Tag Archives: Donor Software

Can Prospect Research Be Wrong?

Recently as I was wandering the Association of Fundraising Professionals of Massachusetts Annual Philanthropy Day Conference in Boston, I stopped to speak with a prospect research company with whom I have worked on behalf of various clients. We have found them to have valuable research results, in part, because they spend the time to digitize thousands of print-only donor lists from colleges, nonprofit galas and other similar brochures and booklets. Their company is growing, so I can assume we are not the only ones who take advantage of their excellent service.

What is the newest way in which research is being used? Quick turnaround of potential donors lists. Some hospitals are sending their daily patient lists—being mindful of HIPPA restrictions—to the research company to know what potential donor is currently under their roof. The research company sends a list by 8 or 9 each morning – before the patients are discharged.

At first, I was not sure how this information was being used but I found a bit more insight  when I realized that I am not the only one who is focused on this topic this week.   In a New York Times article by Ron Lieber I read over the weekend, which did research through the fundraising software company Blackbaud, stated:

In a presentation posted on the Web titled “Grateful Patient Basics,” the company urges fund-raisers to “take advantage of the captive audience” by sending hospital admissions lists to the development office for a wealth screening within hours of when the patients are admitted. No, they will not turn up at your bedside the next morning with a capital campaign solicitation. But solicitousness is a possible result, including more visits from hospital staff and a special effort to make your stay as comfortable as possible.

You can read the entire article for yourself by clicking here, but the more I thought about it, even though the use of the information is permitted within the current regulatory environment, the more I didn’t like it.  The New York Times article confirmed that I am not alone.

I love prospect research as much as the next development professional – maybe even a bit more because I can geek out on the knowledge. I love that someone thought of a creative way to use research. I just don’t love that a place, in which vulnerability is at the core of a person’s experience, would use that relationship to profit.

Am I right? Am I wrong? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Getting Organized Before The Ask

Archivist Folder imageMore than half the success in the engagement and solicitation of a major donor or funder is achieved before you meet with a prospect.  The “ask” should be the culmination of extensive research of and conversations about the donor.  This may be a few days’ work or a several years, but the methodology that you follow to ensure success is the same.  Keeping all the information and discussion organized and retrievable is vital.

Do You Know What You Are Tracking?
Prospect  and donor management fundraising software – with the possible exception of a fully-customizable, flexible solution – has limitations.  It’s the nature of creating one solution for many nonprofits –the one feature that seems incredibly obvious to one development office is irrelevant to others.  But software, even used to its potential, cannot be your only system in place.

What might be too awkward to track consistently in a software program?  Here are some examples:

  • Which prospects are assigned to each solicitor.
  • At what stage is each solicitor with each potential donor.
  • The amount you rated/expected from each donor.
  • The percentage of that potential that was realized
  • Donors who will only make verbal pledges vs. those who have confirmed their commitments in writing..
  • How often each donor has been contacted about his or her pledge.
  • Who, within your organization and office, is responsible for each point of contact with each donor (e.g. calls, thank-you letters, sending pledge reminders, etc.).
  • What should be sent to each pledge whether verbal or written.
  • Participation levels for each constituent group (e.g., Board members, parents, alumni by class, etc.) associated with the organization.

I could go on, but just as no software is one-size-fits-all, my list cannot be all encompassing for everyone reading this article.

The important thing to consider is whether you know what you are tracking and why you are tracking it.  With one client I often joked about the list of lists.  Annoying?  Perhaps.  Essential?  Definitely.

Need another reason to clean up your systems?
By using careful methods for data tracking, you will know exactly how much you will be asking from each potential donor.  But as importantly, you will instill a sense of hands-on control of the information, and, thus, the campaign that will contribute to an extra level of confidence for all. And, simply put, confidence improves solicitations and their results.

Q. My mid-sized nonprofit uses Excel to track donors. Is there a better way that doesn’t cost a lot?

A. There are many options that will cost you any where from nothing to thousands of dollars and all of them are better than using Excel, or any other kind of spreadsheet or database that is not designed expressly for the purpose of fundraising management. While we can counsel you on the differences between DonorPerfect vs. eTapestry, Faithful Steward vs. Blackbaud’s The Raisers’ Edge, donor tracking software has become incredibly sophisticated.

Many are web-based and thus, can provide multiple users access to the same updated information as well as enable multiple users to update the information. Of course, this latter aspect of data management requires systematic controls so as to maintain the integrity of your organization’s information. In addition, the sort possibilities will amaze you. There is gift tracking, pledge management and campaign analysis. Call us for help in navigating these perilous waters.