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As part of our goal to share industry and career-related information to colleagues in the fundraising development field, we encourage you to contact us if you would like to contribute to our blog. 

Current 2022 Blog Series:

T.R.U.S.T - What Does Collaboration Mean to You?

Completed in 2021/2020: 

The Research Rabbit Hole

The Hot Seat

The Prospect Development Professional's Haven

Questions, Questions, Read all About the Answers!

Placing a Seat at the Table

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  • Tue, May 27, 2014 9:28 PM | Anonymous

    Chat with Viviana Ramirez about Prospect Management & Research in Health Care Institutions

    Written by Rodney Young | Prospect Data Project Coordinator, DePaul University

    Recently, I had the pleasure of chatting with Viviana Ramirez, Director of Prospect Management at Rush University Medical Center.  Viviana will be one of the presenters at the upcoming APRA-IL Basic Skills Workshop on Friday June 6, 2014 (click HERE to register). Viviana has over 15 years of experience in Data Records Management, Prospect Research and Prospect Management, and has been instrumental in developing a robust, progressive Prospect Management system at Rush.  We had a great conversation talking about the unique challenges and opportunities in Prospect Management in the health care industry.  Here's an excerpt from our discussion - enjoy!

    Rodney: Tell me about some of the differences in the environment at a health care organization that contrast with a college or university fundraising office.

    Viviana: Well, since we are also an academic medical institution, we still do alumni fundraising. Scholarships are still a big initiative, too.  However, with grateful patient fundraising, it's tougher.  An alum has a connection to the institution; but a patient has an experience... and that experience can be good or it can be bad.  Furthermore, we are not supposed to know about that experience because of
    HIPPA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act).  Those regulations can create restrictions concerning what we can or cannot say, or what we are allowed to know about a patient's experience.

    We utilize our physicians; our fundraisers are partnering with key physicians so they can obtain relevant information.  We work with a physician as a partner to help with that qualification process.

    Rodney:  Wow, very interesting!  What do you enjoy about working in health care that's different than in higher education?

    Viviana:  Unlike fundraisers, I don't get to sit in on meetings where there are physicians talking about cutting edge research...there are some really mind-blowing things going on in health care today.  There are such great stories; for me, I sit and look at the hospital across the street and thinking, "Right now, there are miracles going on over there.  Right now, somebody's life is being saved." Whenever you have "one of those days", you can still say "I work at a pretty cool place."  The compelling stories are what make it worthwhile.

    Rodney:  Tell me a little about the relationship between your Prospect Management & Research team and the fundraising staff.

    Viviana:  Well, it's based on the state of a fundraiser's portfolio. If their portfolios are properly updated, they don't hear too much from us.  

    Rodney: What if their portfolios are not looking the right way?

    Viviana: We have more meetings to determine what strategies are being utilized, what haven't we looked at, and consider what other sources we should look at to improve the portfolio.

    Rodney: What's difficult when it comes to fundraiser relationships?

      It’s very similar to other institutions. When you're doing the work to add names to someone's portfolio, and they're not moving on them, that’s always the challenge!

    HIPPA is the other challenge. Just because we see patient information doesn't mean we're privileged to it.  We have to be mindful of the information we put into our centralized database so we are not violating HIPPA regulations.

    Rodney: Is Rush currently in a campaign?

    Viviana: Not now, but we are in year 4 of a 5-year strategic plan.  At the end of our campaign, we needed goals, so we developed a 5-year plan.  The goal is to be an office that can regularly raise $40 million per year.

    Rodney: What is the "post campaign" environment like for you guys?

    Viviana: It's interesting because we're getting close to the end of stewarding gifts that went towards the last campaign.  I think it's toughest on the fundraisers. There is a transition that occurs because their pitch for raising dollars goes away.  So now they have to rethink how to engage and excite donors when we're no longer working towards a campaign.  There are different initiatives, but some areas don't have an initiative.

    Rodney: So you're getting people ready for the next campaign as well, right?

    Viviana: Yes, we're thinking about our donors, especially the ones who give at a major gift level annually.  You also want to look for those people as they will be key in the next campaign.  

    Rodney:  What are some other post-campaign initiatives your team is working on?

    Viviana: Data collection is very important.  One of our initiatives is to develop a standard way for development officers to rate prospects beyond the wealth screenings and what research is doing.  As we start to build these gift tables, we want to make sure that there is some level of "truth", and people feel confident that those ratings make sense.

