Prospect Research Roundtable #1
Welcome to the first (of many) iWave Roundtables. To help celebrate #ResearchPride, iWave connected with prospect researchers to learn about their “day in the life.” The guinea pigs for our first roundtable are:
Sara Glover / Prospect Management and Research Officer, Wilfrid Laurier University
Wilfrid Laurier University is a world-class postsecondary institution. Laurier oversees several major initiatives that support and advance the university’s mission, long-term vision and guiding principles. These strategic activities, which build and strengthen collaborative research and the educational experience, work to enhance the lives of Laurier’s community members — including its students, faculty, staff and alumni.
Jo Theodosopoulos / Prospect Research Analyst, The Minneapolis Foundation
The Minneapolis Foundation helps donors turn their passion into action. We manage charitable assets using investment strategies that are tailored to our donors’ financial needs, philanthropic priorities, and passionate interests. Our expertise in philanthropic planning and in-depth knowledge of community issues and nonprofits helps make our donors’ giving go further. Each year, our donors support more than 1,000 different causes and charities in Minneapolis and beyond.
Why did you become a prospect researcher?
Sara: A lot of my interests and skills seemed to have pointed towards a career in prospect research. I have heard prospect researchers descriped as “naturally curious”, and I think that applies very accurately to both my educational and professional path taken thus far.
Jo: Initially I wanted a career in university libraries, so I have an MLIS. I spent several years in development and donor relations, but when the original Prospect Research job popped up, I was hugely curious about it, and felt it would be a great use of my education and career goals. And I agree completely with Sara that we’re all naturally curious people, and that applies to me 100%.
The development field is shifting and digital trends are evolving minute by minute – what are some cool trends you noticed so far this year? Anything that worries you?
Jo: I think that one cool trend I’ve noticed is incorporating tools like Klout, Attentive.ly, and Simply Measured to measure and analyze social media: likes, followers, etc. to find prospects. The only part about that that worries me is perceived privacy intrusion. But I get that worry sometimes from people who don’t understand prospect research in general.
Are you adapting to these trends? How? Why?
Jo: As a lone researcher in a still-pretty-new PR department (I created the role in May 2014), I don’t yet have the bandwidth to incorporate social media tools just yet, but it is on the horizon. We are, however, in the process of adapting more and more data visualization tools.
What is one trick you would share with your colleagues as it relates to using your research tool?
Jo: I don’t have any particular tricks in research tools, but I can say, as a community geographic-focused foundation, I use the Real Estate tab in PRO a ton. I use it to find donors and prospects who have homes in three different Florida counties for our events there. We did not capture those alternate addresses, so it served a two-fold need: updating our current donors’ addresses and finding prospects. My biggest “trick”, though, is to always have a library card. It’s pretty incredible what one can access for free through the local public library. (Too bad I don’t have university library access!)
What is the most rewarding part of your role? What is most challenging?
Sara: Any time I’m able to identify a prospect that serves as a perfect fit for a particular projects feels great! This helps our organization move towards it’s goals, while also fulfilling the philanthropic interests and goals of the prospect, and meets their desire to make a meaningful impact within our organization.
Jo: We celebrated our centennial in 2015. Leading up to that year, I spent a lot of time identifying prospects that have interest in our focus areas. These areas are Education, Civic Engagement, Economic Vitality, Arts & Culture, Community Health, and Environment & Conservation. I invited them to seminars and small dinner parties where the conversations revolved around those topics. Each dinner party resulted in at least one major gift and/or a newly created Donor Advised Fund. As our mission is to improve our community, particularly in those impact areas, I’d say those efforts helped tremendously!
Special thanks to Sara and Jo for their participation and unique insight.
Want to join in on the next iWave Roundtable? Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.