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Apra-IL Blog


You Should Write a Blog About That!

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. 

We also enjoy reading other blogs and may contact you to share a guest post. 


Current Apra-IL Blog Series

October 2018: Tales of Terror: The Prospect Development Edition

Dear Analyst

Motivations of Leaders

Completed in 2018  True Life: A Day in Prospect Development

Completed in 2018 - 50 Shades of Prospect Development


  • Mon, January 23, 2017 8:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)


    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 Marissa Todd of the University of Central Missouri. 




    Marissa Todd is currently the Director of Prospect Management and Research at the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg. She has been working in non-profit fundraising for over a decade and has done just about every job in an advancement shop. Marissa has been dabbling in prospect development since 2008 but didn’t join APRA until June 2014 when she attended her first conference that summer. It was at that conference where she really found her passion for all things prospect development!

    Marissa earned her BA and JD from the University of Missouri and an MBA from Stephens College. In her free time, Marissa loves to hang out with her husband, Michael, and their two cats, Artie and Faurot; volunteer; and watch football (Go Tigers and Chiefs!), hockey, college basketball – really almost any sport on a screen will occupy her attention.

    APRA-IL: What do you feel is the impact of your work on the overall field of Prospect Development? (And could you describe who you believe your audience is for your work)

    Todd: Prospect Development has a huge impact on engagement and philanthropy. The specific audience at my organization is all faculty, staff, and volunteers who engage with our constituents in order to create a meaningful relationship with our institution. That could mean anything from speaking to students or making a major gift. Through my work, I can provide insight to this audience to help them identify the right constituents for their particular need (giving, advisory board, etc.) and offer strategic direction to move these relationships forward. 

    APRA-IL: Describe your motivations in this field, and what keeps you engaged.

    Todd: The constant learning in our field really keeps me motivated. I am always learning new process and techniques. The nature of our work - working with people and building relationships - means every day is different and offers new opportunities. I've been fortunate to work at organizations that are building out prospect development programs, which has been really amazing and a great opportunity to learn and grow.

    APRA-IL: What is next for you? Is there anything you would like to accomplish or challenge?

    Todd: Right now I'm in year two of building out a relationship management and research shop at the University of Central Missouri. I want to finish building this out to include a principal gifts program. We just launched a new strategic plan in July 2016, Transformation 2025, and I'm anxious to see how the prospect development shop helps shape that success.

    APRA-IL: What advice would you give a new professional in the field of Prospect Development?

    Todd: Join APRA. Going to that first APRA conference in 2014 was life changing for me. This community is so inviting and collaborative. You can learn so much from your colleagues so take advantage of membership and all the awesome things that come with it. Also - don't be afraid to advocate for your shop. Some managers understand the impact of prospect development; others inherit the program or just think they probably should have one, but don't really understand the value. Take every opportunity to prove your value and speak up about your impact.

    Do you know a leader you want us to profile? Let us know! Email us at info@apraillinois.org 

  • Mon, December 12, 2016 9:43 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)


    By Elisa Shoenberger, Benchmarking Analyst, Grenzebach Glier and Associates; and Katherine Ingrao, Associate Director of Prospect Management, Rush University Medical Center

    Dear Analyst,

    As a prospect researcher, I’m expected to put together a bunch of reports on our prospect pool and major gift donors on a regular basis. I work with a lot of data in donor records to help enhance my profiles and other prospect researcher. But the data quality isn’t as good as I was hoping. There’s stuff that’s missing or just plain wrong in contact reports, proposals, and so much more. And the worst part, it’s not even my data. How do I work to get better data into our system without ending up doing it all myself?

    Yours,

    Bad Data Blues 

    Dear Bad Data Blues,

    You’ve hit upon a major difficulty that anyone who deals with data has faced. We don’t want any data; we want good data. If bad data is put into a system, all you’ll get is bad data from the system. In other words “Garbage in, garbage out” We need to have good data in our database in order to do the great work.

    However, what exactly is “good” data? What does “good” data look like in our database? How do we ensure we are entering “good” data into our systems? These are really important and sometimes hard questions to answer but are crucial conversations to have within your office. Ideally, the natural result of these conversations would be the creation of an office guideline for data entry and quality control thus ensuring that everyone has a shared understand and expectation of your data and its quality when retrieved through reporting. During these conversations, it’s important to remember that you’re aiming for prudent policies not perfect ones.