    Rodney: When it comes to tools for analytics, is that something your organization has not invested in yet?

    Viviana: After some investigation, I have decided to go with Tableau.  What I like about it is that there are different levels in which you can use it.  I am also interested in the other services that Tableau provides which allow other people in our office to use it; we really need that collaborative piece.  We have a couple of people in annual giving that are data heavy; they need a tool where they can segment and look at trends to forecast.

    Rodney: On a closing note, if there are people who are in higher education who want to transition into healthcare Prospect Research & Management, what would you suggest to them?

    Viviana: Learn about HIPPA regulations, that's very important.  Also learn about "grateful patient" strategies--there are so many out there.  Also, the world of research is changing; when I went to the APRA conference, I paid attention every time they talked about analytics.  Fundraisers and executives are always expecting somebody to do data analytics; that is business intelligence work. It requires a certain amount of database skills.  You have to go beyond the Excel spreadsheet and learn how data tables relate to each other.  Don't be afraid of Microsoft Access...make the leap!

    Rodney:  Yes, I totally agree!  It was a huge leap for me!

    Viviana: Also, for researchers, learn how to write great, concise briefs for when your executive people go on visits.  Know what THEY need to know; figure out what types of information is most helpful for each development officer.  Every fundraiser has their own way of connecting.

    Rodney: Well, thank you so much Viviana, for this great information!  I look forward to your presentation at the upcoming
    APRA-IL Basic Skills Workshop.

    Don't forget to register for the APRA-IL Basic Skills Workshop on Friday June 6, 2014!  Click HERE to register!

  • Tue, April 29, 2014 8:01 AM | Anonymous member

    Written by Elisa Shoenberger:

    In early April, APRA Illinois held its Spring Educational Event:  “Financial Industry Overview and Happy Hour” at two locations: the University of Chicago and Lewis University. The event was composed of a lecture, webinar, and followed by a happy hour. The event was a big hit. Over 30 prospect development professionals and librarians from all over Illinois came out to the events.

    I attended the event held at the University of Chicago and had a great time!

    The first session was “Initial Public Offerings: The Big Payday” by Catherine Cefalu, Senior Research Analyst at the University of Chicago. This was a presentation that she gave at the 2013 APRA International conference in Baltimore, Maryland. In her talk, she did a wonderful job of explaining how and why a private company would go public and what it means for Prospect Research. I will note some highlights but I highly recommend checking out the actual talk in the future.

    Ms. Cefalu stressed that Research needs to be conscious of  IPO events coming up for its donor base for several reasons. First, an IPO is a liquidity event for a donor, which would make the donor better positioned to make a gift. Second, it’s a company event which means that it will generate a lot of publicity for the company. Third, it’s a transparent event so there will required public disclosures. This is particularly great for Research since you will get a view into the finances of the company and may learn about the financial impact for your donor. Fourth, an IPO is a huge life event for the donor so it’s good to be aware that it is happening. Fifth, it may impact when a donor will give a gift. Ideally, a donor may give a gift after his or her company has gone public.

    The second session was a webinar titled “Money Businesses: A Capitalist Primer” by Valerie Anastasio, Senior Advancement Officer of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. In her talk, she focused on the Financial Industry as a whole, and urged Prospect Research to take a closer look at it since it has such major gift potential for nonprofits. First, the financial industry’s share of the GDP was 8% in 2011. The combined assets of the top 5 US banks were $7.8 trillion as of December 2012. Finally, private equity firms raised $1.3 trillion in the past 5 years. She explained various revenue streams for individuals working in the Financial Industry, which included commissions on trades, fees (transactions, administration, overhead), interest on loans, incentive fees (percent of profit), and prosperity trading.

    Compensation can be quite impressive for investment service companies. However, Ms. Anastasio made the point that researchers should also look at individuals working in related industries like the legal field and information technology, because these industries are crucial in the success of the financial industry. For the full presentation, you should definitely check it out at ShareTraining.

    In Hyde Park, after these two wonderful presentations, participants headed out to Mellow Yellow, a local restaurant, for some networking. What a day of financial industry learning! I’m looking forward to our APRA-IL Basic Skills Workshop in June and our APRA- IL Fall Conference in October!

