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  • 07/18/2018 12:49 PM | Christopher Resh (Administrator)

    From Charlotte to Charleston: A Day at the Citadel

    Emily Hinz, Prospect Research Analyst, UNC Charlotte

    I often explain how I ended up in UNC Charlotte’s Prospect Strategy and Research (PSR) department as a “happy little accident,” as the great Bob Ross would say, and it’s true. Two years ago, I didn’t even know this field existed. I began exploring the non-profit sector in college as, having majored in an English major but feeling rather unsure of what I wanted to do post-graduation. After spending time with the Boys & Girls Clubs and the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, I landed a Research Assistant position at the UNC Charlotte Foundation in May of 2017.

    We have a rather small shop here in Charlotte, but my boss set me up for success by immediately activating memberships for me in both Apra and Apra-Carolinas. That fall, I received the Apra-Carolinas Road Trip Scholarship – a very exciting endeavor for someone with only six months of experience in the field. I wanted to pick a shop similar to our own, but with enough differences for me to find some achievable new ideas and projects for my team.

    At UNC Charlotte, PSR is composed of me (the only prospect researcher on staff), my director, and a temporary employee who assists with data entry. We are in the public phase of a $200 million campaign, a figure we hope to reach by the end of fiscal year 2020. Due to our small size, I’ve been required to learn a great deal in a short amount of time, which I’ve really enjoyed. My experience, however, is still restricted to one phase of a campaign. How can PSR help reach our Foundation’s goals with so little time left for discovery work? What happens to a PSR team after a campaign closes? How does the team prepare for a new campaign? I sought to use the Road Trip Scholarship to answer these questions.

    After looking into several schools in the Carolinas, I decided that The Citadel would be the best fit for what I hoped to learn. They recently exceeded a $175 million campaign goal, closing in May of 2018 at $225 million. Wow! This put them in the perfect phase for the focus of my curiosity: post-campaign no man’s land. In addition, their PSR shop consists of only two employees and supports about 15 Gift Officers, a setup that closely mirrors UNC Charlotte. 

    After a few weeks of email correspondence, I set out in early May to meet Libby Davis and Lisa Ukuku of The Citadel’s Prospect Management and Research department. This dynamic duo was incredibly welcoming and friendly. We spent much of the day sharing stories of triumph and struggle within this business, and I took away some great advice throughout.

    One of my favorite additions that Libby and Lisa have implemented at The Citadel Foundation (TCF) is the research request form. Fields on the form include requestor, purpose of request, format, and other criteria depending on the data being sought. The form can be completed either electronically or by hard copy. I think this would be a great idea for my shop because, even though we use a spreadsheet to document research requests and their completion dates, we do not do a very good job of tracking why someone requests research. If I receive a request for research I’ve already completed, I usually rely on my archived emails – or my memory – to assess why a new profile would be needed. If it was completed before my time, however, I’m plain out of luck. I have started to keep track of requests myself in hopes that we will soon have a form like The Citadel’s.

    We also talked about several fundraising methods used at TCF. One I found particularly interesting was their utilization of fundraising challenges based on class. There is a huge emphasis on class at The Citadel; when Citadel alum run into each other, their first question is, “What’s your class and company?” To optimize this, the Foundation created “Class Campaigns.” These are mini-campaigns run each year that challenge a specific class to raise a certain amount of money during milestone reunion years – their 10th, 25th, 40th, and 50th anniversaries of graduation. TCF even has class reunion gift officers to focus on these efforts. They are currently challenging the class of 1978 to raise $1.75 million by the end of this year for their 40th reunion celebration at Homecoming 2018. When researching new prospects for discovery, I typically pull alumni based on their school and have never really worried about class. UNC Charlotte is a much younger institution and there isn’t much importance placed on class year or class reunion. I think building a sense of class camaraderie would be a great practice for our Annual Giving team to implement with our younger alumni. Libby and Lisa explained how effective researching annual donors can be, especially when heading towards the end of a big campaign.

    Annual Giving was also Lisa and Libby’s answer to my questions about how to direct research work between campaigns. Alumni who have given gifts consecutively over the years are the prospects that become major giving donors. Maintaining a healthy pool of dedicated supporters in anticipation of the launch of a new campaign can have a huge impact in the long term. TCF buckets their constituents in this pool of supporters based on giving level – annual, lead, and major giving capacity. Collaboration with the Annual Giving team and our lead gift officers will definitely be one of my main priorities for the next few years at UNC Charlotte.

    Overall, I was very impressed by the way TCF and their Prospect Management and Research team operate. When an institution has exceeded their campaign goal by $50 million, one can’t deny they must be doing something right! Not only were Libby and Lisa brilliant prospect managers and researchers, they were warm and welcoming hosts – even giving me a tour of the Citadel’s beautiful campus despite the Charleston heat. I truly enjoyed the day I spent at The Citadel Foundation, and am forever grateful to Libby and Lisa for their fantastic advice, tips, and tricks for me as I continue to grow in this field.

  • 05/24/2018 5:40 PM | Christopher Resh (Administrator)

    How to Develop an Analytics Project: Building a Model Score

    Missy Garner, Director of Prospect Research
    Rick Loveday, Prospect Research Analyst

    Part 1: Concept Development

    This post is the first in a four-part series that will outline how Clemson University’s Prospect Research Team developed a philanthropic model score.

    This project began as a way to identify key philanthropic characteristics in our constituent base.  We wanted to know what types of attributes drive people to be philanthropic. This brought us to a specific group of our constituents who had donated at the principal gift level. We wanted to see if this subset exhibited any shared characteristics beyond the standard information contained in our CRM such as event participation, board membership, demographic data, etc. No matter how strong our data is, it only provides information about a constituents’ relationship with our institution. Our data won’t tell us how our constituents are interacting with other organizations or institutions. This drove us to look for outside resources that would fill this gap in our data.

    We previewed several products and found that DonorSearch provided the largest breadth of philanthropic data. They have developed their own database to track specific philanthropic history. This allows them to identify key attributes such as donations to other organizations, political contributions, board or non-profit affiliations, and high-level business positions. While other companies such as Blackbaud and iWave track these data points as well, DonorSearch made these philanthropic indicators their main focus.

    We decided to send a test batch of constituents as a proof of concept. We also needed to determine whether the Development team would embrace the results, since our previous models for determining a prospect’s value were primarily based on hard asset screenings. This new model would focus on where a person donates their money - not on how much money they have.

    The original test group was made up of just our principal gift level donors. We wanted to work with a larger group, so we included alumni and current parents who, based on our Research Point wealth screenings, had estimated wealth of $1 million or greater. This provided us with an adequate sample size to hopefully apply some of these philanthropic indicators to our group. After signing a contract and a non-disclosure agreement, we determined what constituent information should be shared for this screening. In order to screen our group, DonorSearch, at minimum, needed constituent name and address, with the option to send other data points as we saw fit. We also included date of birth, spouse name, and employment information. Since this was our proof of concept we consciously chose not to send any specific giving information.

    We sent the data off using their secure server and received our results within 24 hours. The file contained over 120 data points for us to digest.  We wanted to verify these philanthropic indicators fit with the data that was returned. In order to do this, we would need to pore through each and every data point. 

    The next blog post will detail how we determined which data points we would use to build the model.

  • 02/06/2018 12:49 PM | Apra Carolinas (Administrator)

    Apra Carolinas: 2017 Year in Review and What’s Ahead for 2018
    Beth Inman, Immediate Past President
    February 2018

    Many of you have heard me describe Apra Carolinas as a “small but mighty chapter.” I like to describe our chapter in that way because it’s true, but also because bigger doesn’t always mean better. When I started my term as President in January of 2016, I had a goal to increase our membership to 100. I had no rationale for that goal; my thought process was probably that 100 sounded like a good number and a good goal to have. As many of us in the prospect development field know, goals are a serious business and should never be numbers you just pick out of thin air….but that is what I did. We tried some creative ways to recruit new members and they worked! We have new members! Some are new colleagues joining our field, adding to the depth and diversity of our knowledge and experience, and some are experienced colleagues who have relocated to the Carolinas. Somewhere along the way, I realized I shouldn’t be focusing on just getting to that magic number of 100 members. I, and the rest of the Chapter Board, needed to focus on providing quality programming that offered our members and non-members opportunities to learn, network, and teach.

