6 Tips for Improved Prospect Data Collection

Okay so your organization has a systemized way to manage the process behind identifying, qualifying, cultivating, soliciting, and stewarding your prospects and donors. Congratulations! You are doing something several of the nonprofits I work with on a daily basis are not doing. If you are one of the organizations who does not have a software platform to help you execute on a moves management system, then I highly suggest exploring this option. It will make your life easier so that you can manage the steps and actions necessary in raising money from your major, planned, and maybe even mid-level gift prospects. If you do have a moves management system, then you may be one of many nonprofits out there where the dust is collecting on your investment. With either scenario there are so many ways to get started, so please check out my colleague David Lamb’s white paper entitled, “The Basics of Prospect Management” on the Blackbaud website.

What I’m finding with many organizations where these systems are in place is that one of the missing elements is thoughtful and consistent data collection. The other missing element, which is related to the first element, is providing metrics on your fundraising results as well as the overall process itself. The obvious issue is that without accurate and consistent data entry, one cannot harness accurate results to measure. The key to success is to ensure that all gift officers and related staff are entering in their contact reports (a.k.a. Actions in Raiser’s Edge) in a consistent manner.

Making the assumption that your organization has already made an investment in and has implemented a prospect management system, here are some steps to consider when rolling out this system to help alleviate any anxiety, stress or resistance your gift officers may be experiencing when asking for consistent and relevant data entry:

  • Offer to have training sessions on how to utilize the system, and keep this training concise, leaving out as much technical jargon as possible.  The idea is for gift officers to see this as a useful tool and not a technically difficult software application. One of core competencies of gift officers is the ability to build and maintain meaningful relationships with prospects and donors, not provide information to a system that appears cumbersome to utilize.
  • Give them options to enter information into your prospect management system while on the road (i.e. smart phone, tablet, or laptop), as this provides convenience and ensures that data is entered  in a fresh and timely manner.
  • Create an easy to follow cheat sheet showing the simple steps it will take to create a proposal, fields that must be populated, and drop down menu options where applicable. If available, consider providing this cheat sheet in an electronic format that contains only the essential steps.
  • Do not create stages or drop downs that you haven’t taken the time to either explain or that seem too detailed that they become burdensome to the process itself. No one should be scratching their head trying to figure out what is meant by specific terms within your program.
  • