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Having worked at Le Moyne College for over 20 years, Deborah Reinhardt Youmans has learned how to build value into a prospect research management program. When she first started as Director for Advancement Research, the College was spending significantly on prospect research and wealth screening tools but wasn’t applying the information in a strategic and team-oriented approach to realize strong returns on investment. Today, her strategy involves routine donor and prospect screenings, internal data mining, ongoing prospect tracking, and more importantly, prospect management meetings in close coordination and communication with development officers.
“The bottom line is that everyone involved in fundraising has to work as a team and that requires each individual to take responsibility for what he or she is here to do. You hold yourself accountable for the role you play on the team, as should those around you,” says Reinhardt Youmans. “You also want to remember that philanthropy is a volunteer action for a common good, while fundraising is the ability to look through the eyes of a donor. Each member of your team needs to embrace that a joyful donor is your destination and, of course, enough of them to make goal!”
At Le Moyne, prior to any solicitation visit, the staff assigned meet with the Research Department and agree on the amount the prospect will be asked. “Yes, our profiles have the suggested ask and all the data and analysis to back it up,” says Reinhardt Youmans, “But, I have found that this simple process of meeting prior to a solicitation helps to build the team atmosphere, boost the confidence of those going out, and forces a meeting of the minds. You may need to role play Scenario A and Scenario B with the staff assigned, while at the same time trust their ability to make the right judgment call during the visit.”
Building the Pipeline
Reinhardt Youmans is a firm believer that “screenings should be used to confirm top level prospects and identify those up and comers for the next campaign. If you are using a screening now to identify new major donors for your current campaign, you’ve missed the mark from a timing perspective.” She adds, “While I expect Research to continuously identify, screen and qualify prospects that is only one piece of the puzzle, as the most important step is moving those potentials into the pipeline to build relationships. Another important piece of the puzzle is the fact that relationships provide ‘knowns to the unknowns’ for additional pipeline movement.”
Having been a team member for three campaigns at the College (Building on Excellence, Tradition with Vision and Achieving New Heights) she notes that the best-run campaigns for the highest return on investments (ROI) are those where each member of the team is knowledgeable and embraces the vision, mission and strategic plan. “That means that your alumni office is the point-guard for discovery, every office on campus is the point-guard for discovery, every event, every mailing, every email, every social media posting, every incoming response to the Annual Fund Appeal is a point-guard for discovery. If you are simply screening for capacity ratings without understanding the crucial aspect of building and maintaining relationships, you are blind to what is out there and what can be.”
Before you begin any forward-movement, advises Reinhardt Youmans, come together as a team. Understand the value and contribution that each role in the Division gives to your fundraising efforts. During a campaign, take the time to correct actions, recalibrate and celebrate. Post-campaign, come together and freely discuss, openly and honestly, what went right and what did not go as planned. “You have to reflect upon yourself, you have to discuss issues and then be willing to let go of any past hurt and grudges that often occur during the hectic pace of a campaign and the urge to make goal. As a group, you cannot move on to what you will ‘become’ or ‘do’ in the future until you are willing to spend time, resources, money and your own internal energy and emotions to make the decision to move forward as a cohesive unit.”
Move it Forward
Reinhardt Youmans advocates regularly scheduled meetings where those identified are added to portfolios based on ‘agreed-upon’ criteria that every member of the team supports. Portfolios can be built and fine-tuned based on the level of giving, the specific passions of the prospect and in truth, the personality and skill level of the development staff. One should include all relevant development staff in the meeting, as that heightens not only the team atmosphere, but forces open and honest communication. Tracking also helps Research evaluate how close their original capacity ratings were to the final ask, as this type of confirmation for the capacity ratings and ask amounts ensures that future requests are well planned and executed. “You learn when to push and when to pull as those added to portfolios are tempered with those that need to be removed. If you as a researcher are credible, your involvement and advice during these meetings is valuable. You have to remember that each member of the team is to be open-minded to provide constructive criticism and to accept it. When you have the right team atmosphere, specific talking points can ‘smart’ at times, but all is positively given and positively received.”
Le Moyne’s success is also due to the donor relationships nurtured by development officers. “We measure a development officer not by the number of donations they generate but by the number of visits they make to a prospect, because we have found a strong correlation between the frequency of visits and resulting gift,” says Reinhardt Youmans.
