By chris

6 Steps to a Successful CRM Strategy

In an effort to bring our readers the best information available on prospect research and its surrounding topics, we like to sometimes highlight posts from outsides blogs that provide valuable insights and information regarding the nonprofit sector. Today we’re featuring one of those posts. 6 Steps to a Successful CRM Strategy initially appeared on Andar/360’s blog. You can check out the original version here!  This article was written by Real Bedard, President of Helix Ltd

6 Steps to a Successful CRM Strategy

1: Collect Information

Names, addresses, employer, cell numbers, email addresses, communication preferences, gifts, pledges, payments, formal/nicknames, relationships between accounts, demographics, competitive giving,… the list goes on and on. Information is everywhere and it can all be extremely valuable when getting to know your constituents. To be useful, information needs to be organized and categorized, and put in the right place. Most CRM systems are flexible and can store a variety of information. Get to know where things go. Your organization should have some data standards so everyone stores information in the same place. If you enter it in yourself, it will help you know how to get it out. Information management is NOT something to be delegated.

2: Log Communications

Every single interaction with every constituent should be logged. This includes e-mails, telephone, text messages, face-to-face visits, and all other communication methods. If a conversation mentions or involves a third person, then that third person should also be linked in the communication log. This is by far the simplest and most difficult task in any CRM strategy. It is simple to do but unfortunately, it requires very strong self-discipline. There are many benefits to logging communications. It documents the state of the relationship. It also greatly reduces the risks involved with staff turnover. Anyone on staff will be able to pickup the relationship where it left off. Considering the staff turnover levels in nonprofits, this process delivers benefits far beyond just a CRM strategy, it’s often critical to the survival of the organization.

3: Summarize into Notes

Although communication logs are critical to track what was said and any required follow up, they may be challenging to get a quick overview of a constituent. That’s why professional fundraisers will regularly review their constituent information, including communication logs, interests, social media, and other sources, and write a summary of the constituent into a single concise note. In some cases separate notes can be used to summarize a biography of the constituent, the relationship status, and the strategy going forward.

4: Use your Information

Collecting information is great but the benefits really kick in when the information is actually used. So, before any interaction with a constituent, it is critical to review your notes in order to understand your current relationship with the constituent. That knowledge will assist you to move the relationship forward instead starting at square one every time. Information can also be used to personalize your automated communications. If you know your constituent’s interests, you can add messages of interest in your newsletter, thank you letter, tax receipt, etc. Your marketing team can analyze your information to maximize returns from your messages.

5: Use Plans, Tasks and Move Management

CRM consists of three pillars: People, Process, and Technology. This is where process comes in. Henry Ford discovered almost exactly 100 years ago that a well defined process (assembly line) can dramatically increase productivity. Much of what an organization does is systematic, highly repetitive and can be documented. But documentation by itself is not very useful. These process steps should be entered into your CRM system so your staff can be guided along the process without missing a step or worse, missing some constituents. Your CRM system can also perform some tasks automatically, on schedule, without human intervention. Move Management is a little more “fuzzy.” This process guides you as you “move” your constituent along the path from non-donor to donor. This process is usually not very well defined and varies greatly from one constituent to another. Prospect codes can track your constituent’s progress along this relationship building continuum.

6: Measure and Improve

Once the above steps are implemented, you can begin to measure your performance. How many constituents are engaged? What communication methods yield the best results? Which donors are increasing their gifts? Which ones are not? What tasks should be improved? What fundraising strategies work best? What donor segments raise the most money? The truth is in the numbers. This is where your organization can strategically plan for the future and have the data to prove it works.

By chris

[Guest Post] How to Utilize Social Insights for Prospect Research

DonorSearch always aims to provide the best content available regarding prospect research and the broader nonprofit space. As such, we welcome guest contributors occasionally to mix things up here at our blog and provide new perspectives. Today, we’re happy to share a post by Solina Powell of EverTrue.

How to Utilize Social Insights for Prospect Research

While some workplaces frown upon employees spending their time on sites like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook, those working in prospect research should be encouraged to invest their time in these platforms. Social media has become an increasingly valuable tool for gathering insights on donors. As donors shift their lives online, small actions such as “liking” a post on Facebook or updating a LinkedIn job title can say a lot about a person’s affinity and capacity. Equipped with social insights, your organization can build stronger relationships with constituents and foster more philanthropic giving. Spend some time collecting social data to help tell a story about your prospects. Here are some key strategies to harness the power of social media for more dynamic prospect research.