    We are inherently a curious, analytical profession and our programming should point to that. As we move along into 2018, I challenge you to get involved with Apra. What that involvement looks like is different for everyone; you may choose to get involved at the National level, and/or you may choose to get involved with a chapter. Take advantage of what Apra offers at any level to learn more about prospect development, but also to take advantage of the opportunity to teach others. Our field is growing and, whether you are new or have been around for a while, we can learn from each other.

    The Chapter Board has compiled information for a chapter Year in Review to assist you as you consider how you want to get involved with Apra. Read on to learn more about what happened in 2017, including our programs, scholarship winners, Twitter posts, and sponsors!

    • Because Apra Regional Conference (ARC) was held in Atlanta, we didn’t host a spring conference; our 2018 President-Elect, Missy Garner, was the chair of the conference, and members Elizabeth Roma and Vicki O’Brien each presented sessions.
    • Amy Jackson, Director of Prospect Research at Wingate University, attended ARC as the recipient of our Professional Development Scholarship. Read a Q&A blog post about Amy’s experience at ARC and what she learned.
    • Our Fall conference was hosted by UNC-Wilmington. We had 40 attendees who heard presentations about ways to use Microsoft Excel, prospect management during a conversion, a different way to do contact reports, a planned giving loyalty program, and top markers that predict philanthropy.
    • Rick Loveday, Prospect Research Analyst at Clemson University, was the recipient of our Road Trip Scholarship. His blog post, Two Days in the Triangle, shares how he used the funds and what he learned.
    • We hosted 5 webinars, including one recording of a live webinar we offered, with a total of 387 registrants. Topics included donor advised funds, portfolio consultations, ranch and NYC real estate valuation, and how to find major gifts hiding in your database.
    • Our membership ranged from 70-80 depending on the time of the year.
    • Twitter – 659 tweets, 353 followers, average of 245 impressions a day.
    • Our generous sponsors: DonorSearch, iWave, Advizor Solutions, Inc., and Target Analytics.

     

    What’s in store for 2018?

    • Spring conference at Elon University on Friday, April 13
    • A ‘blogger in residence’ – stay tuned for more details!
    • Fall conference at University of South Carolina on Friday, October 19
    • Three webinars throughout the year - stay tuned for more details!

    We are a chapter of Apra International, focusing on professionals working in North and South Carolina. We are a thriving group of professionals taking this growing field to the next level. Whether you are new to the prospect development profession or moving up in your career, we have something to offer you. If you focus on prospect research, prospect management, data analytics, database management, or a mix of the above, we strive to publicize new trends and promote resources available to you. The best part is that, at just $35/year, membership to our chapter should easily fit into your professional development budget. Members get discounts on our spring and fall conferences and free registration to all of our webinars.


    Apra Carolinas: get involved to learn; get involved to teach.


    Apra's Mission

    Apra is the premier organization for professionals who strategically harness information and data to drive fundraising for philanthropic institutions.

    Apra's Vision

    Apra is a recognized leader in strategic practices for professionals utilizing analytical skills, data-driven insights, and collaborative relationships to advance the missions of philanthropic institutions.

  • 12/19/2017 11:37 AM | Apra Carolinas (Administrator)

    This month's blog comes from Elizabeth Roma. Not only is she the Assistant Director for Research with The Helen Brown Group LLC, but she is also our chapter's president beginning in 2018. 

    ICYMI: 2017 (Philanthropy) Year in Review

     Looking at my calendar and counting the number of days left in 2017, I find myself wondering where the year went! Time has flown, but so MUCH has happened, that at the same time, some days feel like they’re a week long. (What’s that expression? “The days are long, but the years are short.”) As prospect researchers, it is part of our job to keep an eye on all that’s happening and think about its impact (both immediate and potential) on our organizations. Doing that while trying to crank out profiles, run reports, and identify new prospects (not to mention process gifts, write grant proposals, and all of the other things that you might be doing if you work in a small shop) can be challenging, to say the least. If you are like me, you probably have a folder full of bookmarked articles that you saved for later reading. I know that folder can be overwhelming sometimes, so I spent some time tackling mine and pulled out some of the top themes that I’ve been observing over the last year, along with some articles that I think are worth reading and contemplating. I hope that you will have some down time over the next few weeks to read some of them and that they will help inform your work in 2018!