Le Moyne’s current prospect tracking process is based on several closely monitored factors:
- Length of the average cultivation cycle
- Length from initial visit to the ask
- Proximity of the suggested ask to the final close and any variables
- Common occurrences among prospects, at varying gift levels
“In the short term, it allows us a snapshot of where we are and where we are headed. In the long term, it is an invaluable tool for strategic planning towards the next campaign,” explains Reinhardt Youmans. “Research should always be ahead of the curve, preferably two years out, and we need to start building the relationships now in preparation for the next campaign.”
Le Moyne, established in 1946, has a relatively short history, compared to the other 28 Jesuit colleges and universities. Le Moyne is just now coming into its own as a strong fundraising entity as prospects have reached the higher levels of giving. Le Moyne’s last campaign, Tradition with Vision from 1996-2001, resulted in the achievement of $30.5M to their goal of $25M and garnered their first $1M gift. Their most recent campaign, Achieving New Heights from 2004-2010, experienced the College’s first $5M, $4M, $3M and $2M gifts. “We were also fortunate to receive a $50M bequest in fall 2008, but the moral of the story is not the amount, it is the fact that in over 30 years of contact and stewardship with the prospect, no one dropped the ball. That, in a nutshell, should be the outcome of prospect management.”
“You have to keep moving forward and remember the mission of your organization.” She advises, “The more that you can be a team player and work closely with your development staff, the better your response will be as you build trust and evaluate whether the gift capacity and actual ask amount are on target, time after time. The technical skills, art and science required for Research should never be prioritized above the mindset of what you are doing this for. These are some of the tools to help you get to the finished product; they are not in themselves the finished product. Your finished product is a loyal and well-stewarded donor with the recognition that it took a team of individuals to make it happen.”
Development and Alumni Relations (DAR) at the University of Pennsylvania (Penn) plays an important role in helping to provide the resources to support the mission of the University and its vision for the future. With over 500 employees across the University in more than 25 Schools, Centers and Central functions, DAR operates as a decentralized organization with a centralized management structure. Over the years, Penn has used an integrated approach to institutional advancement, recognizing that a large part of success in fundraising is due to the strength and commitment of over 300,000 Penn alumni.
Creating opportunities for alumni and constituent engagement is a priority in William Paterson University’s advancement office. The culture of the department goes well beyond securing gifts—they seek to create a dynamic community where people want to give because they’ve had a positive experience with the University. In fostering good will, the University looks for opportunities to “give back” and celebrate alumni and constituent accomplishments. One new strategy for building engagement is the application of social media techniques to support networking, prospect research and cultivation.
Since 1983, Healthcare Charities has been serving the people of rural central, eastern and northern Maine by supporting the philanthropic efforts of the Eastern Maine Healthcare System (EMHS). With a guiding tenet that philanthropy has a way of bringing people together working for a common goal and realizing amazing success, Healthcare Charities works with its local community to garner support for its hospitals and other member organizations to keep them on the cutting edge of technology. Thoughtful gifts of all sizes make possible the equipment and research that EMHS doctors and scientists need to make the important discoveries today that will help build a healthier tomorrow.
Healthcare Charities has traditionally had a sizable number of donors and prospects; in fact, their database holds almost 200,000 records across more than a dozen affiliate hospitals, programs and healthcare organizations. For the past few years, their management team had been looking for ways to build a segmented and targeted approach to fundraising. In late 2010 they decided to consider screening batches of records in order to identify and target their top prospects and inform their funraising strategy. In February 2011, they selected WealthEngine, Inc.TM and engaged its research and screening services, with the following goals:
- Screen recent donors and determine a cultivation plan
- Integrate the screened data into their donor management system
- Use data mining to compare major donor files with patient records to target grateful patients
Screening Donors for Effective Cultivation
Healthcare Charities started by screening 21,000 records across seven affiliate hospitals and healthcare organizations to get a feel for who is giving, discover what their wealth profile is, and determine if there is room for additional solicitations. This allows the respective development teams to focus on their top prospects and cultivate relationships for additional gifts.
“Our data is separated for each of our affiliates, and while each does their own fundraising, they rely on Healthcare Charities for guidance, support functions, and for managing their gift processing,” explains Marianne Grifasi-Miller, Senior Information Systems Technologist at Healthcare Charities of Bangor, Maine. They have found the screened data to be invaluable in planning direct-mail programs, the first two of which are set to launch this Summer.
