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  • 11/08/2017 12:41 PM | Vicki O'Brien (Administrator)

    The Impact of Thanking Annual Fund Donors

    When I was younger, my mother forced me to write thank you notes to anyone who had given me a gift for my birthday. It seemed like a chore at the time, but as an adult, I came to appreciate when I was thanked for sending a gift – and I certainly remembered those that never thanked me. Today, sometimes a simple “thank you” seems like a dying art.

    As nonprofit organizations, it’s critical that we thank our donors promptly. That $25 annual fund donor could turn out to be a $25,000 donor in the future if he or she feels appreciated right from the start. But every organization sends a thank you letter. What if you took it one step further?

    A couple of years ago, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center supercharged its annual giving program with the addition of two special gifts officers (SGO). One of the roles of the SGOs is to reach out to annual fund donors to thank them for their first-time gift or for finishing paying a pledge. They also call other donors that our prospect research/management team identifies as having potential for making larger or additional gifts but who aren’t yet major gift prospects.

    Delighting the Donor

    I love reading our SGOs’ contact reports. It is not unusual for a donor to be taken completely by surprise by our thank you calls. Unlike major donors, a thank you call is unusual for lower-level donors to receive, and they’re delighted to be recognized. This leads our SGOs to ask what motivated them to make a gift, and we’ve heard some wonderful stories from our medical school alumni who valued their time here as well as patients who were pleased with their care. When we hear, “You saved my life,” we know we found a potentially loyal donor. This opens the door for our SGOs to ask for continued giving, and I’m amazed at how many donors say, “Absolutely,” and proceed to give a credit card number over the phone or ask for a reply envelope in the mail.

    In addition to phone calls, our SGOs visit patients in the hospital. We monitor a daily list of inpatients looking for unmanaged alumni, current or former board members, recent annual fund donors, and lapsed but previously consistent donors. The SGOs stop in to say hello, bring a medical center tote bag or other swag, a handwritten get well note, and a business card. They thank the donor for being a friend to the medical center, and of course there is no solicitation at the time. It’s simply a thank you visit. These visits have gone very well, and many times we’ve seen gifts come in after the patients have been discharged.

    Uncovering Major Gift Prospects

    When SGOs are engaging these donors, they listen for clues that someone could eventually be a major or planned gift prospect. After some cultivation and at an appropriate time, the SGO may hand off these prospects to a major gift officer for further cultivation. However, there have been times when a significant gift came in before re-assignment. For instance, one of our SGOs really bonded with one of our medical school alums, who revealed that he had included the medical school in his estate plans. Teaming up with a major gift officer for a visit with the donor, the SGO was able to document this gift. This alum had barely been contacted before the SGO reached out to thank him for his loyal giving.

    By having the prospect research/management team work in conjunction with the annual funds team to identify prospects for SGOs to call or visit, the number of annual fund renewals has increased, and donors are left feeling good about supporting our organization. We’d like to think our efforts would have made Emily Post proud.

  • 09/12/2017 10:11 AM | Vicki O'Brien (Administrator)

    Rick Loveday’s Two Days in the Triangle

    We were excited to award 2017’s Apra Carolinas’ Professional Development Scholarship to Rick Loveday of Clemson University! The “road trip” is a scholarship program to cover travel expenses for a member to spend a day with someone within the Carolinas to learn about processes, procedures, CRM, a specific project, or so forth. One road trip scholarship is awarded annually and covers travel expenses (gas, meals, and 1 night of lodging) up to $300.

    Read on to learn where Rick went and what he learned…

    Two Days in the Triangle

    I have been in Prospect Research at Clemson University for about a year and a half. This job has been my first foray into non-profits, higher education, and fund raising. I had garnered plenty of research experience in previous jobs, from journalism to fiction to legal. I also had extensive report development and Excel coding experience. Despite jumping into a completely new field, it was a fairly seamless transition. Since about my third week on the job, before I even had any teams of my own to support, I started developing reports to improve some of our methods of tracking portfolio details or created new reports that filled in areas our team had not been tracking yet. Every couple of weeks or so, my boss would drop some idea she came up with or some new aspect she wanted to track. I would take that idea and come back with a prototype report. That process went on for about eight months. By the end of the year, we had a full suite of new reports to help our Development Officers. When the Apra Carolinas’ email went out with the information about the Road Trip Scholarship, my boss made sure I saw it and urged me to apply.

    As I pondered where I might want to visit while writing my application essay, I thought about where we were trying to go as a department. My boss has made a big push to increase our analytics offerings since I was hired. I decided I wanted to take a look and see how other similar institutions got started in analytics or ran their departments. Since I am at a university, I wanted to visit another university and that narrowed my list down to a manageable few. I figured if I visited a higher concentration of universities I would get more bang for my buck. That led me to North Carolina’s Research Triangle.

    Wednesday, July 19.

    On my first day, I met with Pitt Tomlinson and Justin Woodard at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. One of Pitt’s primary goals when accepting the job as the Director of Prospect Management, Research and Analytics a little over two years ago was to create a new analytics team. His first, and to date only, analytics hire was Justin Woodard as Assistant Director of Prospect Analytics. The word “Analytics” was already part of Pitt’s title when he accepted the job and part of UNC’s strategic plan. I took some time to go over our current setup at Clemson. I explained how we had just been focusing on developing new reports and introducing them. Some reports were modifications on existing IT created reports that took a deeper look into certain aspects not previously tracked or recorded. Pitt was impressed with the way we were going about getting our foot in the proverbial door. He encouraged us to continue doing exactly what we were doing. People don’t realize what they are missing out on until it gets put in front of them. The more products we create and push out to our development officers, the more they will realize the additional benefits we can provide.

    Justin’s journey to his present position followed a similar trajectory as my own. He had experience in the legal field and was well-versed in various methods of research. But when he took the Assistant Director position, it was his first trip down the fund-raising rabbit hole. He’s spent the last year getting a stronger handle on the position and what all it entails. Pitt explained they could have hired a couple additional analysts, but decided to hold off. He wanted Justin to be fully immersed in the position and go through all the growing pains before bringing in additional staff. In doing so, Justin would have a stronger grasp on the position and be that much more of a leader; it is a concept I could whole-heartedly get behind. I always want to be a master of something before I have to go teach it to others. I love hitting the roadblocks and breaking right through them.

    Thursday, July 20.

    On Thursday morning, I made the short drive over to Duke University to meet with Natalie Spring and her team. Natalie is the Director of Prospect Research, Management and Analytics. The thing I found most interesting about Duke’s central development office was they do not have a CRM. At Clemson, we use Raiser’s Edge and know a few other schools using Millennium. I couldn’t imagine not using some sort of software to access our constituent database. Natalie first joined the department working in statistics and analysis. She left Duke for another position then returned as the Director of Prospect Research, Management and Analytics. Her biggest piece of advice was to figure out what they were doing and to mold their job descriptions to that. As you adapt jobs, continue to adapt the job descriptions to match. I believe she said they were currently in the middle of the fourth rewrite of job descriptions. The positions they originally had when creating the department no longer existed and have evolved into completely different beasts.

    In addition to Natalie, I requested to meet with Ian Conlon and Chris Coutlee. Ian is the Associate Director of Prospect Management and Analytics. Chris is a Data Analyst. Chris’s background really intrigued me because he listed all the online classes and certifications he had gained through Coursera, which were the same I was looking at or already taking through EdX.org and Coursera.

    I spoke to Ian and Chris about some of the types of projects they’ve worked on. Chris mentioned they had a script they run that would de-duplicate their constituent lists by removing separate lines for spouses, including all activity for the whole family on the same line. I thought that was an interesting process I needed to look into since we currently have to de-duplicate our lists by hand, depending on the data, or by using the remove duplicates feature of Excel.

    Ian explained the typical life-cycle of their projects. They tend to start with something small, usually confined to just one of the departments. They develop a report or application just for that department and try to work out all the bugs. Once that is done, they bring in another department to increase the user pool. This typically leads to more bugs being discovered. They repeat that process until they feel the tool is ready to present to the major stakeholders; I really liked that concept. With what I had developed at Clemson, we generally created something, tested it ourselves, then took it to the stakeholders for approval. We never really went through a beta testing phase or included groups of development officers to get their input or thoughts.

    Another key concept they realized quickly was the need for a formalized list of research offerings, that way everyone stayed on the same page. The development officers knew what they could ask for or what research could provide them. The researchers and analysts didn’t have to worry about five different development officers requesting five different variations of the same report. I quickly saw where that would make life much easier.