LinkedIn: Connect and Contact

Are your fundraisers tired of bounced emails or wasted paper mailings? Is your donor database littered with old AOL emails, home addresses, and job titles? LinkedIn is a great solution. While it is unlikely constituents will update your nonprofit with every career change throughout their lives, chances are they’re updating these personal details on LinkedIn. For any prospect researcher, LinkedIn should be key to maintaining comprehensive donor information on employment, location, contact details, causes they care about, and more. =&0=&

Facebook: Build Deeper Friendships

Leveraging the wealth of information on Facebook will help you develop a more in-depth picture of a donor or potential donor. As your organization posts updates, pictures, and videos to its Facebook page, you should take note of who is engaging with that content. Studies show that there is a positive correlation between social engagement and giving participation, so the more socially engaged a prospect, the more likely they are to give. Who is “liking” or commenting on your content? What content are they engaging most with? Facebook is a valuable tool to help assess a prospect’s relationship with your organization, ultimately allowing your fundraising office to develop more targeted strategies. =&0=&
  • Uncover new and/or engaged prospects by identifying those giving your content a “thumbs up.”
  • Prioritize engaged prospects and learn what events, causes, or initiatives they value to help your fundraisers make more informed asks.
  • Millennials make up the largest proportion (22%) of the 1.44 billion active monthly user Facebook population. Thus, Facebook is a helpful avenue through which to gauge their affinity to your nonprofit by analyzing what they “like” and what they don’t.
Prospect researchers are tasked with the challenging responsibility of understanding people whom they initially know little or nothing about. By adding social data into your suite of tools (while abiding by the APRA Social Media Ethics Statement, of course), you’ll be able to craft better stories about prospects and set up your fundraisers for success.    This is a guest contribution by Solina Powell of EverTrue, a Boston-based company empowering 300+ nonprofits with social donor management software. Check out the

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By chris

[Guest Post] Starting off on the Right Foot: How to Find Great Grant Opportunities for Your Nonprofit

DonorSearch’s blog mostly focuses on prospect research, but we sometimes like to explore other topics in the nonprofit sector. Guest written by Megan Hill, CEO and Founder of Professional Grant Writer, this article shares valuable insights into prospect research for grant writing. 

Starting off on the Right Foot: How to Find Great Grant Opportunities for Your Nonprofit

Grant writing can be an overwhelming undertaking, even if you’re a seasoned grant seeker. One of the most important steps in the process is simply identifying which grantmakers are a good fit for your nonprofit. Each grantmaker – whether a governmental agency or a family foundation – has their own worldview that informs their approach to making grants. Some focus on the environment, with specific goals of preserving endangered species, or cleaning up after oil spills. Others run homeless shelters, fund after school programs, or provide medical services to underserved communities. So, one of the first steps, before you even write a grant, is simply matching your nonprofit’s programs, activities, and goals with certain grantmakers. And the way to do this is through extensive grant prospect research. Most grant prospect research takes place on the Internet. Many grant writers use subscription-based databases like The Foundation Directory Online from the Foundation Center – this is the single most comprehensive database of foundations and corporations and allows a user to search more than 140,000 entries by location, size, subject area, and more. By carefully adjusting these search terms, you’ll find a strong list of potential prospects. From there, these prospects need to be whittled down into the strongest matches. You can do that by clicking on each entry and reading more about the grantmaker. You can also find contact information, grant application guidelines and deadline information, 990s, board information, and see whether they have a website to learn more. It’s important to read through all of this information carefully and thoroughly. It can take a lot of time, but that time investment will pay dividends if you identify the best funders to approach. Writing a grant is time consuming, too, so the more heavy lifting you do at the prospect research phase, the more time you’ll save later on by not sending applications to funders that don’t align with your work. Be on the lookout for information on the funder’s worldview. They may have detailed guidelines buried in their 990, for example, or written out in detail on their website. You can—and should—contact the grantmaker to learn more about what they’re funding and get questions answered before you apply. And by reading up on past grantees, you can gain insight into what they’ve funded in the past and how much money they typically give per grant. All of this informs your approach, and without this careful research, you’re flying blind when it comes to writing the grant. Megan Hill is the CEO and Founder of Professional Grant Writer. She has written grants as both an in-house grant writer and a consultant. A writer by trade, Megan draws on her passion for service and nonprofit work with her skills as a writer. Find Megan on Twitter — @ProGrantWriter.   

