Power to the Researchers !
Power to the Researchers!
Sounds like I need some militant t shirt and cool hair when I say that right? Sadly I have neither!
I want to talk about a subtle aspect of working with Prospect Research and Management staff that makes a huge difference in your work. From my experience it’s the subtle change in how you can work with them that has helped me raise tens of millions of dollars. It’s all about respect.
Across the US and globally in Development there is a chronic disconnect between how Prospect Research and Management staff work with Development Officers. Many institutions don’t even have Prospect Research of any sort. They are at a tremendous disadvantage in fundraising and always will be until they figure this out.
I have been consulting now for years. I am a Prospecting Consultant. I help institutions of all sizes get their prospecting act together. Prospecting in my lexicon is the acquisition of new major individual donors. There is a lot more to it, but that’s the basic focus. I focus on teaching, consulting and coaching teams to create systematic prospecting. Most organizations prospect by accident or piece meal. There is no more powerful move in fundraising one can make than a dynamic, thriving major gifts prospecting system. It will change not just fundraising but your institution fundamentally. Yet, it’s commonly not effectively done even with institutions with full time Prospect Research and Management Staff.
I should say though that it’s gotten better over the last 20 years I have been observing this institutional culture.
Prospect Researchers can have powerful relationships where they are treated, paid and listened to with respect as fellow fundraisers. Or they can be marginalized and treated like glorified administrative help. Simply put most Development Officers are paid more and treated with more respect and deference than a Prospect Researcher. As organizations we know our own org charts, we know our hierarchy and commonly PR&M staff are low down those charts and hierarchy.
Yet well trained and well used your PR&M staff should be part of your management team. Shouldn’t they? They can tell you about upcoming opportunities, give you a helicopter view of your fundraisers work, they can analyze your campaigns, they can give you guidance on prospect approaches and strategies. They are like a navigators on a ship. Most development leadership don’t have their navigators in the bridge but down below 5 decks and consequently roam all over the ocean.
As I mentioned earlier the subtle difference here is respect and empowerment. I commonly do trainings where I go live on site and do full day trainings for sets of development officers and prospect research/management teams. All together in a room. I train the DO’s to cold call, to qualify donors and sometimes I train on small events.
From that experience you can tell the group culture around Prospect Research and Prospecting. I have seen a direct correlation in raising new money between teams where the Prospect Researcher has strong, equal and respectful relationships with Development Officers, where they are treated like a fundraiser, valued colleague and a leader. Even more so where a VP or CDO use the PR&M staff as trusted advisers and analysts that answer to their office. Then there are those where the Development Officers have little to do with their Prospect Researcher and don’t understand or respect their work.
As a Chief Development Officer or a VP of Development I have my PR&M folks report directly to my office. When I can I have them physically close to my office. Both send subtle messages to DO’s that I respect and rely on that team, that they are important. I also have very direct relationships free of hierarchy with them. They are my advisors and guides sometimes we disagree, debate. They will use data and research to question what I am doing on a campaign, prospect, portfolio etc. Listening to a contrary perspective is super healthy. Yes, its irritating when it turns out they were right and you were wrong. It’s worse when they remind you later and rub it in! Ouch. But you get the picture.
So Development Officers, VP’s, CDO’s how do you work with your Prospect Research and Management teams? Here is my list of tips:
I talked with a VP of Development this week about a training I did for his team late last year. He told me about the staff that had taken it to heart and those that needed more help. We talked about how it’s changed how he works with his Prospect Research and Management team. He said we went from where they worked in Development to now they “own” Development’s success. Couldn’t have said it better myself.