    A good starting point when developing policies or reviewing your current ones is, contact reports. What does the content look like and how are people entering it? For some institutions, it’s a decent summary of the encounter with the donor and it is filed in a timely manner. A decent summary could mean 1-3 sentences while another shop could require several paragraphs. A timely manner could mean within a week of the contact or within a month. It all depends on the institution and what your shop can maintain over a long period of time and honestly, what is actually useful in the ability to raise more funds! Whatever you come up with, it’s important that your institution create concrete definitions, document them and stick to them! People need consistency in data and policies for them to be effective!

    The next step is disseminating the knowledge. People need to be trained on what is expected of them. Having the documentation is key and can be useful as a takeaway when onboarding new staff. I frequently held trainings with new gift officers and other staff about how to enter data correctly and it was important to remember that some gift officers may outsource their data entry to their administrative staff so don’t forget to include them in any trainings!

    One hazard you have to watch for is that you don’t want to be the one who ends up entering people’s data for them. Previously, Dear Analyst 6 discussed this with respect to proposal data. This is very tempting to do. After all, you work with data all day and know how it should be. But this won’t help the situation. People won’t learn how to do it correctly if they aren’t a) required to enter their own data or b) have to correct it when it is wrong. We don’t want gift officers to rely on us to enter data. Some organizations do require their prospect researchers to be responsible for entering proposal data but if it’s not part of your responsibilities already, you probably don’t want to make it one.

    While training and documentation are essential, they alone are not enough. Managers must make good data a priority. They must hold people responsible for having their data up to date. Often times contact reports and proposals can be tied to performance metrics so there is an added incentive to have this information up to date in the system. There must also be a way to review the information to see if it is being entered correctly as well. Otherwise, you won’t know if the data is being entered correctly. Reports and audits are useful to check whether data is being entered correctly.

    Finally, it is important to be a model of good data in your institution. Prospect Research needs to set an example to others about good data in the system. Make sure any data that your department is directly responsible for is correct. For instance, make sure to upload research profiles in a timely manner. If there are mistakes, fix them. Keep your prospect ratings up to date based on recent research.

    These are just a few things to help in obtaining good data. We’d love to hear how your organizations manage this process. Let us know at Dear Analyst.

  • Mon, November 21, 2016 8:55 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)


    As the season turn to winter, Thanksgiving is nearly upon us! This year, we asked APRA IL members what they are most thankful for in the profession. See the myriad things they are thankful for below:

    Karla Y. Davis

    As my term as board secretary comes to a close, I’m thankful for the other members of APRA-Illinois that I’ve been privileged to work with.

    John P. Gough

    I’m thankful for database admins that just get it, enthusiastic student interns, advancement executives that understand the power of strategically applied data analysis, and MGO’s that appreciate the value of accurate and timely data entry

    Katie Ingrao

    This year I am thankful, as I am every year, for the amazing work done by the APRA-IL volunteers! Our chapter has amazing members willing to put forth the extra effort to bring great programming, resources, and collegiality to our professional field.

    Christina Lanzona

    I am thankful for a healthy operating budget and the day off to watch the Cubs victory parade!

    Joan Ogwumike

    As a development professional who conducts research for prospective individuals and foundations, I am very thankful for current annual reports and 990 forms. 

    Elisa Shoenberger

    I am also thankful for the availability of IRS 990 Forms. There’s so much information on those documents that can tell you so much about the organization, especially when there is not a lot on their website.

    I’m also thankful for all the support staff that make our work possible. Our support staff updates records based on our work with obituaries; they help with the formatting of our research products. They provide us data and so much more. Thanks to you all!

    From all the members of APRA IL, have a happy and healthy Thanksgiving!


