Friday, May 23, 2014

This month’s post comes to us from APRA-C member Nancy Hillsman, the Assistant Director of Research and Stewardship for Foundation Relations at Duke University.

Foundations need a little research love, too. Since that’s what our office does, I wanted to pass on an overview for those who may not deal with foundations on a regular basis but may bump into them once in a while. In researching that topic, I came across a very good article on the Arthritis Foundation website. They said it so well that I offer their wisdom:

 “How to Research Foundations”

  • Research is key to your success. But even when you've done the research, you must be able to read between the lines.
  • Always compare a foundation’s stated purposes, mission and guidelines to the actual grants distributed and grant-making patterns.
  • Even guidelines that seem explicit need to be read as if you are an investigator with the attitude of "this is what they say they are interested in funding, but is this really what they do?" Ask yourself:
    • What is the foundation’s overall mission and purpose?
    • What does the foundation say it does? What are its guidelines for developing an application?
    • Does the mission match the guidelines?
    • How are the grants actually made?
    • How do what it says it does and funds compare to what it actually does and what it actually funds?
    • Can the discrepancies between what the foundation says it does and what it actually does and/or its mission be explained? Review other available information, such as backgrounds on its board members to develop your best guesses about the reasons behind these exceptions or discrepancies.
    • How can I use this information to develop specific strategies for approaching each foundation?
  • Review foundation publications and materials with an eye to where the decision-making authority is within the foundation. A few foundations clearly spell out their review procedures, but most do not. Building lasting relationships with the “right” people is key to being funded.
  • If it’s not spelled out, ask how the decision-making process works when you speak with a foundation program officer or director. Use that information so you’ll know with whom you need to formulate a lasting relationship.
  • Always think of alternative ways to approach a foundation if you are turned down, but also realize that some foundations may not let you reapply for a period of time after you’ve been turned down. Nevertheless, keep them on your mailing list and find other strategies to remain visible to them.
  • Too many grant seekers send applications to foundations that have no interest in supporting their causes. Research is critical to avoid this mistake.
  • The more time you spend analyzing prospective funders and understanding each one you have initially targeted, the better will be your chances of developing strategies for successfully approaching them for grants. Each piece of information you collect about a given prospect helps you form a picture of that particular prospect.
  • After you’ve found the basic information, you then need to put the pieces of the puzzle together in a way that makes them meaningful for you and for the (foundation) so that they can become the basis for specific fund-raising tactics for that source, and for the other sources being explored. Again, strategy and relationship-building are key ingredients to successful fund raising through grants.

How to Research Foundations (2014). Retrieved May 19, 2014, from

Monday, April 28, 2014

Using your Human Resources

How many of us prospect researchers believe we’ve finished the profile and that we’ve researched and found all the information “out there” to have a full view of this prospect – then find out there is a big piece of the puzzle missing: their mother is sick, and the prospect is paying the hospice bills, or they’re in debt, they’re paying alimony, etc.?

We realize that there is only so much information available on the World Wide Web or in wealth screening software. Is the profile ever really complete without using your human resources to add their perspective? Let me clarify: When I mention human resources, I do not mean the personnel department at your institution, I mean your people resources: your staff, your major gift officers, your board members, your executive director, your volunteer leadership – the folks that actually sit down with the prospect during cultivation visits.
I presented at a workshop on prospect research last week, and a question was raised: How do you engage your people resources to create a more complete profile? This question created a great brainstorming session, and several suggestions bubbled to the surface. The below suggestions on how to better communicate came from not only prospect researchers but development personnel as well.

1. Software Journal Notes: Use them! Ask staff and MGOs to update the software system with pertinent information that they learn on their site visits.
2. Contact Reports: Ideally, this information will be uploaded in the software, but if not, ask MGOs to provide complete, detailed information. Review their contact report and make sure it includes all the information you’re looking for.
3. Bi-weekly Calls or Meetings: Have a set call every other week with the MGOs to discuss upcoming visits and past visit outcomes.
4. Stress Importance:  Continue to communicate to development personnel the importance of their feedback and knowledge. They may be surprised that what they know or don’t know will help guide your research.

At the end of the workshop, it was agreed that a full profile of a prospect cannot be completed without the people resources. Their insider knowledge and understanding of the prospect is vital to forming a complete profile. Be sure to use them!

