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How To Infiltrate Major Gifts Management Meetings

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By Gil Israeli, Director of Prospect Research and Senior Writer, American Technion Society

If you’re a prospect researcher who doesn’t attend major gift management meetings, read on… If you attend these meetings without a prospect researcher, read on… for you can certainly benefit from the researcher’s contribution and help promote his or her attendance.

Your organization may be relatively new to leveraging prospect research in its drive to cultivate donors. Likewise, you (as researcher) may not yet have the opportunity to be present at these key meetings where major gift prospects are reviewed. The major gifts management meeting is a staple of all organizations with genuine major gifts programs. In this context, fundraisers and management meet to discuss a slate of key prospects – those that are being actively solicited for these 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 prospect management.

Here are ten actions that may help you get invited to these meetings and also promote your participation in them:

1. Start with the mundane: schedule the meetings, ensuring that the numerous persons are available.

2. Be the gopher that organizes the agenda: gather prospect names from fundraisers and management.

3. Set up the technology (projector, etc) for display purposes. Provide on-the-spot display of database information at these meetings.

4. Prepare materials for these meetings: the lists, prospect research for specific cases, RFM analysis for all names and RFM analysis for the group.

5. In advance, conduct special research as necessary, e.g., benchmarking a company, analyzing stock holdings, estimating the gross income of a medical practice, etc.

6. Provide on-the-fly research during the meeting. Open additional browser windows along with your database program to provide access to your research tools.

7. Be alert to cases when more data is needed and be ready to do the research – immediately after the meeting.

8. Provide specifically targeted proactive research for each meeting, which you can briefly present and review.

9. Take copious notes at the meeting. In other words, be the organizational memory, so that you’re the go-to person when someone needs to recall a detail.

10. Provide post-meeting action notes in which you briefly summarize the key status of each prospect and next actions for cultivation in each case. Distribute to participants.

So, that’s how to get invited to major gifts management meetings by providing information. Of course, many fundraising organizations that manage a much larger number of prospects have gone beyond this and evolved to incorporate prospect management as part of their operation. In these cases, the research function also includes monitoring and helping to manage fundraisers’ portfolios so that they can optimize their time and energy. As Armando Zumaya discusses in his article – My Letter To Your Vice President – this involves a fairly progressive redefinition of the role of the researcher in your organization.

As the researcher, in these meetings, pick your moments carefully and, gradually, your organization will come to appreciate the added value and insights that research brings to the overall fundraising process.

Your other serious benefit is that by being present you get to listen to your colleagues and learn about the workings of other parts of your organization, particularly the process by which major gifts fundraising and management strategize their way to successful solicitations.

At this point, I’ll reasonably reflect on the Japanese proverb: “Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare.” Prospect research provides the vision which makes fundraising pragmatic and potentially efficacious. Reliable data rises above opinion and educated guesses. In a business in which major gifts fundraising involve a long-term process and frequent detours on the way, the best we can say is – potentially efficacious. Time tells.

Be an asset! Be proactive!

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One Comment Post a comment
  1. A nice piece ! It’s super sad this is so needed ! Major Gifts prospects being discussed without a Prospect Research and Management staffer as a key part of the team, not just in the room.

    October 7, 2015

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