Friday, December 21, 2012

Data Integrity or the Silver Lining of Mistakes

I’ve been doing some prospecting lately (I just can’t force myself to say “suspecting”) and was reminded that one of the best prospecting resources is the information you already have: your own prospect database. Whether it’s an Excel spreadsheet or some fancy, store-bought product, it is a trove of treasure. Everyone is there for a reason. They’ve either already given money (a good predictor of future giving) or they’ve participated as a board member or volunteer or, in our case, an alum (a good demonstrator of inclination).

Your prospect database is the rare resource over which you may have some degree of control, so it makes sense to take full advantage. Take the time to update the information about your prospects, especially home addresses and employment. While you are in the process, it’s also a great opportunity to add vacation homes and investment properties. You never know which detail will be the one to make the difference.

I also want to mention the importance of correcting mistakes currently in the database. Our data entry staff is top-notch, so I want to be clear that I’m not criticizing their work. It’s just a reality that with the volume of entries they deal with on a daily basis, mistakes are bound to happen. When they do happen, correct them as soon as possible. Remember, the Murphy’s Law of prospect research states that whenever there’s a mistake, it will involve a major donor.

I’ll close with a mistake-based anecdote. In searching LinkedIn, I found a person who had listed our university as her education. She was an executive in a public company, and the latest proxy statement showed she had a ton of stock and high compensation. When I looked for her in our database, I couldn’t find her. I tried what seemed like her maiden name. Nothing. (This is the proverbial fork in the proverbial road: you could give up here or you could keep going. I say keep going!) I did a bit more searching and found an article including both the misspelled and correct versions of her name. I checked our database using the misspelled name, and there she was. With her information updated, now this person is a known entity again. She’s in the pipeline to be contacted by our development officers. And that’s the silver lining.

Mitch Roberson, Communications Director, APRA MidSouth

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Resources for Learning Data Analytics

In the world of prospect research, data analytics is what everyone is talking about. I have zero previous experience in data analytics, but I find myself drawn to it. The possibilities and opportunities for its application to our field are overwhelming! It is revolutionizing how we do what we do, but if you’re like me, sometimes you don’t know where to start.

Fortunately for those of us who are still learning the ropes of data analytics, there are many excellent resources available. In particular, I’d like to highlight that Coursera, the fabulous online educator, offers a handful of free courses on data analytics taught by experts in the field. Here are four upcoming options:

I’m signing up for at least one of these. Will you?

To those of you who are more experienced in the field of data analytics: what resources would you recommend for us amateurs?

*NOTE: This post is not sponsored by Coursera. I just love what they offer!

Carolina Rossini, Treasurer, APRA MidSouth

Friday, November 30, 2012

The Year in Review

Have you ever taken the time at the end of each year to go over the events that have brought you from “Happy New Year” to “Auld Lang Syne?” I do it personally – so if I send you a Christmas letter be ready for a lot of bragging on my new grandson this year.

But professionally? Nope. Never. Some of these things are taken care of for me. In our office we keep a running tally of the projects we are asked to do, how many prospect ratings we supply, how long every project takes to complete, etc. So the measurable stuff is covered. But other accomplishments, goals and events that aren’t measured analytically? I do it for my annual performance review, but I have really viewed it as a necessary pain.

However, I’ve adjusted my viewpoint on this after attending the APRA Research Management Symposium in Nashville in early November. Instead of viewing this kind of exercise as a necessary evil, I now see how tracking and recording the intangibles is beneficial for the division of development and alumni relations as a whole. Many of the examples that the Symposium’s speakers provided did not only focus on the data and what it provided, but also what the process to get the data accomplished. Intangibles, measured the only way it can be, by human reflection.

For example, the Prospect Research and Management may be tasked with creating a new report for management of principal gift donors. Okay, that’s the data. Then the PR&M team may also be asked to lead the meeting to discuss the report, what it shows, PR&M conclusions, how it will be used to move fundraising forward and any report revisions needed for the future. This is the intangible benefit and process that data does not measure. While the data can be displayed and measured (in the report) the accomplishments of creating the report, leading the meeting and stepping out from behind what is often viewed as a support team member task or role, is equally important to note.