    I also got to spend some time with Chris one on one to see some of the projects he was working on. He showed me a travel list they put together that had some interesting geocoding features built into the report. That took the top spot of ideas I wanted to implement into my own travel lists when I got back to Clemson.

    After lunch with both groups from Duke and UNC, I hit the road back to Clemson, fresh with new ideas. Some I can immediately start working on, while others, I know will need more training and experience before I start. In the end, the visits gave me a goal to work towards and a bright horizon to look forward to.

    Thank you, Rick, for sharing your experience!

    Many thanks to UNC’s Pitt Tomlinson and Justin Woodard and Duke University’s Natalie Spring, Ian Conlon, and Chris Coutlee for hosting and taking time to speak with Rick! 

  • 07/14/2017 8:54 AM | Vicki O'Brien (Administrator)

    In the Office of Development at the University of South Carolina, it is the Prospect Management team’s responsibility to make sure contacts entered into our CRM by Directors of Development (DoDs) are accurate.  Last fall we did a study and discovered that 78% of the contact entries made by DoDs needed some form of correction, whether large or small, by the Prospect Management team.  During the study, we discovered numerous mistakes made by DoDs— contacts entered in the wrong stage, blank fields, manager conflicts, asks entered with no manager assignment.  Each mistake required our attention and knowledge of how to correctly document contact entries in our CRM.

    As the Associate Director of Prospect Management, I knew there had to be something I could do to eliminate these errors and improve our business processes in order to have accurate, reliable data in our CRM. While attending the 2017 Apra Carolinas fall conference, I participated in a group discussion about prospect management and quickly realized this was an industry-wide issue with others experiencing the same problems with contacts being entered wrong or not entered at all into CRMs. This common complaint gave me the motivation I needed to work on improving the process or to provide an alternative to the traditional method of contact report entry into our CRM. 

    I saw the Prospect Management team as the professionals inside the database reviewing an average of 300 records a week, and the DoDs as the professionals outside the database meeting with constituents and donors.  Because the Prospect Management team members are among the primary stakeholders and subject matter experts when it comes to entries into the CRM, my plan was to develop a system for DoDs to submit to the Prospect Management team information about their fundraising efforts that did not require the DoDs to log into our CRM and make their own contact report entries.  This would hopefully free the DoDs to do what they do best which is raise money and enable my team to do what they do best which is manage data entry in our CRM.

    My plan was to create an online contact report form for DoDs to fill out and submit to the Prospect Management team to make the entry correctly in our CRM. This simple form was accessible online by computer, tablet, and smart phone to help our DoDs who travel frequently.

    The goals of the form were to:

    •       Help ensure accuracy with contact entries

    •       Increase accuracy of data in the reports we provide to leadership

    •       Decrease the time it takes DODs to document their efforts

    •       Eliminate the uncertainty of where a contact needs to be entered in our CRM

    •       Eliminate the time it takes to correct entries

    •       Decrease number of questions for DoDs regarding their entries

    The project started with six DoDs from different divisions who committed to a six week test run of the online form. When they discovered the form could be submitted via their smartphone, they quickly became advocates.  They became even bigger advocates when they realized they could use “voice to text” on their smartphones to fill in the form.  The Prospect Management team members were on board with giving this project a try; however, they expressed concerns about how to keep up with the new form while also continuing their regular routine of reviewing contact entries.  These concerns were quickly laid to rest when it became apparent the online form was quicker when compared to the amount of time it took to identify and correct existing errors made by DoDs in our CRM.

    Throughout the six week test run, we received great feedback and excellent recommendations for improvements to the form.  Among the improvements was the inclusion of specific fields to help save steps.  For example, we added a field so a DoD can submit one form to add multiple entries, for example when they send out numerous emails to schedule appointments.  A form does not have to be filled out for each constituent receiving an email instead one form is filled out for the entire email recipient list.  We also added a field to ask the DoD would like to be assigned as a manager; this prompts us to assign them as a prospect manager without them having to do anything else.  We are also able to capture new biographic data with a field that asks for updated employment or address information. We even have a field asking if the gift capacity rating seems accurate.  If it doesn’t seem accurate, we forward the form to our Prospect Research team who re-screens the constituent’s gift capacity rating.

    The six week test run was a tremendous success; we quickly saw a decrease in corrections needed on contact report entries. The results were presented to senior level management who, with no hesitation, quickly saw the value of the online form and asked that I do a presentation on the form at our division’s quarterly all-staff meeting.  The form is now a part of our regular business processes to offer DoDs the online form as a method for getting contact reports entered into our CRM.

