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