By Gil Israeli, Director of Prospect Research and Senior Writer, American Technion Society
Infiltrate? Such a strong word. But let’s ask: Has your organization succeeded at leveraging prospect research – specifically, you – in its drive to cultivate donors?
Do you know this maxim: There’s truth in every stereotype. So, is it possible that a few of your colleagues view you (the prospect researcher) as introspective, a bit on the social-periphery at work , a person that merely looks up data, and happy in your cog-like position in the organization? This is harsh stuff. Still, I must say, I’ve heard some of this over the years and prospect researcher colleagues have shared their similar experiences with me.
Us knowledge workers earn our living in a world that is supported by stereotyping behavior. Ours is a fast-moving society, especially one in which our non-profit employment has been so shaped and streamlined by technology for each one of us so that our identities have also been shaped to yield the fastest and (ideally) loqest-cost paths to revenue. We stereotype to create a quick shorthand to navigate social situations, especially immediate short-lived ones. Even worse, stereotyping becomes entrenched in our long-term memory, especially in recurring situations, with years of work in rigid bueracratic organizations where the hierachy of job functions becomes the over-riding definer of who you are as an employee and, perhaps also a person. Then there are the secondary desciptors of a worker’s qualities. Are you a collaborator? Are you a mentor? Or, are you mainly defined by a handful of functions: the prospect researcher or grant writer and so on. We all know that this may extend to the point such that the stereotype eclipses your individuality, your creative ideas, and the opportunities you have for growing beyond your position.
Let’s all look beyond stereotypes. Fundraisers are not just just salesmen. They can have a sensitivity to human behavior, language, and people’s needs that can somewhat resemble those of a psychiatrist. Usually, they are not intellectuals (most intellectuals want to spend their time in the world of ideas, learning, teaching, doing research and writing), while the fundraiser is interested in one main application. Unlike the psychiatrist, their business goal is to lead the prospect to make a financial gift. The sensitivies and subtleties of achieving this requires its own skill set and you can’t learn this through a book or seminar.
What about prospect researchers?
I’d like to make some observations about how you can grow in your organization beyond your desk, beyond looking up data, and be welcomed as a voice in your fundraising operation.
Perhaps you may not yet have the opportunity to be present at Major Gift Management meetings. The meeting is a staple of all organizations with genuine major gifts programs. (Not those that occasionally raise major gifts.) In this context – in this meeting, fundraisers and management meet to discuss a slate of key prospects, those that are being actively solicited for these major gifts and those that are in earlier stages of cultivation. Depending on your organization, you may not be involved in this meeting, may be involved in a token way or may have a much stronger role from the perspective of contributing through prospect management.
How do you get inside that room? (How does anyone?) Prove your value.
Here are ten actions… Read more