    Use of the online form is optional and has been in use approximately six months; 50% of our DoDs are using the form and a staggering 1,700+ online forms have been submitted.  The popularity of the online form continues to grow alongside our quality in communication with DoDs.  If DoDs are contacted, they are now contacted in a positive way and not because of a problem with an entry in the CRM. Even DoDs who made little to no effort to enter their contacts are using the form, which means their activities are being entered and are accurately reflected in our reports.

    Ultimately, we have made the contact report review process more efficient and decreased the number of corrections needing to be made to entries. Our overall experience with the implementation of the form has been positive and we’ve seen excellent results in terms of data accuracy.  

    Dawn Wyatt

    University of South Carolina

    Associate Director of Prospect Management

  • 04/19/2017 2:01 PM | Vicki O'Brien (Administrator)

    Amy Jackson, Director of Research for Prospect Development at Wingate University, is the recent recipient of the Professional Development Scholarship awarded by Apra Carolinas to an upcoming leader in the prospect research industry.  Recipients receive a $1,500 scholarship to be applied toward professional development activities offered by Apra Carolinas or Apra International.  Amy used her scholarship to attend the ARC Conference held March 13 - 15 in Atlanta, Georgia.

    Vicki O’Brien, Associate Director of Prospect Research at the University of South Carolina and Apra Carolinas Blog Coordinator, spoke to Amy about the ARC Conference to learn more about her experience.

    Vicki:  One thing I love about working in the prospect research industry is that it is a constant education, and there are so many opportunities for professional growth and development through attending conferences.  What made you decide to apply your scholarship toward ARC when there were other conferences to choose from—APRA Chapter conferences, APRA International, APRA regional conferences, etc.?

    Amy: Being new to full-time prospect research, I really felt that the regional conference was the best way to “get my feet wet” given the smaller size and numerous opportunities throughout the conference to have conversations about prospect research with others in the field relatively close by.  Also, the timing of ARC was perfect based on my other work-related commitments and responsibilities.  I’m looking forward to attending other APRA professional development offerings and plan on using my remaining scholarship funds to attend the Apra Carolinas Fall Conference in Wilmington.

    Vicki:  I was lucky enough to attend the conference myself, and I have to say that my favorite thing (besides the fruit tart desserts) was the “Share the Knowledge” session where everyone in attendance was encouraged to chat about what they do at their prospect research shops.  Did you pick up any neat tips or tricks during this session that you are going to implement?

    Amy: The breakfast buffet was a highlight for me, ha!  I really enjoyed the “Share the Knowledge” session as well.  One thing I picked up that I’m going to implement -- having gift officers identify the “Top 10” from their portfolios and then setting google alerts based on those names.  I’ve got google alerts for mentions of the university and some of my own prospects, but I hadn’t thought about using them to assist gift officers with people already in their portfolios.   

    Vicki:  Several topics were discussed during the 3-day conference.  What topics stood out to you as setting the pace for the future of prospect research?  Are those topics we all need to focus on as the landscape of prospect research is being re-defined with new tools and techniques?

    Amy:  I think analytics and predictive modeling stood out the most in looking at the future of prospect research.  We’re going away from traditional research and profiles and relying more on data mining and scoring based on affinity and capacity to identify major donors and drive fundraising.   

    Vicki:  At the conference there were researchers representing large, medium, and small prospect research shops.  Additionally, there were prospect researchers from several types of non-profit organizations ranging from museums to hospitals to religious-based organizations to higher education institutions.  There was diversity among the prospect researchers attending the conference. Despite the differences in size and type, did you identify any common characteristics all prospect research shops share?  

    Amy:  You’re right.  The crowd was diverse, which I loved, since my background is in the arts and now I’m working in higher education.  I think the one thing shared by everyone, no matter the shop size or focus area, was the desire to learn and improve.  We all want to be better at what we do and how we support our executive leadership, gift officers, and other team members. 

    Vicki:  Conferences are always so exciting for me, and I genuinely return to my office feeling inspired to be an influencer and initiate change.  Is there one thing that you are committed to making happen at your organization as a direct result of attending the conference?

    Amy: After a conference I feel ready to take on the world!  For my organization, I am committed to making data cleanup a top priority.  For myself, I will dedicate more time for webinars and online training sessions. 