  • Wed, March 05, 2014 12:53 PM | Anonymous

    Written by Elisa Shoenberger, Loyola University Chicago

    When Prospect Management and Research encounter complex situations of wealth at work, my colleagues and I constantly comment, “Wouldn’t it be great if we could sit down with someone who’s an expert and ask them?” It happens in discussions of patents, compensation at big law firms, royalties from books and other media, and more. In this series, I will do just that: I am going to seek out and talk to people or attend lectures on these topics and report back to you my findings as they are related to Prospect Management and Research.  For this edition, I attended a February 2014 lecture on copyright law at Harold Washington College by Michael Graham, IP Attorney and Adjunct Professor at DePaul University.


    Before we delve into the particulars of copyright law and what it means for Prospect Research, a copyright should be distinguished from other intellectual property protections: patents and trademarks. According to the US Patent and Trademark office, patents are “a limited duration property right relating to an invention, granted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office in exchange for public disclosure of the invention.”[i] On the other hand, a trademark is “a word, phrase, symbol, and/or design that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others.”[ii]A copyright “protects works of original authorship, such as writings, music, and works of art that have been expressed in a tangible medium.”[iii] In other words, copyright protects the ways in which ideas are expressed, not the ideas themselves.


    Protecting authorship through copyright originates in the U.S. Constitution: “The Congress shall have Power...To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.”[iv] Copyright is about the promotion of the progress of arts and sciences. The Constitution explicitly provides that copyright is limited in duration. However, during that period of time, the right is exclusive for its owner, creating a kind of monopoly. Additionally, as Professor Graham notes, there is no mention of profits in the Constitution with respect to a copyright. Which begs the question again, of how copyright rights impact one’s wealth?


    So what exactly can be copyrighted and what does it mean to hold a copyright? According to Professor Graham, copyright covers “original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression.” The following are some types of works subject to copyright protection: non-dramatic literary works, musical works (words and music), pictorial, graphical and sculptural work, computer program, dramatic works, and architectural works. Some items that are excluded from copyright are: ideas, historical facts, names, titles, short phrases and slogans, blank forms, and clothing.


    A copyright is actually not a single right, but a bundle of rights. A copyright owner has the right to:

    1.      Reproduce the work

    2.      Create derivative works (like allowing a book to become a movie)

    3.      Perform the work publicly

    4.      Display the work publicly

    5.      License or transfer ownership (with a written agreement signed by the owner)

    6.      “[C]laim paternity and prevent mutilation of visual arts.”[v]


    Over the past half century, the duration that copyright is held has been extended, thanks in part to certain corporate interests including Disney. Originally, copyrights lasted 42 years with renewal. However, now for works created after January 1, 1978, “copyright protection lasts for the life of the author plus an additional 70 years. For an anonymous work, a pseudonymous work, or a work made for hire, the copyright endures for a term of 95 years from the year of its first publication or a term of 120 years from the year of its creation, whichever expires first.”[vi] If the work was created prior to 1978, it gets much more complicated. As a consequence of these copyright extensions, older, previously public domain material has suddenly become covered by copyright.


    For creators of potentially copyrightable material, registration of the copyright may be worth consideration. Prior to the 1976, registration of the copyright was required or the material was considered in the public domain. After 1976, registration was not required. Registration is fairly easy and inexpensive. You can register a copyright online for $45 with the US Copyright office.


    Though registration of the copyright is no longer required, there are special rights granted to the copyright owner if they register it before an infringement occurs. If you register before infringement and successfully win a case against infringement, the Copyright Act provides that a court may order the opposing party liable for your legal fees. And legal fees can be considerable: a simple case can cost $500,000 while even cases that only get to the discovery phase can cost upwards of $100,000. These cases can be more expensive than the value of the copyrighted material itself. Moreover, while it is hard to establish how much is lost with infringement, a court can award statutory damages if the copyright owner has registered.


    In this age of the internet, fair use has become a front and center copyright issue. Fair use is based on the idea that there are certain things people should be allowed to use even copyrighted works if it promotes the progress of arts and sciences as provided in the US Constitution. Fair use depends on several factors, such as how much of the new work uses the old, what is the purpose of the new work, and whether the new work transform the older one into a new work.  However, air use is really only defined by the judge making the ruling.


