Ohio Prospect Research Network
Established 1987 - Apra Ohio Chapter
In 2015 a photo of a dress went viral when viewers disagreed on whether the dress was black and blue or white and gold. The phenomenon showcased the difference in human color perception. Yes, a difference of perception. Views of the dress were not right or wrong, they simply had different perceptions. Sound familiar? Let’s put this in the perspective of development. A Prospect Development professional and a Development Officer have a meeting. The Prospect Development professional thinks a donor should be asked to support the cause with a $1,000,000.00 gift. But, the Development Officer thinks the same donor should be asked to make a gift of $500,000.00 to further the mission. They are talking about the same donor, so why do they come up with different gift suggestions? Similar, to the color of the dress, the Prospect Development professional and the Development Officer have different perceptions.
The common perception differences between Prospect Development Professionals and Development Officers led a team of Prospect Development Professionals in Ohio to conduct a survey to look deeper into these different perceptions. The individuals who conducted this survey were connected through a common Prospect Development group called OPRN (Ohio Prospect Research Network). The survey was led by Sarah Richards from The Dynamic Catholic Institute, Jane Owsley from The University of Cincinnati Foundation, Kimberly Rodstrom from Kent State University with special thanks to Becky Fullmer from the University of Cincinnati Foundation. These four women came from various different organizations and backgrounds which helped to look at the survey and the data from various viewpoints.
145 people participated in the survey. 71% of respondents were Prospect Development Professionals and 29% were Development Officers. Overall, respondents were most likely to be female prospect development professionals having been in their career 10+ years and working for urban organizations in higher education located in Ohio. However, overall respondents still had a good varied background of individuals, locations and organizations represented.
Overall both Development Officers and Prospect Development Professionals said that prior giving was the most important factor considered when deciding the size of a gift to ask a donor to make. Followed by affinity to the organization and then hard assets. However, the order of those three factors varied when broken down by organization type, male vs. female and Development Officers vs. Prospect Development Professionals.
But everyone is different in the way they view different factors in determining a donor’s ask amount. Thus, it is still helpful for Prospect Development Professionals to know what indicators are most important to a Development Officer so they can provide leverage when Prospect Development Professionals share information about a prospect. For example, if a particular Development Officer values and rates a prospect higher based on hard assets, highlight a prospect's hard assets in the meeting.
In the survey, communication style and preferences were also evaluated. For both Development Officers and Prospect Development Professionals, in-person strategy sessions were the most preferred way to share information when determining a prospect ask amount. However, when looking at the second prefered style of communication, Development Officer’s preferred email and Prospect Development Professionals prefer notes in the database. Looking at the different ways both perform their jobs, this makes sense. Development Officers are often on the road meeting with donors and it is easier for them to communicate by email. Similarly, Prospect Development Professionals spend most of their time in the database.
Overall, affinity to an organization, especially prior giving, was the leading factor considered when determining the ask amount, above identified capacity. But everyone is different and it is important to highlight the factors that are valued most by the specific individual. Additionally, in-person strategy sessions were the most preferred way to share information when determining a prospect ask amount. But if those cannot take place, Development Officers prefer to receive information by email and Prospect Development Professionals prefer to share information by entering it in the database. The insight found through this survey is interesting but it is important to open a conversation in your office to determine what factors and communication styles works best for the individuals on your team because black and blue or white and gold it is still a beautiful dress.
We know intrinsically that the work we do has a high value for our organizations. We know the work we do is indispensable for a healthy fundraising program. We know that without our impact, our organizations would raise a fraction of what they currently raise. Understanding and expressing that value has for a long time been hard to pin down and express in a way that elevates. Until now. Precision Prospect Development shows us the way. It translates our work into value and in a language the senior leadership can understand and lays out strategies and tactics to help you achieve maximum success.
This inability to articulate our value in the language of senior leadership has been a major roadblock for our profession. It is one of the leading reasons why there is such little representation of Prospect Development folks at the senior leadership table. If you run some basic searches on LinkedIn or Google, you will find that there are only a handful of folks at the AVP or VP level in our field. If you run the same search for every other department in a development shop, be it annual giving, planned giving, major giving, corporate giving, foundation giving, principal giving, you will find that the complete opposite is true. For practically every organization that has a mature or large development shop with at least 30 employees, there will exist an AVP and/or VP in each of these areas.
This doesn’t sit well with me. This has to change. Why are we so underrepresented at the table? Why do we need to have the occasional champion on the front-lines write articles on their blog or on LinkedIn, cheerleading our value proposition to their peers as if our value proposition needs defending, as if it is not widely accepted amongst all organizations that Prospect Development is an essential piece of the development puzzle, and that to muzzle us by not giving us a seat at the table is detrimental to an organization’s health? An understanding of The Why can help us to quickly correct this travesty so that future generations of Prospect Development folks will be amazed to learn that their pioneering predecessors ever had anything but the seat of honor at the leadership table.
We need to change our categorization in the hierarchy of development from cost center to revenue generator.
Prospect Development is a revenue generator. We are in the relationship business. We are highly valuable to the bottom-line and our work has a direct impact on dollars in the door. Adding more boots on the ground is not always the answer when a revenue increase is sought after. Increasing your prospect development staff so that you have healthy balance of researcher to field officer is vital to the success of our organizations.
We are in a unique position in our organizations in that we interact with all units. We are like a central hub connected to every program. We have the ability to influence and impact beyond any other unit in our organizations. We must harness this power with a focus on the bottom-line as much as possible. If we think of ourselves as fundraisers and operate our programs in accordance with this focus, the sky is the limit on what we can achieve.
I hope you will join us in Columbus on May 10th to learn more about how to position yourself and your department for success and how harnessing the power of data can help us to get there.
Errors and mistakes happen but are not the end of the world. Often, gift officers view researchers as data geeks. And, that’s OK, too! In their recent webinar, “Did I Do That?,” board member Beth Havens and former board president Regina Alhassan teamed up to explore owning your space as the team's data ambassador and how to turn common missteps into opportunities to improve systems and relationships.
Infused with American pop-culture, the 60-minute webinar had over 50 participants with members actively engaged, asking questions and sharing comments. Top tips include editing each other's work; letting it rest – review work with fresh eyes after 30 minutes or the next day; taking a walk to clear your mind; and using a formal request system which offers a menu of 3-5 research products. Kudos to Beth and Regina for representing our chapter in Apra’s annual Chapters Share The Knowledge Week.
“Did I Do That?” and other CSTK webinars will be available on Apra’s online store soon. Webinars are $49 for members, $79 for non-members.
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