T.R.U.S.T - What Does Collaboration Mean to You? Jessica Boudakian, Associate Director of Prospect Development at CHOP Foundation and Joan Ogwumike, Blogger and Prospect Researcher at the Obama Foundation are delving into the Apra Illinois inbox. They are answering questions and giving advice on relationship building in prospect development between frontline fundraisers and PD professionals, and so much more. If you want to submit a question please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org (you can be anonymous as well, we are here to help).
Anonymous Question: Thank you in advance for answering my question. I would like to know how to talk to my fundraisers about their lack of interest during our prospect management meetings. I know I can’t force interest, but this is my job, and I make their jobs better. How can I make them see that this is a necessary partnership? One of my fundraisers told me that although she believes “our prospect management meetings are important, it takes too much time.” I work at a small K-12 private school and we have a total of 5 fundraisers, I am the sole prospect research and management specialist, and my role was newly introduced to the organization in 2017. In the last 3 to 4 years, it has been a real learning curve, so, any tips would be greatly appreciated.
Jessica: I too have struggled with gift officers that are disinterested in prospect management meetings. Please continue to be enthusiastic about your work! Not only are you valuable to your organization, but colleagues can pick up on our enthusiasm. Our passion for our work can get them excited too!
A couple of thoughts:
- One of your fundraisers says that the meetings take too much time. Are your meetings too long? Personally, I find myself struggling to pay attention to anything over an hour long, no matter how much I enjoy the work. Zoom fatigue is real!
- Are you meeting too often? Find the right cadence to give your gift officers enough time to take action. This will hopefully stop you from reviewing the same data points over and over, and everyone will have enough time to make updates in the CRM. Consistently providing clean, accurate reporting will go a long way towards building trust between you and the gift officers you support.
- What is the goal of the meeting? What is the ideal outcome? Think critically about what information needs to be covered and why. Consider taking a break from meetings. Pull down all meetings for a set period to see what is truly needed.
- Get back to the basics. Start and end meetings on time. Send an agenda in advance with a time frame added to each topic (for example: open solicitation review - 15 minutes; planned solicitation review - 10 minutes; new prospect discussion - 20 minutes; research request updates - 5 minutes; etc.). I like to include “could have been an email” type information at the bottom of the agenda for gift officers to review on their own time.
- Find a champion on the fundraising team that will advocate for you, and don’t be afraid to shine your own light. You are the expert on your work in your shop! If a prospect you identified gave a nice donation, don’t be afraid to let people know that you found them.
- Teach your team how to use your work, and how to read data and find the actionable item. Some gift officers can receive prospect information and reporting and run with that, but others will need a little bit of coaching.
- Depending on your relationship, you might be able to have a candid and vulnerable conversation on what is and isn’t working. Ask for feedback! You can do this 1:1, via email, or even by an anonymous survey. Listen to the feedback you receive too. Often colleagues just want to be heard and acknowledged even if you can’t incorporate their ideas.
- And finally, it might be time to ~let it go ~ Sometimes you will do everything right and still the team won’t see you as a partner. This is unfortunate, but it’s their loss. Continue to do excellent work that is integral to a well-functioning fundraising shop!
Joan: Jessica has made phenomenal and practical points! My addition - Education is crucial to disinterest and partnership. Fundraisers shy away from learning the operational management of prospects, but they excel in cultivating relationships and asking for money. Which is exactly where we need them, but we have to communicate the need for portfolio cleanups, solicitation management, and prospect development. Both areas in the fundraising field need one another, and you are absolutely right, this is a necessary partnership. Stand in that truth!
- Have you considered a training session that introduces or refreshes your fundraisers on the concept of prospect research and management? Sometimes, they know something is important but they don’t know why. Also, they may know something is important but not how it directly affects them.
- Make sure your training session is not a presentation in which you are just talking at them, find a way to spice it up so you are having a conversation. If it is interactive, then they can feel involved in the experience.
- Your experience with your fundraisers is a shared and relatable dance that far too many in prospect development have engaged in. But there is always an opportunity for enlightenment and change. Please try to not feel defeated by their attitude towards your great work because you are true to this, and they are simply new to it.