  • Tue, November 15, 2016 9:02 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Elisa Shoenberger, Benchmarking Analyst, Grenzebach Glier and Associates, and colleagues

    Dear Analyst,

    I’m having some difficulty with some of the gift officers I’m supposed to support. Some of the gift officers are outsourcing their research to their administrative assistants and secretaries. If it’s a simple bio request, I’m okay with them reaching out to their admins. However if it’s more complicated, like a rating capacity or an analysis of their philanthropic giving, they should be talking to me. When I ask why they are doing this, I’m told that they needed it quickly and couldn’t wait for our research department turnaround time. What do I do? I have skills and tools cultivated for this purpose. It’s true that I do ask for some lead times. How do I explain to them that they should direct these requests to me?

    Thanks,

    Eager Researcher

    Dear Eager,

    That is a tricky issue. We want to strike a balance between simple searches and the intensive, specialized work we do as researchers.  As noted in Dear Analyst 1, we have the challenge of explaining to people that our work is more than just Googling information. We have access to a series of specialized tools that help augment our research, often not available to the public. We can judge data to be reliable or more importantly, know when we don’t know if it is reliable. For instance, we have the judgment to know if we have the right Jane Smith in Omaha, Nebraska or know when our knowledge is going to be limited about her. We compare sources to ensure that our data is good, or as good as we can make it. These are not skills to be taken lightly.

    When research is outsourced to other departments, the chances of mistakes or misunderstandings can rise. We have to be careful not to point fingers when mistakes are made (that’s not how you foster healthy and positive relationships with colleagues) but errors can have big consequences for an organization. The last thing we want is a gift officer to have bad information at a prospect meeting! But it’s also important that we as researchers have time to do our work. Many of us work with several gift officers; some of us are sole researchers. Lead times are important to help us with time management so we can produce timely and accurate work. It’s again a tricky balance. So how do we communicate all this to our gift officers?

    There’s a couple of ways of handling the situation. It may be worthwhile to listen to gift officers to understand why they feel the need to obtain research help outside of the research department. Hear them out. You can then gently use the opportunity to explain that doing research outside of the research department has an impact on the organization as whole. In other words, there is a duplication of efforts, which ultimately is a waste of resources. Not to mention, that issue of quality control is paramount. Explain how they benefit from your work and the specialized tools and skills to help them obtain the best information about their prospects. This may be tricky and it’s important not to point fingers since that may sour relations between the department and the gift officers.

    If timing is an issue, encourage them to reach out to you and explain that you may be able to negotiate when you can get them in their time frame. Do they really need a full profile? Compromise. Explain what you can get them in their time frame. Perhaps a short look at the prospect’s philanthropic giving is what they need to get going. Encourage them to follow up with you for more research after their visit. Of course, it may depend on the research request and situation. You may want to move research on capacity to the top of the queue if the gift officer is going to make an ask.

    Another possibility is helping to train gift officers and/or their admins on very straightforward tasks. You can show people how to set up Google alerts on their prospects. Or talk about reliable research methods that aren’t too complicated. You could even review the research quickly for quality control. At one organization, the research and prospect management department had Research 101 to help with the easy asks. You can talk about how to judge data quality and sources and when it’s time to bring in the big guns (ahem... research). However, this will require follow up with individuals to ensure that best practices are maintained but may pay off in the long run in your working relationship with the gift officers and their staff.

    Unfortunately, you may not be able to persuade your colleagues to stop asking for research outside of your department. In this case, you may want to document incidents and note any repercussions. Be clear in what steps you took to try to resolve issues that came out of extra-departmental research.

    You may want to consider approaching the head of fundraising to explain the issue and how it impacts the organization as a whole. Explain your proposed solutions to ensure that there is buy-in from the top. Explain the possible strategies you’ve come up with to help resolve the issue.

    Best of luck!

  • Mon, October 17, 2016 7:26 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    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 Brock Silvey of Northwestern University 

     

    Brock Silvey is Director of Prospect Research and Management at Northwestern University. He is a past APRA-IL board member and a current APRA International board member.  

     

    APRA-IL: Describe your journey into your current position.

    Silvey: I received my Bachelors and Masters degrees in English from Northern Illinois University. I entered the professional world without a clear career path in mind, but I felt like I had many translatable skills. Though my first job out of college was not one that turned into a career, I learned many soft skills that taught me how to function in a professional environment. Then I saw an open Assistant Director of Research job at Northwestern and applied, without an understanding of what development research even was and with little expectation that I would be hired for it. However, I got the position and have been at NU ever since, finding ways to grow within the organization to my present role. Now the world of development feels like the career I was always meant to be in.