This post was written by Margaret T. Johnson, Director of Client Services at Capital Development Services.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Why We Do What We Do

According to APRA, prospect researchers direct their energy towards identifying new donor prospects, maintaining and programming databases, researching individuals, corporations, and foundations, and, as we know, more. We have been described as resourceful, diligent, and adaptable.

By the nature of the job, we have to expect the unexpected and adjust accordingly. We keep abreast of new technology and techniques to improve our efficacy. We attend professional training to "stay on our toes." We collaborate with colleagues to keep ideas flowing. We are always learning and improving.

Being in healthcare, there is a sense of purpose for what I do. I am helping to identify someone who will support a research lab where scientists are working on curing a debilitating disease. I can find that one person hiding in our database capable of making a transformative gift that will inspire others to give. The new building on campus funded by philanthropy will be an invaluable resource as we train our medical and nursing students to better serve the community.

On days when our work may seem tedious, we have to remember we are working for the greater good. Dig deep and know that the time you invest now may one day mean someone could see another birthday, a child's pain could be eradicated, and a scholarship recipient could go on to be the leader of the free world.

I want to say thank you for the hours you invest and the sacrifices you make. I appreciate it. The service you provide is vital. Keep up the good work!

This post was written by Erica Lamptey, Development Analyst at Duke Medicine.

Friday, March 14, 2014

(Academic and Motivational Professional Education and Development)

But I don’t have time to attend a seminar or go to a conference!
Our department is cutting our budget……….. AGAIN!
Is it really that important?

Above are the excuses that often accompany invitations to conferences, seminars and other professional development opportunities that come your way every month.
Instead, the following questions are what ought to be asked of yourself and your supervisor:

How can I improve my skills and raise the bar in my job if I don’t add new skills to my ability to help my department?
Would our budget allow for necessary upgrades to technology? If so, am I less important than the technology we use?
Am I working harder instead of working smarter?

If you are a goal setter, what are your goals and how do you intend to get there? If you’re not one of THOSE people, how do you go about learning any new skill? Sometimes it’s online training, sometimes it’s taking a class, right? As a kid or a parent, we’ve all said or heard the phrase “practice, practice, practice.” But practice what? We had to learn it first, and that meant getting the education we needed to understand what it was we needed to practice and how. Why is it that when we become “adults,” we forget that very fundamental process in learning and think we know it all when we know that no one does know it all?

In 2012, Deloitte, a leading consulting company, did the unthinkable in a downturned economy. They invested in professional development tools for their employees despite the economic challenges in order to come out on top in their field when the economy turned around. They saw it as necessary as upgrading their security and technology.

You were hired because you are a valuable asset to your organization. To remain a valuable asset, you need to consistently take stock in what you have to offer and create a check list of skills to add to your cadre of abilities. What is it that you need to learn to take yourself to the next level? What is the next level? It’s okay if you don’t know. Find out through professional networks and colleagues. That’s where networking pays off in spades!

How do you go about getting AMPED? This is where no size fits all. Don’t start with time and cost, because you will inevitably sell yourself short and wind up with less than desired achievements. Rather, start with the skill set you wish to develop and seek out the closest match to your needs. Being aware of the fact that not all budgets are created equal, find other resources for paying for more expensive AMPED opportunities. Remember the adage “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” Now, more than ever, there are scholarships and work reimbursements from HR and various other sources. Check them out! Many professional development chapters offer scholarships and assistance to those organizations that are struggling the most. ALWAYS ask about discounts! It never hurts to find out if there are ways to use discounts to pay for things.

When you think about the opportunities that are offered to you, keep in mind these questions: How can I personally connect to other attendees and those who are educating me? Will there be time to network and build my community of colleagues outside my office? How can I use the skills I learn to assist my organization?

Building your community of colleagues is essential in keeping yourself on the road to continual improvement. It’s like having a swimming buddy. The deeper you get into building your network, the more you’re surrounded by professionals and leaders in your field and the more skilled you will become at navigating your future.

Once you’ve developed your plan of action and where to invest your dollars to guide your future, step out and get…………………… AMPED!

Writer’s personal preference for getting AMPED:
  • APRA International Conference
  • APRA-Carolinas and APRA-VA chapter meetings that involve networking time as well as education
  • One-on-one collegial meetings that happen ad-hoc

This post was written by Tracey Martin, APRA-Carolinas board member and Prospect & Research Coordinator for Duke University's The Fuqua School of Business.