    Vicki:  Would you recommend ARC to the next Professional Development Scholarship recipient or anybody in prospect research for that matter?

    Amy: Absolutely!  Session presenters covered a variety of relevant topics, exhibitors shared worthwhile information regarding available products and tools (good swag, too), and the chance to interact with other prospect research professionals in this particular setting was truly invaluable. 

    Vicki:  Thanks so much, Amy!  I’m glad I was able to learn more about your experience.  You offered some great insight into what’s happening in prospect research today.  Is there anything else that you would like to share?

    Amy: I would like to thank the Apra Carolinas Chapter for making it possible for me to attend ARC this year.   It was truly a meaningful, wonderful experience. 
  • 03/09/2017 8:47 AM | Apra Carolinas (Administrator)

    Are you going to ARC next week in Atlanta? We're so excited to brag about the number of connections Apra Carolinas has with ARC 2017. Plus, you can still register.

    First, Missy Garner, director of prospect research at Clemson University, is this year’s chair for the conference and Krystal Wilson, manager of prospect development at Appalachian State University, is a member of the committee and a presenter. 

    Vicki Leigh O’Brien

    Associate Director of Prospect Research, University of South Carolina

    "Will the Mouse Take the Cheese? – A Curious Experiment in Portfolio Building and Marketing with the Collaborative Efforts of Prospect Research, Annual Giving, and a Development Officer"

    Monday, March 13, 1:30-3:00

    Larissa Kelly

    Senior Director, Advancement Services, Clemson University

    "Want to be a Better Manager? Be a Better Project Manager!"

    Tuesday, March 14, 1:30-3:00

    Elizabeth Roma

    Assistant Director, Research, The HelenBrown Group

    Angie Stapleton

    Research Associate, The Helen Brown Group

    "Collective Giving: Philanthropy as a Team Sport"

    Tuesday, March 14, 3:15-4:15

    (Get a preview through Angie’s blog post.)

    Krystal Wilson

    Manager of Prospect Development, Appalachian State University

    "The Art of Collaboration"

    Wednesday, March 15, 8:30-10:00

    Thank you, Missy, Krystal and the entire committee, for organizing an incredible few days in Atlanta!


  • 03/06/2017 12:04 PM | Apra Carolinas (Administrator)

    How will the Apra Carolinas Road Scholarship help you no matter your level of experience or the size of your organization? Think about this...

    Are you about to implement a new prospect management tracking system?

    Asking yourself what's the best way to get my fundraisers to objectively review their portfolios before your campaign (I may/may not be thinking of someone in particular with over 500 names in his/her portfolio)?

    Wondering how you can start incorporating analytics in your work?

    Thinking of "automating" your profiles from always updating word documents?

    You've been asked to show ROI for all those referrals you've made (and of course the fundraisers have picked up the phone to call), but you don't know where to start? (Ok, that last one might be me projecting from my old job.)

    Or maybe you need some perspective from how "we've always done it this way?"

    The “road trip” is a scholarship program to cover travel expenses for a member to spend a day with someone within the Carolinas to learn about processes, procedures, CRM, a specific project, or so forth. One road trip scholarship will be awarded annually. The scholarship will cover travel expenses (gas, meals, and 1 night of lodging) up to $300. The recipient will be asked to write a blog post about his/her road trip experience.

    To apply: 

    Applicants must be current members of Apra Carolinas. Please send a narrative to apracarolinas@gmail.com with Apra Carolinas Road Trip Scholarship as the subject. Applicants should state in 500 words or less the purpose of the visit and express financial need. Applicants will also need to provide the contact information of the person with whom he/she would like to schedule a meeting, and confirm that his/her supervisor has approved the road trip. Dates for the visit can be finalized once the scholarship is awarded.

    The deadline for applications is March 17, 2017. The recipient will be notified by April 1, 2017. Travel should be completed by December 31, 2017.

  • 01/31/2017 11:11 AM | Apra Carolinas (Administrator)

    Apra is coming to the Southeast! Join us at the Apra Regional Conference (ARC) 2017, March 13-15 at the Atlanta Airport Marriott for dynamic speakers, technical deep dives and the sharing of best practices. Whether you bring your entire team or if you’re flying solo, you will come away from this unique event with the connections and tools to solve the challenges you face every day.