    APRA-IL: Describe your motivations in this field, and what keeps you engaged.

    Silvey: I am always improving processes that I think can be better. I have to make sure that I’m not getting complacent. I’m excited by the idea of prospect development teams becoming more integrated into the fundraising strategy development process. Though I am not a fundraiser, there is no reason why I can’t think like one and let that perspective inform how I manage my team.

    APRA-IL: What advice would you give a new professional in the field of prospect development?

    Silvey: I thought about this question from the perspective of a hiring manager, and the qualities that I think set people up for success in the work place. I believe these qualities have particular relevance for people in our field: be flexible, be comfortable with an element of ambiguity, let yourself be okay with not always knowing the answer, but have the curiosity to seek out the answer.

    APRA-IL: Could you tell us one perception people have about professionals in prospect development? What’s the truth?

    Silvey: Many people in our field would probably define themselves as introverts, but I think there’s a misperception outside of our field about what that term means. People sometimes assume that introverts are uncomfortable with interpersonal communication and therefore have limited potential to grow into leadership positions. I would describe myself as an introvert, but what that means for me is that I simply need some alone time in order to recharge. I still thrive on collaborating and strategizing, and I want a seat at the table.

    Do you know a leader you want us to profile? Let us know! Email us at info@apraillinois.org 

     

  • Mon, October 10, 2016 7:33 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Joan Ogwumike

    On the afternoon of Friday, September 30th, 2016 APRA-IL members, new members, and guests gathered at Northwestern University’s John Evans Center for this year’s APRA-IL Fall Conference. Significantly, this conference was formatted as a networking event, and consisted of a discussion panel and track sessions.

    The day began with a social hour as people trickled into the building. Conversations buzzed through the air as professionals connected with one another about their positions, APRA, prospecting ideas, and more.

    Following APRA-IL’s President, Katie Ingrao’s welcoming statements, the Vice President, Jessica Szadziewicz hosted development officers panel that allowed Prospect Development professionals insight on what these officers, and perhaps gift officers in general, value from researchers. Attendees learned that to make an ask it was helpful to know the prospect’s interests, other places prospects have given to, and relevant relationships, in addition to of course wealth capacities. This panel was an educational piece of the event, and added transparency and comfort to ask questions.

    Track sessions in Prospect Research, Prospect Management, and Data Analytics had preconceived topics, and there was time allotted to switching topics within a session. The round table set up for the Prospect Research room was an amazing touch to the intimacy and ability to freely exchange ideas. Professionals really wanted to learn from eachother, and hear one another’s research and management stories.

    After the conference, many attendees walked over in groups to enjoy Happy Hour at the local beer tavern, World of Beer.

    Overall, the conference encouraged me to re-evaluate first what development and gift officers were receiving from researchers, how I communicated Prospect research to internal and external professionals, and finally how important it was to attend events like this because I needed to hear the exchange of new vendors that people were considering or using. I believe events like this truly allow you to surround yourself with fresh ideas.

    Thank you APRA-IL for the space, time to learn, and opportunity to meet new people with common interests. Congratulations on another successful event! 


  • Mon, October 03, 2016 8:41 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    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

    Dear Analyst,

    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?

    Thanks,

    Overwhelmed

    Dear Overwhelmed,

    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!


  • Mon, September 26, 2016 8:51 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    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 Thomas Turner of the International Justice Mission.


    Thomas Turner is the Director, Research and Prospect Management at International Justice Mission (IJM), an international human rights organization focused on ending slavery and everyday violence. Prior to launching prospect research at IJM in 2012, Turner was a Compliance Manager at KPMG, where he worked on SEC independence and compliance issues.

    Mr. Turner is a member of APRA International and serves on the APRA DC board. He has presented previously at APRA DC, APRA Maryland, MARC and APRA International.

    Some of Mr. Turner's answers have been paraphrased.

    APRA-IL: What impact does your work, and the overall field of Prospect Development have? (And could you describe who you believe your audience is?)

    Turner: My audience would be a general APRA audience. Research, Data Analytics, Advancement Services and Relationship Management. 