We as prospect researchers and managers have seen our profession and our organizational evolve quickly the past few years. Because we have to be experts on both data and the people behind that data, at times our behind the scenes work needs to be moved out front. We need continually work at changing the perception of PR&M as an afterthought to a first thought.

With the examples of this working so successfully for the presenters at the APRA Relationship Management Symposium, I am now looking forward to tracking the intangible part of what I am tasked to do. Sure, keeping track of the intangible value PR&M brings to the fundraising process and team may be a bit of a time consuming task. But now as I have taken that time to engage in this exercise, I’m convinced it’s a necessary and extremely valuable one.

Besides, reflection is always good. And it feels great to be able to recount the contributions we have made for our team.

I encourage you to invest some time in this exercise and to make it one of your habits for the new year. I am putting it at the top of my to-do List for 2013.

Theresa Clark, Director-at-Large, APRA MidSouth

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Big Picture: Takeaways from APRA Advanced Relationship Management Symposium

The symposium was a success! The speakers did a great job of providing a variety of topics within relationship management. Some of the topics included evaluating prospect management policies, using data analytics to evaluate prospect management, and partnering strategically with fundraisers for prospect management to be a part of the process. Here are some observations that are fresh in my mind:
  • If the current prospect management policy is not working, then it’s time to revisit and update the current policy. Updating the policy can be tedious and time consuming, but a more efficient process will make an impact on the organization.
  • Let the needs of leadership drive what is reported from prospect management. Keep fundraisers in the know of what is being measured and reported.
  • Use data analytics to determine moves management requirements. Look at how many visits it takes before a prospect makes a major gift or look at the average length of time between assignment and solicitation.
  • Let your database and technology work for you v. you working around the technology.
  • The big picture: Regardless of your role in prospect research, prospect management, or both; success comes from working well together. Remind development officers that the role of prospect management is to keep them on track with their metrics and fundraising for the organization. Prospect management is an ally.
  • Use your network. There are many other organizations asking the same questions and trying to improve the role of prospect management. Ask your peers to see what their challenges and successes are. We can learn from one another.

Melissa Sridaromont, Secretary, APRA MidSouth

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Gearing Up for the APRA Relationship Management Symposium: A Conversation with the Planners

Here in the land of APRA MidSouth, we are getting very excited for the upcoming APRA International Advanced Relationship Management Symposium! Two days packed full of information on managing relationships in our ever-changing, hyper-competitive environment?! Right here in our own backyard?! Um, sign me up!

To get the inside scoop (and/or satisfy our nosey-Nellie genes…), we sat down with planners-extraordinaire Susan Hayes-McQueen, Director of Development Research and Relationship Management at University of Washington, and Emily Walsh, Senior Director of Prospect Development and Analytics, The University of Arizona Foundation. This is what they had to say…

APRA MidSouth: Can you give us a little background on the symposium? For example, how did you come up with the theme “Advanced Relationship Management” and why did you choose to host it in Music City?

SHM: This is the third time APRA is doing a Relationship Management (“RM”) Symposium. They did one once in 2005 and again in 2008; both were well received. I think APRA sees that this is a good group of like-minded people who struggle with the same questions at their institutions. I, for one, am always thrilled when APRA has such in-depth opportunities, and spending two days with other professionals will be a highlight of my year. APRA chose Guitar City for us. I couldn't be more excited with the venue. What could be more wonderful than a whole city devoted to the arts! Plus, I've always wanted to see Vanderbilt. My only regret: I won't be able to spend a week exploring Nashville!

APRA MidSouth: What are you hoping attendees will take away from the conference?

SHM: I’ve got a few hopes for the attendees: (1) Renewed energy to pursue excellence in relationship management at your organization; (2) Some ideas to take your RM program to the next-level; (3) A great network of individuals who think about the same things you do! and (4) Examples of reports, analysis and other industry standards.

EW: Like Susan, I think that there are a few main things that I hope attendees can take away from the conference: (1) A handful of immediate take-aways that can be brought back to your organization that will (hopefully!) help take your program to the next level, and (2) The opportunity to further build your network with like-minded individuals who do similar work and likely face a lot of similar challenges.