    We're covering a lot of topics in just a few short days, including:

    • What A Wonderful World: Strategies & Tactics for International Fundraising & Prospect Research, Jay Frost, Senior Partner, Jerold Panas, Linzy & Partners
    • Collective Giving: Philanthropy as a Team Sport, Elizabeth Roma, Senior Researcher & Angie Stapleton, Research Associate, The Helen Brown Group
    • Turning High Tech into High Touch: Transforming Data Into Actionable Insights,  Dr. Molly Wasko, Associate Dean, University of Alabama at Birmingham
    • The Art of Collaboration, Krystal L. Wilson, Assistant Director of Prospect Management and Research, Appalachian State University
    • From Easy to Tricky: Scraping Online Data,  Marianne M. Pelletier, Managing Director, Staupell Analytics Group
    • Trends and Innovations in the Ever Changing Field of Prospect Research, Nick Sollog, The Sollog Group
    • Want To Be a Better Manager? Then Be a Better Project Manager, Larissa Kelly, Senior Director, Advancement Services, Clemson University
    • And much more!

    ARC is kept intentionally intimate to have plenty of time for networking and idea sharing. Our special Chapter Networking session is the perfect opportunity to connect with old friends and make new ones with local members.

    Register by February 13 for the greatest savings. APRA-Carolinas members receive the Apra member discount by using code “arcse17”. Need help convincing your boss? Download our justification letter for assistance.

  • 12/05/2016 3:42 PM | Apra Carolinas (Administrator)

    Written by: Lindsay Rogillio, University of South Carolina & APRA Carolinas' Road Trip Scholarship Recipient 

    As one of the newest members of the University of South Carolina’s Prospect Research shop, every day here presents itself as a learning experience. Relatively new to the field of prospect research, I began working with USC’s Prospect Research team as a graduate assistant in 2014 before being hired as a full time research analyst earlier this year; essentially, one could say that I have “grown up” in this particular shop, learning to weave my various skills and experiences in a new direction, cultivating the ability to effectively mine data, manipulate a particular CRM, write concise but information-packed research reports, and incorporate the processes and procedures of prospect research as I work with my colleagues. As I am only familiar with USC’s Prospect Research shop, I was eager to further explore the field of prospect research by spending time with another team in the Carolinas and experiencing how other shops operate. APRA-Carolinas’ Road Trip Scholarship presented the perfect opportunity to get just that experience.

    With my road trip date set for late October, I was happily welcomed by Director of Prospect Research Missy Garner and her team at Clemson University. In addition to spending a bit of time with Missy, I was also scheduled to spend time with each member of her team to learn about the various aspects of each person’s job and how each researcher spends their work day. I thought this was an excellent way for me to not only get a sense of the big picture and how the research team works with Clemson’s development officers, but how each researcher’s responsibilities contribute to the cohesive working of an efficient team.

    Having only ever worked within Millennium management software, observing the Clemson team’s use of Raiser’s Edge was insightful; the opportunity to survey the numerous similarities and differences between the two database systems brings a new appreciation for Millennium, along with a bit of envy at the bells and whistles of Raiser’s Edge! Additionally, one of my goals in obtaining this scholarship was to learn of new aspects of prospect research I may as yet be unaware of, and to perhaps observe the techniques and methods of other researchers that might better inform my own research process. Sitting down with Analyst Rick Loveday was fascinating as he showed me the dashboard he built from scratch in Excel that the team uses to visualize portfolio valuations and various other data points concerning prospects and development officers’ progress. Analyst Elaine Terry’s explanation of how the team divvies up the responsibility for reviewing the local newspapers and then compiling and distributing that information to the development officers via listserv was an intriguing idea that I plan to suggest for the USC Research team. Hearing Analyst Tyler Cantrell talk about his specific duties concerning corporation and foundation relations research made me appreciative that USC has a separate team dedicated to CFR that mostly handles their own research (I’ll admit…CFR research is not my favorite…).

    Talking with Missy, Team Lead Sheri Pequeno, Analyst Gail Reignier, and Senior Director Larissa Kelly helped inform my understanding of the role of a prospect researcher in a more holistic sense; I realized my perspective regarding what prospect research is, what a prospect researcher does, and the value of prospect research itself was both very insular and disjointed in a way. I realized I tended to think of the team I work with and the work I produce as an island of sorts, completing projects for development officers and senior leadership without really understanding how the work contributes to USC’s development goals as a whole. Even as I was evaluating the inner workings of Clemson’s Research Team, listening to Missy, Sheri, and Gail explain to me their particular processes and procedures allowed me to re-evaluate my perception of how my work and USC’s prospect research team fits as a necessary cog within the larger USC Development wheel. Mentally comparing how our teams work differently to achieve essentially the same goal of advancing each university allowed the big picture to come into view, but only once I was a step removed from my own office.

