This feedback not only helps your researcher produce more accurate information on the donor in the future, it also makes your researcher feel like an integral part of the cultivation process.
  3. Don’t have a researcher? Consider partnering with a provider of wealth screening verification, brief bios, and full profiles.
The Happy Fundraiser was successful because he received relevant, accurate, and timely information from his prospect researcher. Let prospect research help you achieve your goals!
Bentz Whaley Flessner provides wealth screening verification, brief bios, and full profiles to organizations without a prospect researcher or who have prospect research needs that current staff do not have time to fulfill. For more information, contact Bond Lammey at blammey@bwf.com.

Together we transform philanthropy—contact us at (952) 921-0111 or visit www.bwf.com to learn more.

Copyright © 2015 Bentz Whaley Flessner & Associates, Inc.

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