On a more personal note, when I think about past conferences and symposia I’ve been to (regardless of the specific topic), the people I’ve met and connected with have always been one of the most powerful take-aways for me. When you connect with people that do the same kind of work as you, you have a resource for life. I can’t tell you how often I pick up the phone or shoot an email off to folks that I met at various conferences over the years. Having people that you can benchmark against or who will be patient enough to do some crazy brainstorming with you is invaluable. I hope that during this conference we’re successful in not only sharing some of our knowledge about Relationship Management, but that we enable and encourage the participants to spend some time talking and connecting with each other around these topics.

APRA MidSouth: Are there any presentations you personally are out-of-your-mind excited about attending?

SHM: Well, all of them! Okay, I'm really eager to learn from my co-presenters, Emily Walsh and Brock Silvey, who both have great experiences with RM in various organizations. I personally like to present on Fundraiser Accountability.

EW: I agree with Susan – I’m excited about all of them! Working with Susan and Brock has been great because we each bring a unique perspective and set of experiences to the table. I’ve learned a ton from them just in the process of working together to prepare materials! One of the sessions I’m most excited about is on developing prospect/relationship management policies and processes. I’ve always been kind of obsessed with aligning processes with policies (even before I started working in development), so I totally geek out when it comes to that.

APRA MidSouth: Any quick tips to the attendees on how to get the most out of the symposium?

SHM: Come ready with energy to help shape the symposium. Your examples of best practices and challenges will be a highlight for others.

EW: Symposia like these are often what you make of them. Come ready with energy and enthusiasm. We’re going to be covering a lot of material over the course of two days. Don’t be shy! The sessions will likely be pretty casual, so come prepared with questions and don’t hesitate to jump in and share your experience with the group as well.

APRA MidSouth: Outside of the conference, what are you most looking forward to doing while visiting Music City?

EW: I love, love, love Nashville! I’ve only been there once before (oddly enough, I think it was for APRA’s first ever Data Analytics Symposium – before it was aligned with the International Conference). Nashville’s great! I love live music, so I’m hopeful that Friday night I can go out on the town before I have to fly out early Saturday morning.

SHM: Wow. There's a lot I wish I could do, but I'm zipping in and out. Any recommendations for us?

APRA MidSouth: Of course! First, make sure to visit the Symposium’s Travel Details page on the APRA International website. It has links to the top 10 things to do when visiting Nashville as well as a list of great restaurants in the area. For music listings (you are coming to Music City, afterall!), visit the Nashville Scene for a list of upcoming shows. And, please don’t hesitate at all to reach out to one of the APRA MidSouth board members (emails on the right side bar); we would love to help you plan your trip and make sure you get the Nashville experience!

Many, many thanks to Susan and Emily for taking some time to share with us! Sounds like it’s going to be a great event, and like Susan and Emily, we look forward to meeting many of you in person in the upcoming days! The countdown begins…

Angie Stapleton, Vice President, APRA MidSouth

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Bravely Going Where No One Has Gone Before: Using Metropolitan Statistical Areas in Prospect Research

Once upon a time (fourteen months ago), in a land far, far away (the conference room down the hall), I was sitting in a meeting with a development officer. We’ll call her Janet. (Wow, this is good stuff – I should go into children’s literature!)

Now, Janet wanted me to do a little prospecting for her. At first I understood everything clearly – she wanted to see total giving, areas of interest, and other usual considerations. Then she said she would like to look at the prospects by MSA. What? “MSA?” I asked. “Is that, like, Majorly Serious Assets?” (Note: I did not actually say this.) Befuddled and perplexed, though not at all grumpy, I set out to find an answer.

And find it I did! MSA. Metropolitan Statistical Area. (“Ah, this makes sense,” she thinks to herself.)

Here’s the simplified version: Metropolitan Statistical Areas are geographic areas that typically include a large city (or cities) at the center, as well as surrounding areas that are socioeconomically tied to the urban center. There are also Micropolitan Statistical Areas, which are for smaller cities. Both Metro- and Micropolitan Statistical Areas are lumped into the category of Core Based Statistical Areas. These areas are defined by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget and used by the U.S. Census Bureau for statistical purposes.