By chris

What is Wealth Screening?

This post was written by Ryan Woroniecki, Vice President of Strategic Partnerships at DonorSearch.

When those in fundraising think of wealth screening they think of prospect research and vice versa. The two methods of learning about giving candidates are often mistaken for interchangeable terms. Well, they’re not.

Prospect research is an umbrella term that encompasses the entire field of investigating potential donors to better understand their giving tendencies. Wealth screening is under that umbrella and helps to predict those often mysterious and elusive donor giving tendencies

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By donorsearch

What is Planned Giving?

There are certain feelings that cannot be replicated, like finding a $20 bill in your jacket from last winter or worrying about what to have for lunch and then remembering you have leftovers from dinner out the night before. There’s nothing quite like finally experiencing the benefits of something that was put into action long ago. Planned gifts accomplish that for nonprofits. Donations from planned giving can have a major impact on organizations’ yearly fundraising. But they are largely under-utilized, particularly in the United States. Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s backtrack and cover the basics, starting with something you have to know for any more of this to make sense…the definition of planned giving.

Definition of Planned Giving

Planned gifts are purposefully timed. No, they don’t have an expiration date, but, actually, they have quite the opposite — activation dates. Planned, or deferred, giving refers to a supporter’s decision to allocate funds to donate at a future date, typically years away and, most commonly, at death. There are a few things to note about that definition. Although there are some minor differences between planned and deferred giving, for the purposes of this article they will be used interchangeably. Planned gifts are exactly as they sound, planned. They are usually granted through wills or trusts, and they can even encompass something like leaving property to an organization. For instance, a supporter of an environmental organization might choose to leave his land to the organization for its use.

How Does it Work?

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By chris

[Guest Post] Prospect Research Metrics and ROI

Guest Post by Margaret King, Founder/President of InfoRich Group, Inc. Recently, I asked Prospect Researchers to complete a brief survey to help me understand how they measure the value of the work they perform.  The survey consisted of four questions:
  1. What are the top three criteria used by management to evaluate your performance?
  2. What are the top five metrics used to place a value on or showcase your department’s prospect research efforts to senior management?
  3. What top three metrics would you like to add within the next 12 to 24 months to help place a value on or showcase your department’s prospect research efforts to senior management?
  4. What are the top three criteria used by management to evaluate the Gift Officer’s performance?

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By donorsearch

18 Crucial Pieces of Data for Your Next Prospect Profile

Have you ever been asked the quintessential superpower question…would you rather be able to read minds or fly? I know what fundraisers would answer. Read minds. It would make their jobs a lot simpler. Fundraisers are constantly busy and constantly being pulled in a thousand directions. It is not an easy job, but it is a satisfying one. For every dollar brought in by the development team, that is another dollar that can go towards fulfilling an organization’s mission. A fundraiser has to be able to connect with and anticipate the needs of a donor prospect. Reading minds would certainly help with that. Since reading minds isn’t possible (yet), prospect research is the next best thing. Prospect research gives nonprofit employees a well-rounded understanding of donors: what influences them, what their donation capacities are, and what the likelihood of them donating is. Prospect research helps build out and fill in donor profiles. Those nonprofit prospect profiles are going to range from comprehensive to minimal.

We’ve compiled a list the 18 crucial pieces of data to include in your donor profiles.

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By chris

The Quintessential Guide to Interviewing a Prospect Researcher

Ah, the tricky business of interviewing. It is difficult in any field, as both the interviewer and the interviewee. The person doing the interviewing has the challenging job of balancing selling the position and assessing the skill-set of the potential employee. And, well, we all feel for the potential employee. Who hasn’t arrived way too early for an interview only to sit in your car for twenty minutes until you’re ‘appropriately’ early? Or, who doesn’t leave an interview and then just play the discussion ad infinitum for the foreseeable future? Okay, so maybe I’m projecting my own anxieties, at least slightly. But, truthfully, interviews and the hiring process can just be incredibly stressful for all involved. If you’re looking to hire a prospect researcher, you want to ensure you’re hiring the best candidate. Prospect research can be hugely beneficial for fundraising organizations, but those organizations need to have the right resources and people in the place to help steer their efforts in the right direction. This guide is designed to lead you through the prospect researcher interviewing process. Approach the interview with a solid knowledge of what the researcher’s place will be in your organization and what will be expected of him or her, so that you can best cater your questions to determining if he or she is the right fit.

