Thursday, May 17, 2012

Building Relationships with Gift Officers

One of the challenges of prospect research can be stepping back from our quest for information in order to build relationships with the gift officers we serve. These relationships, however, have as much to do with a successful career in research as does knowing where to find the right information. Here are some ideas to help you expand and develop your relationships with gift officers.

  • Reach out. Playing offense can help you to stay a step ahead. Find out what your gift officer’s priorities are for the month, quarter, or year. Then think of ways you can help him achieve his goals.
  • Ask for clarification. Often a gift officer has something very particular in mind when she asks for research. When appropriate, ask questions to gain a better understanding of what information she wants most. These sorts of clues can help you find better information, narrow your focus, and show you are committed to providing what the gift officer needs. All of this in turn means you provide a better product, and everyone is happier!
  • Stay abreast of travel plans and prospect visits. Finding a way to stay tuned in to your gift officer’s plans will help you to be proactive. If he is travelling to another city, you could suggest a list of prospects he might want to call. If he has a meeting with Mr. Smith, you could do a quick search to see if there has been any news on Mr. Smith recently.
  • Share relevant news stories or articles. Finding news on prospects is extremely helpful to gift officers – knowing the good, the bad, and the ugly helps them to plan strategies for cultivation and solicitation. Even if a gift officer has already seen an article, she will be impressed that you picked up on the connection.
  • Choose your communication method wisely. Email seems to rule our world, especially for those of us who are constantly searching for information online. Picking up the phone can be useful when a complex question needs answering or when it is time for negotiating. Always seek out opportunities for occasional face-to-face contact, too. Finding a balance of these three communication methods will help to keep communication flowing.

These are a few ways to help build relationships with gift officers. What works for you? Leave a comment below.

Caroline Rossini, Treasurer, APRA MidSouth

1 comment:

  1. Stellar piece...I think I would add, being a gift officer that you should help your Gift Officers think of what they really need? Does that make sense? Reach out to hear about priorities, is excellent. But go further. If your gift officer is trying to raise a MG team in Washington DC does he know where the wealth is? Does he have Patent Lawyers in his sites? They are often more lost than they seem. A great tactical and strategic adviser is what I look for in a PR&M staffer, someone who can tell me I am wrong and show me the data.

    Thanks for this piece , I do think APRA spend WAY too much time on the acquisition of data and needs to do more to teach Prospect Research and Management staff to ...lead.

    Armando Zumaya
    Chief Development Officer