Here’s the super-simplified version: Think of MSAs as the Greater ________ Area. Greater NYC. Greater Atlanta. Greater Minneapolis-St. Paul Area. Get the idea?

So, it follows that using MSAs for the purposes of identifying prospects in a certain city can be quite useful. If you’re just looking at street address, you’re bound to miss all the folks in the suburbs.

The challenge becomes finding a way to bring MSAs into your data. Well, my friends: problem solved. Here is a way to get MSAs and corresponding zip codes into a spreadsheet for any or all 50 states. From there you can use your ninja Excel skills (using VLOOKUPS, but that’s for another day) to pull in MSAs based on constituents’ zip codes.
Here are the instructions for running the report (for reference, original found here:

1. First, open this fabulous database run by the Missouri Census Data Center:  (Thanks, MO!)
2. Pick a state or states.
3. Select one or more SOURCE codes. (5-digit zip).
4. Select one or more TARGET codes. (I chose Core Based [Metro/Micro] Statistical Area).
5. I left the default options for weighed variable and export type (population 2010, CSV, codes & names, etc.).
6. Click Run Request button.
7. After it processes, save the CSV as a .txt file, then open it in Excel. Voila!

Now go forth and prospect! Just don’t steal any of mine.

Caroline Rossini, Treasurer, APRA MidSouth

Thursday, October 18, 2012

APRA Symposium in Nashville

What I like about the upcoming Advanced Relationship Management Symposium in Nashville that Big APRA is putting on (November 8-9) is that it puts some organization… into the organization!

One of my earliest fundraising jobs was in a development shop of about 12, including all development officers. I was the prospect researcher. Our group would regularly meet to plan, strategize, theorize, document, and predict how to get work done and dollars raised. We were young and eager. We were kicking off a new campaign. The world was our oyster. Let’s do this!

Then we’d find out – the senior-most leaders of our organization already had a long-term narrative in place with almost each of the best prospects we’d worked hard to strategize for them to see. “Did we not already know? Did no one tell us?”

No, we did not know our senior leaders had all of this history with thus and so. At that time, they weren’t required to use the development database. That was for our department. They didn’t attend our development meetings. Needless to say, a sense of spinning our wheels was constant. Who kept track of what relationship? We were supposed to, but how? Frustrations stayed high and staff turnover was common.

That was years ago. I’ve changed as a professional. I bet that shop has too.

All of us are now at the exciting intersection of quantitative analysis and development work. That is where this APRA symposium succeeds. It is a rich spread of cutting-edge philosophy, techniques, and take-aways on how best to organize the work of fundraising for your shop so that all parts of a fundraising enterprise can get on the same page. From setting prospect capacity ratings, tracking moves, setting up prospect portfolios, and more, the brochure is making me think: it is all here. I can only imagine this symposium being a boon for shops large and small.

Our APRA MidSouth chapter is pleased to be helping with a elements of the welcome here to Guitar Town (Nashville). Look for a few of us during the cocktail hour at the hotel’s Park25 Bistro restaurant area in the late afternoon/early evening of November 8.

Look forward to meeting you!

Geoff Little, President, APRA MidSouth

Thursday, October 4, 2012

202,000,000 Thank-Yous

In several of my blog posts, I have alluded to the fact that we at Western Kentucky University completed our New Century of Spirit Campaign on June 30, 2012. We gathered recently for our Gala to celebrate the campaign’s conclusion and finally find out the total that has been held secret for almost three months.

Drum roll, please…..$202,305,534. So excited that we met and surpassed the goal! Whoops….shout outs….high fives….confetti….champagne…..pats on the pack….HUGE smiles…..and lots of relief.

Our mid-major university has completed not one, but TWO, major capital campaigns back to back in 14 years. (Well, almost back to back... the first campaign ran from 1998-2003 and raised $102M – the goal was $68M; this campaign started in 2005, going public in 2007). I wasn’t a part of the first, but joined WKU just as the second campaign got underway…, what a journey it has been.

That’s why it was so fun to see people I worked with from our Campaign Cabinet to WKU faculty to our wonderful donors and my dedicated and truly devoted colleagues to get dressed up Hollywood style and celebrate this great accomplishment.

WKU went public with the New Century of Spirit campaign in 2007, just before our nation went into our economic crisis. While it didn’t make things easier, we were able to weather that storm and now we are seeing the gold at the end of the rainbow.

Yes, my colleague, Cheryl Kugler (WKU’s new Director of Prospect Research) and I are busy laying the groundwork for the NEXT campaign. That’s part of the job in Prospect Research, isn’t it? But we are taking lessons learned to make us better prepared and to have a firm foundation on which to launch our fundraisers to that next level of success.

But enough of that. This weekend was about CELEBRATION! And how we did! With lots of glitz and glam and fun!

And with that thought in mind, I wanted to share one of the best parts of the evening. All year long our celebration committee had been coming up with great ideas to do things up right, and this movie “Hilltopper of the Century” – starring WKU junior (class of 2014) Marquon Bartee and WKU faculty, staff and students (yes, our division is right in there waving red towels). A shout out has to be given to Madhouse Creative from Toledo, Ohio. They produced and directed the video. Just fabulous people to work with. (

Without further ado…. and in the spirit of this campaign, I’ll let WKU seize the day and be efficient with every single rhyme and each and every thank-you - 202,000,000 of them.

Theresa Clark, WKU Senior Research Analyst, APRA MidSouth

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Wide Open Spaces

When researching a prospect, I often look first for real estate assets.  I search to find how many homes, vacation homes, or condominiums a prospects owns.  Occasionally I find that a prospect owns numerous acres of land or a ranch in another state.  One real estate source that highlights these hefty land owners and
large tracts of land is The Land Report.  

As a visual person, I have a great appreciation for this resource.  The publication provides news, information, and photos on American land and land owners.  The source highlights noteworthy sales of land, farms, and ranches, and it includes upcoming auctions of large lots of land.  The monthly newsletters include a list of the top ten rural land listings.  It is a helpful resource to keep up with current trends outside of residential holdings.  

The Land Report website allows you to look at back issues of the publication.  Each year the publication updates a list of the top 100 landowners in the country.  The leader of the 2011 list is John Malone, who owns 2,200,000 acres of land.  I am still amazed by that number.  

Melissa Sridaromont, Secretary, APRA MidSouth

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Covering New Territory: Prospect Research in China

A couple months ago, a few of our key leaders decided to make a little tour around China to meet with donors.  Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?! I thought so, too. Until they asked for research…. Research folks in China?! Where to even start?

On a day-to-day basis, I use a pretty extensive arsenal of resources for my work. They are tried, true, and as it turns out, completely useless for researching folks in China. Oh dear.  In quick-like fashion, I needed to find some new “tried and true” resources. Oh yeah, and on the cheap! Since this was a first-round trip, it didn’t make sense to pay for something we might not be using again. So like any good researcher, I took to the Internets in search of some comprehensive – but free – resources. Here’s a little of what I found and some advice on researching your Chinese prospects… you know, now that I’m an expert. (Totally kidding.)

* Before we start, please note that some of the links below are in Chinese. These webpages are easily translated through Google Translate, BabelFish, or something similar.

General Searching
  • I started my international search like I start everything in life: with Google. So, start there. But, keep going! Google only carries 23% of market share for Chinese Internet search engines. I had great returns using Baidu, which has around 73%. The site searches more than 740 million web pages, 80 million images, 10 million multimedia files and Baidu Baike, an online collaboratively built encyclopedia. If you want to keep going, also try Sina, which caters largely to the global Chinese community and often produces unique results, and Hudong, which is like a Chinese Wikipedia.