    I like to describe Prospect Development as the nucleus of a department. Prospect development can serve as a centralized resource that helps the disparate units that make up advancement run effectively when it is set up well for success by leadership and given the opportunity to work with the many teams of the advancement division., This happens through excellent research, pragmatic and data-driven relationship management, and, increasingly, data analytics that tests, validates, and implements successful insights into your business. In my own work, I try to follow a personal motto that, when confronted with a problem, it is an opportunity to be “just another thing we can make better.” I think that a few prospect development shops have made to move into a consulting role is definitely the right call. It gives the prospect development shop the level of appreciation it deserves.

    APRA-IL: Describe your motivations in this field, and what keeps you engaged.

    Turner: I am always motivated by success stories. For me, my success is directly tied to success for my colleagues in the field and the clients we serve. As much as I love to solve puzzles --- and really, Prospect Development is a game when you think of it --- and finding that needle in a haystack, that is a motivation that can get me from task to task. My motivation is give 100% to my work, and to remember that when I can do as much as possible to grow my organization’s donor base- literal lives are being changed- widows who will have their property given back to them, children removed from abusive situations, people like you and me freed from modern day slavery.

    The people in the Prospect Development industry keep me engaged.  When I transitioned from the corporate world to the non-profit world, I was astonished by the lack of competition in the research industry. The comradery and helpfulness of professionals in prospect development is unparalleled. I would not have had opportunities to speak, to grow, to build my shop at IJM if I was not part of a prospect development community that is so willing to share best practices. It is an honor to be part of the community and it motivates me to give back, since so much was given to me.

    APRA-IL: What advice would give a new professional in the field of Prospect Development?

    Turner: I think the best thing you can do is join your local APRA chapter. You will join a community of people that will help you grow and who will respond to questions you have. It is an invaluable source to have colleagues in the industry you can reach out to when you are stuck or have a question or need advice on your career growth. 

    I really encourage analysts to know their primary sources. When you land your first research or relationship management job, you are handed a subset of data and a few proprietary tools that filter external data and match it with your subset. Learn how your entire database is constructed so that you know how to interact with it beyond what you have been instructed to do in your new position. Along those same lines, I think it is really important to know what is behind your proprietary tools. Knowing how to read a 10-K, a form 990, a FEC filing, a real estate deed, and a business registration will build your critical thinking skills far faster than just taking the summary or snapshot a tool gives you. When I started in prospect development, my skepticism and critical thinking advanced because I learned the weak spots in the tools we had. I figured out how to discern the quality of information since certain primary sources can be poorly interpreted by those tools. Go learn how to use EDGAR and the FEC database. It will be fun and help you grow!

    Do you know a leader you want us to profile? Let us know! Email us at info@apraillinois.org

  • Tue, September 06, 2016 8:44 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    By Katherine Ingrao, Assistant Director of Prospect Management, Rush University Medical Center, and APRA-IL Chapter President

    Are you ever curious how a peer institution handles their portfolio reviews? What about their metrics? How do they manage research requests and how in-depth do they go? These questions are natural and one of the main drivers of people to attend large professional conferences and connect with their colleagues. APRA-IL wants to help you connect with your institutional peers and answer your burning questions!!  

    On September 30, 2016, APRA-IL is celebrating our 20th anniversary during our fall conference on Northwestern University’s Evanston campus. The concept of our conference this year is collaboration, building networks, and partnerships with your fellow APRA-IL members. As a Board, we wanted to provide a different kind of program that challenged our members to build support systems beyond their organizations. I know some of us get institutional tunnel vision and forget that we have colleagues beyond our office and those can be some of the most helpful and beneficial colleagues to ask for ideas, opinions, and inspiration. I also know that our members are some of the most innovative, generous, and experienced prospect development professionals.

    At each APRA International conference I attend, I’m continually impressed and proud at the contributions that our chapter members provide to our profession and that they are our best representation of who and what APRA-IL stands for. While I’m lucky enough to be a witness to this collaboration at the International level, I feel that we lack that dedicated space, time, and network on the chapter level. Not every member of APRA-IL can attend and benefit from an annual large conference and so it is our goal this year to dedicate our fall conference to creating that same sense of community and collaboration time for our chapter.  