     

    Growth of new philanthropic vehicles and types of gifts

    Foundations and cash gifts are still around, but donors are looking more and more to non-traditional philanthropic vehicles (like DAFs and LLCs) and forms of giving (like impact investment and donations of art—or bitcoin.)

    More on this theme:

    When M&A money goes to charity: EscrowUp closes second transaction

    “More donors give bitcoin and assets other than cash to charity”

    “SharesPost and Fidelity plan to make private shares a force for charity”

    And anyone with even a passing interest in art will enjoy reading about two auctions in which significant works were (or will soon be) sold to benefit nonprofit organizations.

     

    GDPR legislation and privacy

    A new law, the general data protection regulation (GDPR), will take effect in the EU in May 2018, replacing the current Data Protection Act. This law is expected to have a major impact on nonprofits and fundraising in general, and prospect research more specifically. Our counterparts in the UK and the European Union have spent much of 2017 working to ensure that their organizations are compliant with the law, but lest you think that those of us in the US needn’t follow this too closely, you should know that the law applies to any organization that holds data about citizens of the UK or the EU. If any of your constituents live in the UK or the EU, this affects you.

     

    Philanthropy steps up where government fails to meet needs…and also grapples with its role in (democratic—small d) politics

    More and more, we are seeing organizations and institutions that have traditionally been funded largely or entirely by the government relying more heavily on private donations for funding. Although this has been the case for a while now in education and the arts, it is an issue that seemed to intensify in 2017 and to expand to other areas.

    A few examples:

    Donors pledge nearly $200 million for family planning

    Michael Bloomberg Offers $15 Million to Make Up for Washington’s Share of the Paris Accord Costs

    Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Helps East Palo Alto with water shortage, affordable housing

    Will private funding save public arts education?

    Foundations commit $5M to ensure an equitable recovery in Puerto Rico

     

    At the same time, nonprofit organizations and individual philanthropists have begun to do some real soul-searching about what role the third sector should play in a healthy democracy. For thoughts on this, see:

    Is Big Philanthropy Compatible with Democracy?

    How Trump Has Changed How We’re Giving to Charity” (This one, and the report it links to, has some great stats on giving—it’s worth a close look.)

    As Government Retrenches, Philanthropy Booms

    Trump Era Requires Surge of Grant Making to Aid Democracy

    House GOP’s Tax Plan Would Open Up Politics to Churches—And Charities

     

    Paradise Papers

    In November the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) reported on a months-long investigation of a trove of leaked documents centering around the Bermuda-based law firm Appleby. The documents reveal many details of the complex offshore holdings of many of the world’s high net worth individuals (HNWI), demonstrating that the practice of holding wealth offshore is more widespread than many have realized and that the amount of assets held outside the jurisdiction of many nations is enormous. There are many, many fascinating articles on the ICIJ website, so give yourself some time to wander down the rabbit hole.

    If you prefer to listen rather than read, check out this podcast about the Paradise Papers investigation, and if you are interested in a deep dive into the world of wealth management, I highly recommend Brooke Harrington’s book “Capital Without Borders: Wealth Managers and the One Percent.”

     

    Collaboration

    In a world that seems so divided, one of the most encouraging trends I’ve observed this year has been seeing groups of donors and (smart, in my opinion) nonprofits working together to make big progress against big challenges.

    More on this theme:

    Inside a Funder Collaborative Seeking Social Justice Through Pop Culture

    Adding Pantries and Spice to New York’s Hungry Neighborhoods

     

    …and to energize you for the work that awaits in 2018, don’t miss this love letter to prospect research. We already know that the work we do is important, but it’s nice to have that knowledge confirmed by donors too!

     

    I’d love to hear about what caught your attention this year. Please share some of your favorite articles too, and happy reading in 2018!

  • 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!

    #ResearchPride


  • 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.


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