Biographical Information
  • Hands-down my favorite site for biographical information is China Vitae, which profiles more than 4,000 (and counting!) leaders in Chinese government, politics, military, education, business, and the media. Profiles are lengthy and include biographies, detailed career information, and recent travel/speaking appearances. For those familiar with American-based Leadership Directories, the format is very similar.
  • If your prospect is prominent enough to be listed on wealth/philanthropy lists, they typically have a great amount of information. A couple of favorites: Hurun Report, International Who’s Who (which isn’t free, but we have a subscription through our library), and various lists by Forbes, Fortune, and Asia, Inc. (Note: I searched my prospects’ name – or part of it – along with “Forbes,” etc. in a search engine to see what came up. Lists are also available by going to the individual sites, which is probably a better method. Ahem…. Moving on.)
  • A wonderful way to find biographical information is through the use of social media. After all, this is information that an individual has put out there themselves! The four main social media sites in China are 1), a professional platform with the look and feel of LinkedIn; 2) Sina Weibo, a micro-blogging site similar in form and market saturation to Twitter; 3) Sina Quing, a light-blogging site that enhances Sina Weibo and operates similarly to Tumblr; and 4) RenRen, which is most similar to Facebook and requires key information such college, high school, and hometown to establish a profile. All fabulous, but I’m a sucker for Ushi… If you’ve been reading this blog long, you know we APRA MidSouthers love LinkedIn, or anything like it!

Business Information
  • I’ve fallen hard for Investor Relations Asia Pacific (or IRASIA). The database is searchable by company name or stock ticker, and it provides business profiles, including annual reports, stock information, insider information, etc. (Sigh, eyelash bat…)
  • The old love of my life was (maybe still is…) Hoover’s. Did you know Hoover’s is searchable by geography?! Sure enough! The company’s database is easily broken down by country and then region. Even if your company isn’t listed, this is still a great way to do some benchmarking.
  • I also had great luck with business media sites like Reuters Investor and Bloomberg. Both have sections specifically geared toward Asian markets and are great resources for general information and targeted searching.
  • Note: This is one area where paid resources/subscriptions can definitely help. Sources such as LexisNexis, OneSource, Merchant Online, Factiva Companies/Markets, and the Asian Company Handbook all have great information for Asian companies and business leaders. We already have subscriptions to some of these, and I was able to use the others through our local business library. (#librariesforever!)

Wealth Indicators
  • Compensation came surprisingly easy. There are several great salary surveys online: Robert Walters Global Salary Survey 2012 (in downloadable pdf) and Gemini Personnel, which is great for those hard to find middle-level employees. Where it made sense, I also benchmarked with American companies to see what a person would be compensated here (for example, if they just recently moved to China for a promotion, etc.)
  • Real estate was a little more difficult. I essentially used what I knew (an address) and found out what flats would rent/sell for in those areas using various real estate firms. The search functions of Colliers International and CB Richard Ellis were particularly helpful. For Hong Kong, I had great luck with HongKongHomes and LuxeHomes, though there are a ton of similar sites out there.
  • Art Collection. Did you know in 2011, China overtook the U.S. to become the world’s largest art and antiques market in terms of auction and dealer sales? According to CNN, it’s true. The China Guardian and Beijing Poly, as well as standard favorites Christie’s and Sotheby’s, are very easy to search.
  • The climate of philanthropy in China is FASCINATING. If you haven’t researched it yet, I HIGHLY suggest it for your own knowledge/enjoyment. But, that’s the dork in me, and that’s a post for another time. Today, you want to know how to find information on Chinese charities. So, I give you: China Foundation Center, a searchable databases of private foundations in China. Think Foundation Directory Online. I have also heard good things about GrantMakers Online, though I didn’t have great returns there. Maybe next time!
  • For Hong Kong specifically, try WiseGiving, a searchable database for public charities and foundations with the similar feel of Guidestar.

News Sources

So, that’s it from me! If you have a minute and want to keep this party going, take a virtual wander and meet some folks who are doing amazing things in international prospect research: 1) Beth Bandy at International Fundraising Intelligence. Seriously, I bow down. I don’t know her, but she’s awesome. And, so is her blog. She also has a guide for prospect research in China that looks amazing and reasonably priced. If our leadership continues to travel there, we’ll definitely be purchasing it! 2) The folks in the Stanford University Development Research department. Their list of resources is amazing. They also have links to old APRA presentations and resources for other parts of the globe. I definitely bookmarked it and will be visiting again. Thank you!

For those of you who have been at this a little longer, what resources do you find helpful?? Leave us a comment and let us know! Or, if you would like to chat off-line, find me on LinkedIn.

Angie Stapleton, Vice President, APRA MidSouth