    One notable trend in copyright is the issue that there is now more of an emphasis on copyright proprietors (companies) than copyright creators. You may have heard news coverage of “copyright trolls,” disreputable, practically anonymous companies that go after creators in order to make money through litigation. You can read more about it at EEF. https://www.eff.org/issues/copyright-trolls


    However, this issue extends beyond copyright trolls. Major corporations are battling over copyrights between one another and individuals, and even estates litigate over copyright. For instance, the Marvin Gaye estate is battling Robin Thicke over copyright infringement of Marvin Gaye’s “Got to Give it Up.”[vii] The estate alleges that Robin Thicke infringed Gaye’s songs with his summer hit “Blurred Lines” and other works. The case is still pending between the Gaye estate and Robin Thicke.


    So what does this mean for Prospect Management and Research? Remember that the copyright is intended to promote the progress of arts and sciences, not necessarily to generate a profit. Copyright protect the expression of many ideas, not the idea itself. There are many rights associated with copyrights including the right to copy and license it to other people. Registration is optional but gives copyright owners special rights if there are infringement lawsuits. Fair use is a tricky field that will continue into the future.


    Most importantly, holding a copyright may not necessarily impact your wealth. Most copyrights are often not worth as much as it costs to take infringers to court. As noted before, a simple case could cost $500,000. And that’s if all goes well. Some copyrights maybe worth fighting for, such as Harry Potter books, while others may be more trouble and expense to defend like a Facebook profile photo. On the other hand, due to the high legal fees, IP and patent attorneys may be worth looking at in your constituency for purposes of Major Gift research.


    With this emphasis on copyright proprietors, it may also be worth looking at content owning companies, like Disney, who would hold many copyrights or families that may hold valuable copyrights. Those companies may profit extensively from the licensing of their copyright rights and may be worth the time for your organization to investigate their corporate giving or company foundations. Moreover, the people within the company may be Major Gift leads.


    And keep an eye out for estates that may hold valuable copyrights. If you have famous singers, authors, and other copyright creators in your database, you may want to look a little harder at their families because “their copyright rights last at least 70 years after the death of the authors and may remain valuable property rights for longer than other assets.”[viii]


    That’s all for now!

     - Elisa

    [i] “Trademark, Patent, or Copyright?” US Patent and Trademark Office, accessed 2/21/14, http://www.uspto.gov/trademarks/basics/definitions.jsp

    [ii] “Trademark, Patent, or Copyright?” US Patent and Trademark Office, accessed 2/21/14, http://www.uspto.gov/trademarks/basics/definitions.jsp

    [iii] “Trademark, Patent, or Copyright?” US Patent and Trademark Office, accessed 2/21/14, http://www.uspto.gov/trademarks/basics/definitions.jsp

    [iv] “Copyright Law of the USA,” Copyright Office, accessed 2/21/14, http://www.copyright.gov/title17/92preface.html

    [v] Graham, Michael, “Copyright: From Madison to Disney,” Class Lecture, Business Law from Harold Washington College, Chicago, 2/20/14.

    [vi] “How Long Does Copyright Protection Last?” Copyright Office, accessed 2/21/14 http://www.copyright.gov/help/faq/faq-duration.html

    [vii] “Marvin Gaye’s family nixes six-figure deal in Robin Thicke copyright fight,” FoxNews, 8/25/13, accessed 2/21/14, http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2013/08/25/marvin-gayes-family-kos-six-figure-settlement-from-robin-thicke-in-copyright/

    [viii] Graham, Michael, e-mail message to Elisa Shoenberger, February 28, 2014.

  • Sun, February 23, 2014 9:30 AM | Anonymous
    Guest Post! &quot;Data Looks Better Naked&quot;

    Written by Joey Cherdarchuk | Director at Darkhorse Analytics

    Edward Tufte introduced the concept of data-ink in his 1983 classic The Visual Display of Quantitative Information. In it he states “Data-ink is the non-erasable core of the graphic, the non-redundant ink arranged in response to variation in the numbers represented” (emphasis mine). Tufte asserts that in displaying data we should remove all non-data-ink and redundant data-ink, within reason, to increase the data-ink-ratio and create a sound graphical design.

    Stephen Few convincingly argues that some redundancy is often more effective and we agree, however, most graphics don’t struggle with understatement. In fact, most contain a stunning amount of excess ink (or pixels). Rather than dressing our data up we should be stripping it down.

    To illustrate how less ink is more effective, attractive and impactive we put together this animated gif. In it we start with a chart, similar to what we’ve seen in many presentations, and vastly improve it with progressive deletions and no additions.

    And here is the slide deck if you want to go at your own pace.

    The next time you are trying to improve a chart, consider what you can take away rather than what you can add.

    “Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away”
    – Antoine de Saint-Exupery

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