    Continuing to learn and absorb knowledge is a perpetual personal goal of mine that carries over into my career. Although new to the field, any opportunity to further my knowledge of prospect research promises to make me more confident in my abilities and day-to-day duties as well as a more skilled and competent researcher; to that end, the opportunity afforded to me through APRA-Carolinas’ Road Trip Scholarship was immensely helpful and has brought me a renewed enthusiasm in delving deeper into this field. Special thanks to Missy, Sheri, Gail, Elaine, Rick, Tyler, and Larissa for making me feel welcome and for taking time out of their day to show me their ropes, so to speak!

  • 10/03/2016 2:47 PM | Apra Carolinas (Administrator)

    Written by: Elizabeth Roma, The Helen Brown Group & President-Elect of APRA-Carolinas

    I remember the feeling of dread that would run through me in my early days as a researcher when a search for my prospect’s name in SEC filings returned a page full of hits. I felt overwhelmed by the unfamiliar forms and their language and anxious that I would miss (or misinterpret) important information on the individual I was researching. Eventually, thanks to the help of many skilled researchers who generously shared their knowledge with me and the comfort that experience brings, I learned to keep calm and slog on through the filings, and now I love it when my prospects show up in SEC filings.

    Here are my top 10 tips for using SEC documents in your research. I hope you will find them helpful!

    1.       Know the reporting requirements. Before you get started, it is important to know what information you can and cannot find. Here are the basics:

    ·         Public companies in the US are required to report the compensation paid in the last three years to the company’s chief executive officer, chief financial officer, and the three highest paid executive officers, other than the CEO and CFO, who were serving as executive officers at the end of the last completed fiscal year.

    ·         They are also required to report compensation paid in the last year to members of the company’s board of directors.

    ·         Company insiders (officers, directors, or holders of more than 10% of any class of stock) are required to report purchases, sales, and holdings of their company’s securities.

    2.       Know the forms. You can save yourself a lot of time if you know which forms to search for the information you need. The forms you will probably use most frequently are:

    ·         Form DEF 14A More commonly known as the proxy statement, this form is filed by a company prior to an annual meeting in order to update shareholders on items that will be brought to a vote. It contains bios of directors and executive officers, as well as information about compensation of directors and officers and information about insider securities holdings.

    ·         Forms 3, 4, & 5 are filed by individuals and used to report insider holdings. Form 3 is the initial filing, which an individual must file within 10 days of becoming an officer, director, or holder of more than 10% of any class of stock. Changes in ownership are reported on a Form 4, and a Form 5 is used for deferred reporting.

    ·         Form 10-K is a comprehensive financial report that must be filed annually by publicly traded companies. It contains detailed information about the company’s finances, including disclosures of risks the company faces, which can provide important context for prospect researchers.

    ·         Form S-1 is known as a prospectus and is filed by companies preparing for an initial public offering. The prospectus contains background information on the company’s operations, management, and ownership, as well as information about the underwriters of the IPO and the planned offering price. If significant changes occur after the prospectus is filed but before the IPO, they will be reported on a Form 424.

    ·         Form 8-K is used to report “material events” that could have a significant impact on the company’s business. Examples of these events include mergers, executive changes, and patent rulings.

    3.       Start with the basics. The specifics of your prospect’s situation and the scope of your research will determine the level of detail you need to provide, but in many cases you can probably find what you need to know about compensation and stock holdings by checking the proxy statement and the most recent Form 4 filed by your prospect. If there are extenuating or unusual circumstances or you are doing a deep dive into financials in order to help craft an ask that is planned for the near future, you might need to delve deeper.

    4.       Use multiple sources to check each other and yourself. Most screening tools offer information about stock holdings and/or compensation, and there are also free tools that allow you to look up insider holdings by an individual’s name. (J3SG.com is a favorite of mine.) These tools are a great first step, but they are not perfect, so always make sure to go directly to the filings to verify that the information other sources report is current and accurate.

