Thursday, June 28, 2012

Family Wisdom

My grandfather is one of the most upstanding human beings I have ever met.  Since I was a little girl, I have always felt I could never in a million years soak up enough of his wisdom.  When he speaks, I listen. 

One of his favorite reminders to his children and grandchildren has stayed with me throughout the years.  “Before you open your mouth,” he would say, “ask yourself these three questions – is it true?, is it kind?, and will it help?  If the answer is not ‘yes’ to all three, keep it to yourself.”

The deeper I dive into the field of prospect research, the more I realize that this advice holds true in our work as well.  Before I send information to a gift officer, I like to ask myself my grandfather’s three questions.

Is it true? – If there is any question of a source’s validity, have I cross-checked against other resources?  Is information volunteered by peers or development officers able to be verified using public information?  If not, depending on the significance of the information, I may mention it with a disclaimer that it could not be verified.  Otherwise, I may remove the information altogether.

Is it kind? – There are varying schools of thought when it comes to this concept.  I do believe we need to provide the best, most comprehensive information possible to our gift officers.  However, if there is sensitive information to share such as bankruptcy, criminal filings, or domestic troubles, I seriously evaluate the most appropriate way to share this information.  Obviously, it should always be shared in a way that is confidential and fact-based.  Sometimes it may be most appropriate to say something “off record” about such topics.  Different people have different ideas about how this information should be handled; the point is, we should never villainize our constituents.

Will it help? – This one is my favorite.  Although the prospect research application is slightly different than what my grandfather originally had in mind, the concept remains the same:  will this add something to the conversation?  As researchers we come across a great deal of information.  However, whenever possible, it is our role to filter this information into what will help the gift officer hone in on philanthropic interests and capacity.  Sometimes we don’t know what will help until we are elbow-deep in a project – it’s hard to know when a board of directors for a small organization halfway across the country will wind up being the link between a prospect and one of our trustees.  If nothing else, it is our role to highlight these things that “help.”
What do you think?  Do these questions shed any new light on your work?  Do you have any other simple mantras that guide your daily efforts? 

Caroline Rossini, Treasurer, APRA MidSouth

1 comment:

  1. When I do presentations, I boil it down to one: will the information deepen the donor prospect relationship? But I really like your three questions. Could your grandfather have been a Rotarian? His questions are very similar to the 4-way test. Somehow three questions are easier to remember than four though. Here is the 4-way test:

    Is it the TRUTH?
    Is it FAIR to all concerned?
    Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?