Here at Target Analytics, our high-touch modeling team asks our clients to rate where they are with a prospect management system.  The four answers vary from no formal system in place to a well-oiled machine.  Over the coming weeks, I will explore a few ideas within each stage of the four possible answers.

The first rating choice is “Level 1,” and this rating means that the organization does not have a formalized prospect management system in place.  Now the ideas and possibilities can be overwhelming, so if your organization is contemplating a system, I would like to suggest considering a couple ideas listed below so that you can start moving towards a system to manage relationships with your prospects on an individual basis in a more effective manner:

1)  There may be multiple reasons your organization doesn’t have a system in place, such as:

  • Your CRM fundraising system doesn’t have a module you can purchase for this.
  • You don’t have a formalized fundraising database.
  • You don’t have the budget to purchase either of the above.
  • You don’t have a formalized major and/or planned gifts program.

Whatever the reason, if you are embarking on more formalized major and/or planned gifts program or campaign and wish to track your portfolio(s) of prospects for larger gifts, then start with an Excel spreadsheet.  Yes… this is not a misprint… an Excel spreadsheet.  I have clients who do this, and do so successfully given that they do not have any other alternative to a formalized system.  Listing your prospect IDs, names, status or stage (what we call “moves”) of where you are at with them, any contacts you have made, gift purpose (i.e., capital campaign or expenditure), expected gift amount, expected gift date, and next steps is a start.  If everything is only in your head, then “institutional memory” does not exist, thus no one can pick up where you left off if the situation should arise.

This is just a starting point, and if you have someone who knows how to enter in data and manage an Access database, that might be an even better solution as you can query on and produce reports in that system, so it is a database vs. a spreadsheet of information.  Either way, it is better than not having any system in place.

2)  If you have a tab or notes section in your fundraising software that allows you to enter in some free text data or add fields of data, then do it! 

The key is making sure you can pull the data out of your system for at least a basic list of the prospects you are managing.  Tracking some data is better than nothing at all, and it provides a way for your fundraisers and organization to at least keep track your prospects given you are most likely talking to more than one or two major gift prospects.

  • Setting up key fields for prospect management stages such as identification, discovery, qualification, cultivation, solicitation, etc. will be helpful, but you may not have the ability to do this.  At some point, I recommend reading my colleague David Lamb’s white paper entitled, The Basics of Prospect Management: Using Prospect Intelligence™ to Achieve Fundraising Results.  Even if you do not read the entire paper, hang onto this or save it as a favorite bookmark, as it will provide some important information for you to reference as you build out your prospect management capabilities in the coming months and years.
  • At a minimum, to get started in utilizing a system of some type, make sure you know what the next steps are.  Forward momentum will be the key to being able to manage workloads as well as keeping on track with each prospect so nothing slips through the cracks.  Successful relationships are built on communication and knowing what your last conversation or touch-point was.  Also keep in mind that emails, tasks, and notes sitting in an individual’s Outlook system is not effective prospect management system for an organization.
  • You should also enter in some level of contact information, so consider at least entering in free text data in a note field.  You may or may not be at the point of putting together formalized contact reports, but at least take a moment to document highlights from a call or meeting.  Again, that all-important institutional memory thing.

My next post will focus on our second prospect management rating… “Level 2,” and this rating involves having  an informal system in place (such as I described above with this blog) with some contact notes completed, some next steps assigned, and minimal actions tracked with less than 50% adoption, so stay tuned!

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