    The program itself will start at 1 p.m. and will be split in three tracks, Prospect Research, Prospect Management, and Data Analytics. Each track will be facilitated by an APRA-IL Board member or volunteer, who will help curate the conversation. We are asking that attendees submit topics, questions, and suggestions on what they would like to discuss with their peers. We want these conversations to be directly beneficial to your current work and allow you the opportunity to share or inquire about the work of your institutional peers within APRA-IL. In order to be prepared for the day, please email your topics, questions, and suggestions to apraillinois@gmail.com. We will include these in your respective tracks and build them into the round table discussions. In addition to submitting your questions, we also ask that you bring materials that you’d like to share i.e. (reports, profiles, charts, etc.). This will increase the depth and quality of our conversations.  

    Since the conference is in a different format this year, we have reduced it to a half day but we have added a celebratory happy hour following, compliments of the APRA-IL Board. Come, collaborate, and then celebrate!
  • Mon, August 29, 2016 9:07 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
     

    DEAR ANALYST

    By Elisa Shoenberger
    Benchmarking Product Analyst, Grenzebach Glier and Associates


    Dear An
    alyst,

    There are a couple of people at work who keep relying on me to help them with data. Some gift officers keep asking me to make data requests for them. They keep telling me that I do such a good job getting the data they want for their trips, mailings, and more. But it causes a lot of back and forth between our data team and the gift officers. I hate being the middlewoman! And then there are the folks who constantly ask me to add proposals and contact reports into the system. That’s really frustrating since it’s not my data. What do I do?

    Thanks,
    Tricky Data Situation


    Dear Tricky Data,

    That is a difficult situation. As prospect researchers, prospect managers, and analysts, we are positioned uniquely in our departments. We analyze data on a daily basis and we work with gift officers to help them be successful in their work.  We may not know the data as well as the Information Systems folks, but we do understand how gift officers will want to use it. We are a bridge between departments.  We also can help the gift officers figure out what data they need if they are lost. We probably know how to fix data points, like proposals, in the system. We speak data and reports.

    But with great power comes great responsibility. The downside is that gift officers may start to rely on us as their sole translator of data as you experienced. We end up getting asked to do data requests for them. Sometimes they start to lean on us instead of learning or figuring it out how to do it themselves. Or they stop talking to the department actually doing the work. They may even ask us to help them add data to the system, specifically proposals and contact reports?

    So how do we combat this? How do we walk that tightrope of being a resource but not doing their work for them? It takes a combination of finesse, assertiveness, and manager buy-in. I would gently encourage them to submit their own data requests. If they ask for assistance, be open to them. Meet with them. But at the end of the day, they need to be the one to submit the data. This makes the gift officer take ownership of the request. You get cut out as the middlewoman. They may still go to you for questions even after they get their data but they should be receiving the data from the data team.  Now, there are some gift officers, notably at the vice president level, where you probably will have to facilitate the data requests at a more granular level but those are special situations.

    With respect to data entry for proposals, it’s even trickier situation. Proposals are critical to an organization; it helps forecast revenue to your organizations. But there are so many aspects to proposals where data can be entered wrong. We may know how to enter a proposal correctly but the data is not ours. It’s the gift officer’s. We don’t know the donors; we don’t know how much we will ask them for money and for what. So we need to put the ball in the gift officer’s court.

    There are a couple ways to help gift officers learn how to fix the data. You can offer to retrain them (and their admins) about proposal entry as often as they need. When people started at my organization, I would do a Prospect Management and Research 101 and then did a follow up one or two months later that focused on proposals. It helped to break up the training like that because new hires may be inundated in the first few weeks with data. Having documentation is also critical to this process! You could suggest an “Office Hours” where gift officers could come and ask questions about proposals. When we did it at my organization, it was helpful to have many gift officers (and their admins) in the room to answer questions that everyone was wondering. It really shows that you are a resource to them.  These are not surefire ways to get perfect proposal entry but it helps remind gift officers that these are their responsibilities. It also helps to have a manager or director who buys into the notion that gift officers are responsible for their own data. They can be a resource to gently remind gift officers to handle their own data.

    Like anything in fundraising, there’s no hard and fast rule. These are some strategies to help but it’s going to be a case by case situation.

    Best of luck to you!


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