Prior to the Interview

You’ll want to assess the current state of your organization’s prospect research before any candidates walk through the door. Think through the following questions:
  • Do you already have a system of prospect research in place?
  • Will the new staffer be establishing a new system?
  • Who will the researcher be working with?
  • What tools will you provide to aid the position (i.e., services from a prospect screening company, like DonorSearch)?
Once you’re apprised of your current research situation, you should then go about curating a prospect researcher qualities wish list. Think of this list as a driving outline of a prospect researcher job posting.

Creating a Prospect Researcher Qualities “Wish List”

These preferences will vary depending on your answers to the above questions, but, in general, contenders for the job should be:
  • Researchers first and foremost (if this is an entry-level position, look for evidence of research skills in academia).
  • Inquisitive and willing to chase down donor data.
  • Proficient with databases.
  • Effective oral and written communicators.
  • Comfortable multi-tasking.
  • Able to work independently and as part of a team.
  • Understand the inner-workings of fundraising.
  • Discreet and capable of handling confidential and personal information.
When you know what your organization needs from a prospect researcher, it’s time to get to interviewing.

The Interview

For the purposes of this discussion we’ll be breaking our recommended interview questions into three categories:
  1. General
  2. Place in the Team
  3. Prospect Research
Once we get to prospect research, we’ll cover both questions for entry-level candidates and those applying for higher-level positions.

#1: General

Every good interviewer needs to do a basic personality and general assessment of the interviewee. These are what we’d consider the universal questions slightly skewed to nonprofits.
  • What appeals to you about the role?
  • What is your understanding of the position?
  • Why do you want to work for a nonprofit?
  • How would you explain our mission to a potential donor?
  • Where do you see yourself in a year, three years, five years, etc.?
  • Who is your professional role model?
  • What nonprofit, besides this one, do you think has an impressive fundraising model?
  • Tell us about a time when a professional project went badly and how you handled it.
  • How would you handle a disagreement with your supervisor?
This list could go on and on. Try to find a good mix of easier questions, designed as a point of entry, and more specific, challenging ones. It also never hurts to throw in one or two fun ones that reveal more about the applicant’s personality — like, what’s your favorite television show?

#2: Place in the Team

Whoever you hire is going to be working closely with your entire development staff. The new staff member might have other prospect researchers to work with or have to coordinate with communications staff. A successful nonprofit runs like an engine, multiple parts working side by side, fulfilling a common goal. A prospect researcher can’t simply be database bound, head in a computer all day. Researchers have to have good chemistry with your team. You’ll need to dedicate a line of questions towards this, such as:
  • Tell us about a time when you had a bad experience working with a team.
  • Tell us about a time when you had a great experience working with a team.
  • How do you balance the needs of multiple people?
  • Would you consider yourself someone who is better as a team member or team leader?
  • How do you prioritize your own tasks and tasks others need assistance with?
Later in the interviewing process, maybe during a second interview, you could introduce the candidate to a few of the staffers whom he or she would be working with daily and get feedback from them, in addition to the supervisor. Additionally, you could have the candidate perform a project where he or she has to work with other members of your team. This allows other people to get to know the candidate a bit better, and you’ll be able to see how the candidate interacts with your existing team.

#3: Prospect Research

These questions are the main course of the interview. You’ll be asking somewhat different questions of those applying to an entry-level versus a higher-level position, but in the end you’re looking for similar qualities and skills. A) Entry-Level Position
  • What is your understanding of the position and the role you would play as an employee?
  • What past experiences have you had with fundraising?
  • What drew you to prospect research?
  • How do you usually perform research, say, for an academic paper?
  • How would you handle prioritizing two important tasks?
  • Do you consider yourself more of a data-driven and detail-oriented or a big picture researcher and analyst?
B) Higher-Level Position
  • Tell us about one success and one failure you’ve had in the past regarding prospect research.
  • What resources do you typically use to perform prospect research?
  • Are you comfortable working in a predetermined system and methodology, or do you have your own established process that you like to stick to?
  • Do you expect to work in a team or individual environment?
  • What is your formula for identifying a top donor prospect?
  • What do you consider to be the most telling details you can discover about a prospect?
The interviewing process for a prospect researcher should not be all too different from any of your other staff positions, especially those in development. As long as you enter the process with a solid understanding of where your prospect research efforts are and where you’d like to see them go, you’ll be able to appropriately evaluate if an interviewee is a good candidate. If you’re new to the field of prospect research, or you’d like a refresher, check out our ultimate guide. Even if you’re hiring a prospect researcher to fill in for your own knowledge gap in the field, you’ll need to know background information in order to properly vet those applying for the job. Bonus tip: Check out this video to learn more about hiring people to work in your nonprofit.

