Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Surviving the Swirl of Prospect Research


Sometimes my mind as a Prospect Researcher is in a constant state of swirl. How about you?
When I first joined WKU I came on working part-time in prospect research and part-time in stewardship. It was a good job combo so I could get my feet wet in the world of university fundraising.

Then the Prospect Researcher moved to a position as a Development Officer and I was given the opportunity to move into her spot full-time. I jumped at the chance. And inherited the swirl.
We were in the middle of the silent phase of our current campaign. It was time for a new wealth screening of the database. We were upgrading Advance (then known as BSR) from windows-based to the new Advance Web. We needed to find those major gift prospects. How do we manage and track the prospects – old and new? And…...well, you get the picture.

Yep, talk about a mind swirl. Exciting, interesting, but definitely whirling and swirling to get a hold of it all as I learned to do this thing called “Prospect Research.”

That’s when something great happened in the life of this Prospect Researcher. A group of Prospect Researchers in the middle Tennessee area decided that it was time to go small. APRA National is a great organization – great information, great networking, great opportunities – but a bit overwhelming for a 1 ½ person shop like mine to know where to go for help. And I was not just saying “help” meekly I was yelling it from the rooftops – HELP! (No panic involved –well maybe a little…)

This start-up group of Prospect Researchers based mainly out of Vanderbilt University, realized that the Midsouth (i.e. Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee and Kentucky) needed a networking group to connect Prospect Researchers of all sizes and organizations on a more regional level. A group closer together would make it easier to reach each other, to share information, ideas, and opportunities. And much more.

Can you hear me say “Hallelujah?” I almost ran from Bowling Green to Nashville to join (not really, but it sounds good, right?) In the few years since its formation, I have spent many hours with the APRA MidSouth group. They have shared time, ideas, information, themselves. Honestly, for me and our small shop, it has been a life (and mind swirl) saver.

Looking on the other side of WKU’s A New Century of Spirit Campaign (we finish as of June 30, 2012) I am in the mode of assessing how we made it through, what to change and what to do as we prepare for the next campaign (and that includes the help of a new Director of Prospect Research who just joined us).

One thing I know for sure, that no matter how much mind swirling all this review and reloading brings, my friends at APRA MidSouth have helped prepare me for what comes next. Thanks, guys. Thanks for helping me get through the swirls. And I’m here to help you get through yours.

Theresa Clark, Board Advisor, Western Kentucky University

1 comment:

  1. Jane Spangler, Vanderbilt UniversityApril 19, 2012 at 5:02 PM

    What's so great is how much we've all benefitted from our interactions. Getting to know Theresa (and Beth Clark who used to be in prospect research at WKU) has helped us better understand the challenges of smaller shops. Their involvement and comradery has been invaluable.