In working with some of my clients over the past year, I have to reflect on how important a culture of cooperation is to meaningful and productive implementation of any fundraising program or specific endeavor. I think our most successful clients have thoughtful and clear processes outlined, coupled with open lines of communication between various team members. I guess this culture is important in any organization, whether it be a nonprofit, for-profit, government agency, etc., but the function of prospect research, in particular, needs to be integrated into the entire flow of information when setting up a prospect management plan.
As part of our jobs, prospect researchers, executive leadership, and development officers work to identify potential donors for major gifts. Researchers then take the next step in qualifying this prospect with the necessary tools and skills to create quick profiles for initial calls and/or visits. The researcher then creates comprehensive profiles when the development officer is ready to take it to the next level of cultivation, making sure that these profiles are disseminated to the correct fundraiser(s) involved, and ensuring the data is documented and attached in the system for future reference. Then the development officer continually needs to track and gather information, thus providing this data either directly into the system, or to the centralized prospect research/management operation. This helps ensure that the data is not only being collected, but is done so in a uniform manner, meeting particular standardized data collection methods established by the organization. Gift officers continue to work on soliciting for these major gift, and once the gift is realized, they put together a process of stewardship, thanking the prospect for their gift, and making sure they feel appreciated and informed about the use of the dollars raised.
If at any point in this process the lines of communication are broken, or there is breakdown in the process, then the nonprofit can possibly be at risk for ineffective fundraising practices and operational confusion. I have seen bad feelings arise between team members because a lack of strategic plans, ineffective process management, and the inability of leadership to foster a culture of cooperation, meaning that every team member feels valued and is regarded as an integral part of the fundraising operation. This should be established from the get-go, so if any of these pieces are missing from your organization’s culture, you should look into turning things around. This is not only the responsibility of leadership, but truly all team members should be able to take some stock and ownership in the prevailing culture within their organization.
I see these issues not only in smaller organizations, but in larger more sophisticated offices too, so I encourage all nonprofits to take the time to think through this strategically as a group by respecting all the ideas shared by fellow colleagues. Then it is up to management/executive leadership to take it to the next level by creating a cohesive outline of what needs to be accomplished. This will ensure that your fundraising culture is not only a successful one, but a rewarding part of your professional life as well.
*Carol Belair is a consultant for Target Analytics. You may reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.