    5.       Read the footnotes. That’s where the good stuff is! Footnotes contain a treasure trove of information about executive perks like security details and use of company cars and airplanes, and they can also contain clues about family members and charitable giving. Pay particular attention to footnotes that explain the nature of indirect ownership of stock holdings. Often they will be held in trust for an individual’s spouse or children, who might be named in the filings, or by a family foundation.

    6.       See if someone else has already done the hard work. Let’s face it: sometimes the legal terms used in SEC filings can be pretty obtuse. If the language is particularly challenging or the situation seems especially complex, it’s worth a quick news search to see if a financial reporter has already deciphered the filings for you. You might get lucky and find an article that explains the exact situation that has you stumped.

    7.       Use a cheat sheet. Not sure which form will have the information you need or what in the world carry trade is? Look it up in a reference resource. I like Investopedia, and the SEC has many helpful explanations on its site.

    8.       Look for patterns. Does your prospect sell the same amount of shares every month or every quarter? This might be evidence of a stock trading plan set up to help diversify your prospect’s holdings or ensure a steady cash flow when compensation is largely made up of stock. Either way, it’s worth checking the filings to see if you can find an explanation. Looking at the list of recent transactions by your prospect in Yahoo! Finance or a similar tool is a great way to quickly spot patterns. You can work backwards from there by using the transaction dates to find the corresponding filings.

    9.       Search for salary comps. SEC filings can help even if you are researching an individual who works at a private company. If you can find a few publicly traded companies in the same industry that are roughly the same size and (ideally) in the same region, you can use the reported compensation figures for executives at those companies to help you estimate what your prospect might be making at a private company. This is not an exact science, to be sure, but at least you can make an educated guess.

    10.   Phone a friend. If you are fortunate enough to work in a shop with other researchers, ask for a second opinion when you aren’t sure where to find information or whether you are interpreting it correctly. If you are flying solo, reach out to other members of your local APRA chapter when you get stuck. If you find yourself consistently feeling unsure when you are asked to review SEC filings, ask your boss for some extra training in this area. At one university where I worked, we invited a professor from the business school to spend a couple of hours going over SEC filings with our entire research staff. We all learned a lot, and it didn’t cost a penny.

    Although financial documents can be intimidating, they are a wonderful source of information for prospect researchers. I hope that these tips will help you get started. And I would love to hear your favorite tips for researching public company insiders!

  • 08/25/2016 2:27 PM | Apra Carolinas (Administrator)

    Guest Author: Liza Turcotte, Senior Consultant at Target Analytics, a division of Blackbaud, Inc. (APRA-Carolinas Sponsor)


    For all the annual giving folks out there…

    Annual giving is one of my favorite fundraising things to talk about.  I “cut my teeth” running an annual giving program, so the topic has a special place in my heart when I work with Blackbaud’s clients.

    It has a special place in nonprofit offices everywhere too.  It’s how you acquire donors, educate them about your essential mission, and hopefully grow their passion into a long, loyal relationship.  Some of your annual giving donors will even grow into major and planned giving, and that’s beyond exciting, isn’t it?

    With that in mind, how can the data you have on hand (yours, ours, or otherwise) help your annual fund get more done for your organization?  Two of my recent clients are trying new tactics, and I thought I’d pass them along in case they’re helpful to you too!

    • Are you mentioning planned giving as part of your annual fund mailings and communications?  If not, how can you work it in?  I am working with a client who asked us to take a custom look at their database to determine which prospects are likely to give through certain vehicles, like annual, major, and planned gifts.  We discovered a lot of prospects sharing high annual and planned giving affinity, and it turns out they have noticed planned giving communications inspire a lot of annual gifts.  They haven’t tried it “the other way” though, so they plan to use an upcoming mail solicitation to highlight a donor who is both an annual and planned gift donor to share the idea with a good audience for a blended message.

    • When do you introduce your annual fund donors to higher touch cultivation?  Another client is thinking about this differently to address a gap between the experience of annual fund donors and major gift donors.  The pipeline hasn’t been as healthy as they would like—but their staff is small and the bandwidth is limited.  To get started they identified a small group of “up and coming” prospects who will make up a portfolio for the annual fund manager.  She will ensure these prospects get some personal outreach and start a higher-touch experience.  The idea is that when they are ready for a more significant relationship, the cultivation process will feel familiar and seamless.

    And if you’re a little lost in the process or it’s time to revisit a long-standing approach, give us a call.  There are lots of ways Target Analytics can help you understand your donor base and potential (you can explore here).

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