Category Archives: Prospect Research
When I talk to people who are new to the profession, they often want to know the same thing. “I work in a small shop,” they say. “Which activities will give me the most bang for my buck, no pun intended?” I am paraphrasing, but this discussion is definitely the #1 topic that I run across. And my answer is always the same: court your major donors.
When I first started, I wouldn’t have believed it were true. I wanted to get as many people excited about our cause as possible (which is important). I also wanted to create systems that were easy to maintain and monitor (also important). I wanted to design newsletters (keeping people informed is important) and hold (eek) special events (I won’t go there). I wanted to write grants (also helpful and important). But one thing I didn’t want to do was talk to major donors. I was afraid of them, didn’t feel that I had an rapport with them, and was scared to death of messing up, so I filled my time with other important—but not necessarily as important—activities.
I love Spring. Aside from the fact that New York Winters last longer than the other seasons f(or at least it seems that way), Spring gives us an excuse for a fresh start. It also gives us a fab impetus for cleaning up our offices, both literally and figuratively. Here are 10 ideas for Spring Cleaning, Development Style:
- Review your donor management software, and eliminate and merge any duplicates that you find.
- Freshen up your conventional donor thank-you ideas. Usually send a letter? Send a picture postcard instead, or make a phone call. Make a list of new ideas that you can use to say thank-you.
- If you’re fortunate enough to work with a staff, hold a meeting with them to talk about new initiatives for the development department.
- Sort and weed out your stacks of fundraising periodicals. Tired of paper pile-ups? Many development publications, including FundRaising Success, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, and AFP’s Advancing Philanthropy, are available in digital editions.
- Review your donor files and clean out any outdated materials or information that is no longer useful.
- Assess what is working and what isn’t with your current systems. Are there training modules you could order from your software providers, or could you lay to rest a “fundraising program” that isn’t cutting the muster and hasn’t been for years? The best systems and events are those that help you reach your goals.
- Add a few new decorative items to your office space. Photos of family and friends, pieces of artwork that you like, or motivational quotes are all good additions. If you ask nicely, you might even get permission to paint your office or get a new area rug or office chair.
- Take a day to physically clean your space if you don’t do it regularly. Studies have shown that keyboards, desks and phones can be some of the germiest spaces in your office!
- How is your filing system working for you? Do you avoid filing items because you dread losing them? An ideal filing system should enable you to file something in less than 30 seconds and retrieve it in less than a minute. There are lots of tips out there for building a great filing system. This tip is time-intensive, but very worth it in the long run.
- Spring-clean your self-talk. Feeling discouraged over the grey expanse of winter? Give yourself a pep talk. You’re doing good work for a good cause. Your passion inspires others, and the great part is that you can continue to improve if you choose to!
Do you have any “spring cleaning” development tips?
I love a good webinar, and there are a ton of them out there! For those of you who aren’t familiar with them, they are seminars on a variety of topics, offered over the internet, usually with an expert speaker and a visual presentation. They’re great training for people with limited training budgets who want to know more about a particular development topic; many of them are offered for a nominal fee, and some are even free! I’ll be posting a list of them weekly; if you’re interested, follow the link for more information and to register. See my Webinars page for an ongoing listing. (NOTE: Membership may be required to access webinars.)
I have a confession to make: I’m an information hoarder. As a naturally analytical person whose confidence in my abilities waxes and wanes, information-gathering is a security blanket for me. If I am afraid of attacking something, I look up information on how other people do it, to make sure I’m heading in the right direction.
With my scientific background (my degree is in geology—go figure), the siren call of locking myself in a room and conducting research by myself without having to communicate with anyone is sometimes pretty tempting. However, too much information-collecting can be hazardous to my productive health. If I know that I can take the placebo of doing something instead of doing the right thing, on my most unsure days I would rather wrap myself in the blanket of research. The flip side of my addiction is that, if I get too much information, I scare myself all over again and become inert with indecision. Bad news, right?
My agreement with myself is this: if I am a good girl, and accomplish the finite list of to-dos that can possibly be accomplished, I will allow myself time for research. If a project demands research, I will give myself parameters (e.g. only the first page of Google results; three pages of draft fodder from other sources; five document downloads) to make sure I don’t get carried away. These guidelines keep the ratio of static information to action more manageable and allows me to stay productive, despite any uncertainty I might be feeling.
Do you have any tactics to deal with information overload? I know I’m not the only one who has this issue, and comments are always encouraged!
I won’t lie. Face-to-face fundraising can be scary at first. I am an introvert, and I avoided asking people for a long time, preferring instead to write grants and fill out paperwork and send appeal letters. But, as the cloying cliche goes, practice makes perfect. And thus it was with me.
It took me a long time to realize what my problem was. I knew lots of people who asked, and had been asking for years. They were dynamic, they were successful—what was my problem? With a little introspection, I analyzed my situation and discovered the culprit:
I have a different personality type than the other askers I knew.
Most of them were outgoing, gregarious, vibrant and confident. On the contrary, I am a relatively quiet person, who can seem bubbly amongst people I know well, or when I am “fak(ing) it until I make it.” I am at my best among my colleagues, or among people who put forth the vibe of being even more scared or inexperienced than I am. But I am also a person who needs a ton of information to act and make the right decision. I often decided based on instinct, but my instincts are formed by learning as much as I can about a topic before presenting it.