What makes Prospect Development a great career?
APRA-IL is asking local and national industry leaders what the field means to them and why and how they have pursued success in Prospect Development. Through this blog series, we will explore what drives industry leaders to propel their careers and Prospect Development forward.
For this month's piece, Joan Ogwumike, APRA-IL member and volunteer, interviews Tracey Church, Past President of Apra-Canada and Principal Researcher and Consultant with her company, Tracey Church & Associates, Research + Consulting Services.
Tracey has been a professional researcher for over 20 years and is the Past President of the Association of Professional Researchers in Advancement Canada (Apra-Canada). She is the Principal Researcher and Consultant with her own company, Tracey Church & Associates, Research + Consulting Services (www.traceychurchresearch.com). Tracey is proud to be the Co-Editor and Co-Author of Apra-Canada’s first book “Prospect Research in Canada: An Essential Guide for Researchers and Fundraisers” (Civil Sector Press, 2016). Tracey is a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) International Research Council and is a Director for Apra International and AFP Golden Horseshoe.
Tracey has worked with over 300 organizations in the fields of health care, education, social services, the arts, and the environment. Her work includes customized one-on-one or group training, custom research profiles, prospect identification, database screening, pipeline management, strategic planning, time and database management, surveys and interviews, and specialized research projects.
Tracey is a part-time faculty member at Western University (London, Ontario) teaching the Prospect Research in Fundraising course in the Master of Library and Information Sciences program (MLIS). She has an MLIS and Professional Certificate in Not-for-Profit Management from Western University. She is a regular and requested presenter for Apra, AFP, AHP, OLA and other conferences and loves to see her students and trainees succeed in the exciting field of prospect research.
Apra – IL: How did you end up owning and running your own prospect research consulting company? Help us understand your journey.
Church: I have been working in the prospect research and development sector for ~15 years in gradual progressive positions. In that time, through my involvement with Apra International, Apra Canada, AFP, AHP and regional fundraising associations, I had built up quite a healthy network of contacts and relationships. So when I set up my research and consulting business a few years ago, I knew a great many people in the small to medium charitable sector who could benefit from affordable research and consulting.
Let me go back a bit. I've always been a researcher. When I first graduated from my MLIS program many years ago, I actually accepted a position as a Research Assistant for Clinical Trials at London Health Science Centre. So to me, research is research. You collect and measure relevant information to a question you are trying to answer and through quantifiable and qualification research you report on the outcomes, best practices, and recommendations moving forward. So not a big leap in the process from clinical trial research to prospect development research! From there, I worked at Western University in the Research Office and Institutional Planning and Budgeting Office. At that time, I was a member of AIR (Association of Institutional Research) which again used measurable results for strategic planning for higher education. We had massive budgetary lay-offs in the late 90s at Western, and I was one of them. I set up my own Research & Writing business which was international in scale but largely focused on academic and Canadian research. It was really interesting work, and really diverse, but my children were young and I found I was pretty well working 24-7 which doesn't work well for a young family. I spent a lot of time saying "please close the office door, Mom is working"! That's when I saw the "Prospect Researcher" position at London Health Sciences Foundation, and the rest, they say, is history.
After five years at LHSF, I became the National Director of Research for CNIB which broadened my scope from regional higher education and healthcare to a national human services agency. It was great for learning the challenge of fundraising for human services, the hardest by far, and for learning the regional differences across Canada. After four years at CNIB, I was recruited to KCI (Ketchum Canada Inc.) from CNIB and broadened my scope even further in regards to the types of research that can be done in fundraising. When I set up my own shop (again) in the summer of 2015, I had learned a great deal about the consulting industry in fundraising in Canada but could, once again, concentrate on the research and prospect development of it. Now of course, my children are older and out of the house, so I am at liberty to make my own schedule without having to worry about soccer or karate practice! I LOVE my work and my clients are very inspirational.
Apra – IL: Describe your motivations to continue in prospect development and what keeps you engaged.
Church: It sounds corny, but the people in the charitable sector and my clients are what keep me motivated. I love helping clients whether it's research, training or consulting. It's great when they get in gifts resulting from the research and I like to think my direction helped them along the way. Also, the teaching and presenting are exciting. I have taught the Prospect Research in Fundraising course in the MLIS program at Western University for eight years now, and it's great teaching students who think they are destined to work in libraries that there is a whole great world of the charitable sector out there that could seriously use their data and research skills. I now see some of my past students at Apra conferences and I get a real kick out of how they have chosen this profession after completing my class. Very rewarding! I also keep very involved in Apra International, Apra Canada, AFP and AHP. I can't help it! They are wonderfully helpful organizations for the fundraising sector and since I present a lot and continue to learn a lot from the conferences and webinars, I feel I need to contribute, too. I've made so many great friends through my board and volunteer involvement.
Apra – IL: What has been the biggest challenge or lesson in your career?
Church: Oh, for sure you have to be resilient and flexible! Life throws you curve balls (like getting laid off) and you have to step back, reassess, and take bold steps in a new direction. I remember my daughter's guidance counselor told their high school class "on average, you will have seven jobs/careers in your lifetime." So the younger generation is prepared for that, whereas our generation thought that some jobs were for life. Not necessarily so! So, for sure you have to keep up-to-date on technology, keep involved, keep taking courses and learning and you will eventually direct yourself into something new, challenging and rewarding when the time comes along, either by your own doing, or if something throws you off course. I can tell you that each new direction I’ve taken has been considerably more exciting than any previous course.
Apra – IL: What is one misconception people have about prospect development? What's the truth?
Church: Well, there are still some older fundraisers, and yes, some senior executives out there that think prospect research and development is a "nice to have" instead of a "need to have." Because we aren't front line fundraisers, we are often overlooked and shuffled to the bottom when in reality, the most successful fundraisers I know are self-confessed totally-couldn’t-have-done-it-without-research groupies! I always tell my trainees or clients that charitable organizations have to be responsible with donors' money, so soliciting without direction is plain old wasting money. Researchers can direct fundraisers away from prospects that have neither the capacity nor the affinity to give to their organization and we can do it in a much more objective way. We don't want fundraisers wasting time (i.e., money), so targeting and strategic consultation regarding the most viable prospects is absolutely necessary to meet their crazy major giving goals. We have to hold our ground in regards to this and need to be at the table at every strategic meeting and step along the way.
Where's my soapbox?! I could go on all day!