Disconnect: Why Most Institutions Don’t Use Prospect Researchers Effectively.
"You can’t Speak Spanish if you have never been to Spain"
At a conference recently where I was speaking to nonprofit development staff of all levels. You know how folks line up to talk to you afterwards? Well there was one fellow who waited…waited till everyone was gone. Hmmm?
I had just talked to a good crowd about the need to treat Prospect Research and Management staff as fundraisers, empower them and help them partner with Development Officers for greatly improved fundraising. When all had talked with me he introduced himself as a VP of Development with 8 Development Officers and a Prospect Researcher. I assumed he approached me to highly disagree with me. To my amazement and amusement he told me that about a year ago he had enacted a similar model of prospecting with his team. His Prospect Researcher now controlled MG portfolio’s, they had regular Prospect Review meetings, the Prospect Researcher answered to his office and updated him weekly, the Development Officers at first were skeptical but now were on board because of strong results. Qualification/Discovery meetings were happening because the PR&M (Prospect Research and Management) staffs were empowered to move the Development Officers along. They saw a great improvement in development officer portfolio’s as they were now either current donors under stewardship or promising well qualified prospects. They were bringing in new major prospects and donors at a pace never before seen! They could all transparently see their pipelines moving. It was awesome.
So the obvious question came to my mind “Why didn’t you speak up when I was asking for questions and comments just now??”. His response stunned me. He said “What so all those other development officers can steal our thunder? No thanks! Let them figure it out for themselves”.
Judge this VP how you want but I have run into this attitude before. Competitive could describe it but it’s something more. Once you have developed a strong prospecting culture and system amongst your fundraising staff you never want to go back. It’s effective, empowering and just plain fun.
So why do so many institutions, I would conservatively say the majority of institutions with Prospect Researchers on staff use them so poorly? Here are some of my hair brain theories:
6.Stolen Thunder: Shhh Don’t let them “steal your thunder”: Successful models aren’t really spread around. Show me a professional development venue where there was a speaker talking about a model of Prospecting and New Major Donor Development? It’s rare. Show me where there was training for Development Officers to cold call new prospects? (This crazy Mexican is the only one doing that) Show me outside of APRA where there was trainings and discussion about how to get Prospect Researchers and Development Officers to work together effectively, dynamically? That simply isn’t talked about. It’s not a priority.
If you have a strong PR&M staff and you’re not engaging them in the management, leadership, analytical role then it’s like you have a Maserati and you’re driving at 40 miles an hour in the right lane on an empty highway! Why?
Forgive my over simplification’s in this piece, forgive my funky analogies but the point is clear. It’s time to empower Prospect Research and Management staff. Pay