By Elisa Shoenberger, Benchmarking Product Analyst, Grenzebach Glier and Associates, and Katie Ingrao, APRA IL President and Associate Director of Prospect Management at Rush University Medical Center
Gift officers in my office keep asking me to do comprehensive profiles on their prospects. Half the time, they’ve never even met them! I want to provide them with information they need to meet with their prospects but each profile takes up to 8 hours to produce. There’s many of them and only one of me! How do I convince them that they don’t need all available information about a prospect for an initial visit? Or even the first few visits?
It’s a tricky situation to be in. As professionals, we want to provide gift officers with the best information so they qualify and engage prospects. However, researchers usually have a limited amount of time to do so. Eight hour profiles aren’t simply feasible if you are going to do any other work! Gift officers vary in the amount of detail they require. Some are fine with basic information; they want to be able to discover information in the first visit. Others want to know everything under the sun. How do you reconcile those two views?
Like anything in Prospect Management and Research, you need to manage the expectations of the gift officer. A good first step would be to try and explain what is feasible in the amount of time and the situation. As I said, it’s our main goal to help gift officers do their job effectively. When having these types of conversations with gift officers, you want to avoid saying no but instead suggest what work is possible within a given period of time. Sometimes having that conversation and consistent dialogue with the officer can lower their anxiety and your stress, but not always.
If you’ve tried having open and honest conversations with gift officers about making reasonable requests and they’ve fallen flat; one thing you can do is to create a shorter research product. Many researchers have developed research products that are quick snapshots of the prospect with just the essential information. It could contain brief info on real estate, securities, philanthropic giving, political giving, and business information but only takes about 1-2 hours of work. The point of the product is to give the gift officer’s a rating and some overall information on their assets. Only in the rare case should there be more in-depth information included. I often found that what I found in 1-2 hours of work was as useful as that I found in 8 hours. Usually this was enough to help a gift officer on their way!
Another strategy to take is to implement a policy change. This requires buy-In from upper management. In some shops, a prospect has to be in a particular stage or rating for a comprehensive profile can be done for them. Usually it’s a stage close to asking for a gift or a really high rating like $500,000 and above. This can help prioritize a researcher’s time looking at really important prospects. We want to be strategic about how we use our time. This also helps us do what we do best: give the best rating at the right time for the gift officer.
One of my favorite tasks doing research on a person or organization is just before an ask. The gift officer is asking for my best idea of what the gift ask should be. This means a deeper dive into the prospect’s assets and background. We don’t want to give people heart attacks by the size of the ask and we don’t want to leave money on the table. I love this! Often times, I can determine that we can ask for a higher amount and it was even better when the prospect agreed!
Those are just a few ways to help you work more effectively with your gift officers and mediate their research requests. I’d love to hear how other shops have dealt with these issues. Let us know at APRAIL@gmail.com!