Balancing Proactive and Reactive Research Requests

We like to know what a “day in the life” looks like for our clients — and in this case, we’re specifically talking about prospect researchers.  By understanding the challenges (and opportunities) you work with every day, we can create a better platform to fulfill those needs and help you explore those opportunities.

But no matter how advanced iWave’s PRO or other research platforms may get, there seems to be a fundamental challenge in the world of prospect development.

You never have enough time!

Much of a researcher’s day is spent working on either reactive or proactive research requests.  A reactive request might be when a fundraiser books a lunch meeting with an unknown prospect and needs you to create a profile with the prospect’s wealth and philanthropic information — and they need that profile yesterday.  A proactive request is a bit less stressful and more free-flowing, where you and your team attempt to identify new prospects or dig deeper into your current donor base.  Your proactive work might result in handing several complete profiles to the fundraising team they weren’t even aware of.  That is prospect research at work!

In recent interviews with clients, they suggested an ideal breakdown would be 50% reactive requests and 50% proactive requests.  But the unfortunate reality is that there is always too much reactive work and not enough time for proactive prospecting.  Since both types of work are critical to supporting your organization, how do you make sure you have enough time to take care of business?

Screen It and Forget It (…for now)

Screening with iWave takes just minutes to prepare, and the self-serve functionality means you can upload a list of prospects and screen them across all of iWave’s data.  Get results in hours, sometimes minutes.  This means you could upload a proactive prospect list of 300 names first thing in the morning, then focus on turning around some reactive requests for fundraisers or board members, and voila!  By lunchtime, you could have a prioritized list of prospects (with scores) ready for your verification.

New to screening?  Check out these blog posts to get started:

Preparing Your Prospect Screen Step-by-Step

What Now?  How to Capitalize on Prospect Screening Results

Communicate With Your Team and Prioritize

We’ve written before on aligning the prospect research and fundraising functions.

Every team, like every family, involves a little bit of dysfunction.  But it’s critical for development teams, large and small, to work together.  Working in separate silos will only result in miscommunication, misunderstanding, and if allowed to continue, distrust.  If you’re having trouble balancing your workload, this is a great opportunity to bridge the gap.

Sit down with your research team.  What policies do you have in place that might be hindering your ability to jump between proactive and reactive work?  On the flip side, what policies exist that can help you?  If you’re having trouble, ask your team and manager for help.

One strategy we employ within iWave’s Marketing team is a shared Google Doc that shows what each individual is working on, and what the priorities are.  When last-minute reactive requests from another department land on the desk, we can slot it in accordingly.  We also ask the question: “Is this a drop-everything-else priority?”  If it is, we can put our proactive work on hold and take care of the hot item.  But if it can wait until later, we work on our existing priorities.

Now it’s time to speak with the fundraising team.  Invite them to see what you’re working on.  Maybe their “last minute request” isn’t actually a top priority — or, if it is, they can address it as such.  If your entire day is spent putting out proverbial fires, you won’t have the energy or time to focus on work that will help the entire organization in the long run.  But if you communicate your priority items to colleagues and managers, you can develop an efficient system of organizing your work.  The key here is to be adaptable.  Unforeseen things come up, and they need quick action.  But if you create a system that allows for maximum flexibility, a last-minute action item won’t derail the rest of your day.

“Get Score”

Maybe your fundraiser doesn’t need an in-depth profile right now.  Instead, she only needs a high-level understanding of a prospect’s “fit.”  That’s where the Get Score feature can really help.

To use this feature, all you need is a name.  Within seconds, the iWave system will generate a score (an average of the prospect’s Propensity, Affinity, and Capacity ratings).  You will also see the records used to generate the score.

Be sure to set your preferences (especially your organization’s affinity and major gift threshold) before using this feature.  And as always, no feature will replace a gut-check by an experienced researcher.  But if the clock is running against you, Get Score is a great way to generate a snapshot of a potential donor’s giving potential and pass this information along.  Now you can get back to those screening results and start diving in!


Want to see iWave in Action? Try the platform for free today!

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About the author: Ryan McCarvill joined the iWave team in 2016. Ryan enjoys meeting and learning from nonprofit professionals, researching trends in the nonprofit community, and offering strategies for development teams to use iWave’s solutions to meet and exceed their fundraising goals.

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