Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Between Campaigns: An Update on Our Work

I wrote a blog post in October 2012 about the plans WKU’s mighty Prospect Research team of two created to carry us forward in the interim between campaigns.

So today I thought I’d give an update on how it’s going.  Maybe some of these ideas would be useful for your shop.  And if you have any ideas on what has made your shop and processes more efficient and your development officers happy, please share!
  1. Assessing our resources, methods and procedures.  Cheryl Kugler, Director of Prospect Research and I (the Senior Research Analyst at WKU), had a team retreat.  Just the two of us?  You bet!  We left our office for a conference room in another building on campus and set up like a retreat for 10.  It was so productive and helpful!  And fun! (If you’re going to get away from your regular routine, you might as well have a little fun, right?) Not only did this give us time to focus, we were able to be creative, extrapolate beyond our normal boundaries and establish timelines and goals….something we don’t normally do in our weekly meetings.
  2. We have established monthly meetings with each development officer to discuss their portfolios and their research needs.  This not only helps the officer and their researcher focus on the work but creates team cohesion and investment.  In addition to the monthly meetings, we have established quarterly reviews.  This meeting gives us a chance to really dig into each development officer’s portfolio to assess prospect stages and assignments and anything else that will help the development officers have a clean and manageable portfolio.
  3. To help in managing those portfolios, we have removed prospects with no activity or no recent activity (meaning during the last campaign) from the development officers’ portfolios.  Reviewing the prospect lists and getting the numbers under control has definitely lifted a burden from the development officers. When you go from 400 to 250 (even though the latter is still too large) at least you feel management and assessment can be accomplished. 
  4. Our new prospect rating tool has been a great help in identifying the best prospects in each officer’s pool.  Although it is a relatively new tool, it has become one of our go-to identifiers when rating prospects for development officer travel, within colleges and for special projects  And,  we have incorporated it into several of our established reports as a sorting tool to help bubble up top prospects.
  5. We have also worked on creating new codes to track our prospect research work as well as our database management work.  These codes were established not only to help us, but so the development officers understand how long prospect may have been identified and or have been sitting in their portfolios.  Sometimes tracking this kind of information and making it part of the database process seems like “one more thing” and slows down the work pace.  But now that we’ve got it as part of the routine and procedure, we can already measure the benefits.  So, we’ll keep doing it.
  6. We are continuing to create reports and revise current ones so information is clearly and concisely available to the development officers about their portfolios.  Some of these reports are pushed to their e-mail inboxes.  Along with these reports we are documenting everything – policies, procedures, illustrations and instructions – in notebook form and on a new internal network (Intranet) so they can be easily found and revised. 
I wanted to give this update as it highlights a lot of the “other kind of work” that we have to do as prospect researchers and managers.  Yes, it may seem like a lot of time consuming “busy work.”  However, if we can get the work flowing smoothly for all parties involved – managing the process so it doesn’t manage us – then we researchers will be freed up to do the thing we like to do best: finding those golden prospect nuggets that lead to the next big gift!

Theresa Clark, Vice President, APRA MidSouth

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