Integrating Wealth Data for Better Fundraising Results
Determining the Desired Level of Integration – Healthcare Charities uses The Raiser’s Edge® from Blackbaud® for fundraising and for managing their donor information. Using a mass import approach they looked at the available fields and prioritized which fields they would add to the system based on the criteria provided by the fundraising teams within their affiliate hospitals and organizations.
“While some of our affiliates wanted every bit of information in there, we couldn’t put it all in. We had to prioritize. By working with my WealthEngine client services manager and being able to seek advice from her, I used WealthEngine’s core tables as a starting point and then determined what fields were necessary to include,” explains Grifasi-Miller.
Validating Data – Before importing into the live environment, the fundraising teams conducted spot checks to validate the data. Fortunately, no major discrepancies were found, in large part because the team had first confirmed the accuracy of data already in the system, including contact information, checking for duplicate entries, and standardizing gift tracking.
Benefits Realized – The team has found the wealth data invaluable in analyzing past donor attributes and compiling targets for direct-mailings. They look at charitable giving history, stock holdings and pensions, real estate holdings, hard assets, and propensity to give scores and gift capacity ranges.
“With all of the information in one place, our gift officers can quickly understand the donor or prospect and determine how to best approach that individual,” explains Grifasi-Miller.
Next Steps – Since the initial integration was completed in February and Healthcare Charities has had the opportunity to work with the information, they have added some fields that were not included in the initial mass import.
Moving forward, Grifasi-Miller’s plans to conduct a data mining exercise with WealthEngine to analyze their major donors, so that this data can be cross-referenced against patient data that is stored in a separate system. Essentially, their hospitals will be able to screen patients on a daily, weekly or monthly basis and cross-reference the results against the major donor file, allowing them to spot those who have previously donated and, with some special attention, may give again.
Using this analysis, the gift officers can cultivate relationships that have potential for major gifts and develop a grateful patient program by targeting individuals for repeat donations based on their estimated giving capacity and propensity to give scores. “We are very excited to do this data mining exercise, as it will allow our affiliates to design a grateful patient program and ultimately better coordinate and time their fundraising ask with the patient’s visit or interaction with the hospital,” explains Grifasi-Miller.
Critical Support, Every Step of the Way
Having detailed and accurate wealth data integrated into their donor management system gives Healthcare Charities a boost in the work they do with their affiliates. “We are able to provide our affiliate organizations and hospitals with immediate and direct access to quality, actionable data, thanks to the screening data we integrated from WealthEngine.”
Their satisfaction in having selected WealthEngine is evident. As Grifasi-Miller explains, “WealthEngine staff has been extremely knowledgeable and helpful. We have had a great experience working with their team. Everyone has been quick to respond, eager to help and willing to go the extra mile. It’s been a pleasure to work with fundraising professionals that are dedicated to serving me and my organization.”
Fundraising for any nonprofit organization comes with a common set of challenges. But those faced by Laura R. Tenenbaum are pretty unique since she supports eight foundations at once. Tenenbaum is Director of Planned Giving and Program Development at Saint Barnabas Health Care System, “New Jersey’s largest integrated health care delivery system.” She has been using WealthEngine services successfully for three years to support SBHCS’s six medical center foundations, plus two others.
Qaya Thompson, Development Researcher at Yale- New Haven Hospital (YNHH), doesn’t believe in creating any barriers to prospect research. “I support seven development officers (DOs),” says Thompson, “and I want them to have accurate wealth information when and where they need it, as timing is everything in fundraising. All of our development staff have access to FindWealth Online and use it as their primary prospect research tool.” The development officers have been shown how to use and interpret the analytics, such as the WealthEngine gift capacity ratings and P2GTM (propensity to give) scores, which are also integrated into YNHH’s Raiser’s Edge database. Thompson adds, “If they need further information or justification of data, I do in-depth research and create a more comprehensive profile.”
Arena Stage is a Washington, D.C. based Theater Company that produces, presents, develops and studies American Theater. Now in its 62nd season, they host more than ¼ million audience members each year. Arena’s Chief Development Officer, Danielle St. Germain-Gordon, has been with Arena for 18 months, and has a rich background in arts development, including eight years as Associate Director of Development at The Shakespeare Theater and a three year stint as Vice President of Institutional Advancement at the American Association of Museums. She works with a staff of seven who specialize in individual giving, membership, corporate support, operations, prospect research, grants and donor relations. They raise approximately $5.2MM annually for operations.