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By chris

[Guest Post] Events as a Donor Cultivation Tool

Here at DonorSearch’s blog, we strive to include the best content we can regarding prospect research and, more broadly, the nonprofit sector. With that goal in mind, we feature posts by guest authors from time to time to bring in a fresh perspective and new ideas. This guest post was written by Samantha Swaim of Swaim Strategies

Events as a Donor Cultivation Tool

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By chris

The Keys to Identifying a Planned Giving Prospect

Some fundraisers feel that scouting for planned giving prospects is a lot like the world’s most difficult game of Where’s Waldo. You know he’s on the page, somewhere, but for the life of you, you cannot find him. The flip side of that situation is, of course, once you find him, you cannot stop seeing him. This post is here to help you find Waldo and then Waldo Jr. and Mrs. Waldo and Waldo III. With prospect research, once you know the characteristics of whom you’re looking for — red and white striped sweater, matching beanie, glasses, blue jeans — you can set out on your mission to identify and solicit those potential planned givers. Identifying a planned (or, deferred) giving prospect is not an exact science. There’s definitely a certain amount of finesse and intuition involved that comes from experience. However, most supporters who make deferred donations fall under a specific subset of characteristics. To fully understand the prospects you’re looking for, it is important to first understand the three main types of planned gifts these supporters could make. Gift type will factor into the traits you’re scanning prospects for.

The three types of planned gift prospects are:

#1: Bequest Prospects These are what you typically think of when you hear planned gifts mentioned. Bequests are allocated in the donors’ wills. They could be lump sums, estates, or a set percentage of the donor’s assets. #2: Charitable Remainder Trust Prospects A charitable remainder trust donation is made after the terms of the trust are complete. In these cases, a trust is established that pays a specified amount annually to set recipients over a fixed period (often times until death). Once the fixed period is complete, the remaining sum of the funds goes to the nonprofit. #3: Charitable Gift Annuity Prospects For these gifts, donors gift a large sum of funds to a nonprofit. The nonprofit then pays the donor a set income from that sum yearly until the donor passes away. When the donor is no longer alive, the remaining funds go to the nonprofit. As you can probably tell, in order to fall into prospects two and three territories, the person would have to be wealthy. However, a donor does not have to be incredibly wealthy to make a bequest. In fact, there’s a common misconception that planned givers are all inherently wealthy. As you’ll see when we break down the various traits of these prospects, that is definitely not always the case. We place the identifying factors of planned givers into two buckets:
  1. Cause Connectors
  2. Statistical Inclinations

Bucket #1: Cause Connectors

By cause connectors, I’m referring to evidence of a connection to your organization. Legacy is a major concern for those leaving planned gifts, and donors want to have a legacy at an organization that they truly care about. You simply don’t make a major planned gift haphazardly. Consider these four connectors: (A) Frequent Donations And the no-brainer award goes to…frequent donations. It is highly probable that a past donor will become a future donor. Loyal donors are planned giving candidates. How do you measure donor loyalty? Well, you see how frequently they donate and how long they have been doing so. For this point, the donation amount is not nearly as important as the act of donating is. (B) Conviction in Your Mission This goes hand-in-hand with frequent donations. Logically, if someone is consistently contributing, they support your mission. Even if someone hasn’t been a regular donor, there are other ways to demonstrate conviction in your mission, like volunteerism. (C) Desire to Give a Larger Gift than is Currently Realistic Point C puts the possibilities of points A  and B in perspective. A supporter who has been a volunteer for years or gives small donations annually has a demonstrated desire to help your cause. Many charitable people are not wealthy enough to be major gift donors, planned giving is almost a loophole to get around financial limitations. If your annual income isn’t such that you have the spare finances to make major gifts, you can put a bequest to your favorite charity in your will, and give your remaining funds when you no longer need them. (D) Positively Affected by Your Organization’s Work A candidate in this category could be a recipient of your services, like a grateful patient. Basically, this comes down to someone who has tangibly experienced the potency of your mission. The best method of acquiring these types of prospects is to continue the good work of your organization.

Bucket #2: Statistical Inclinations

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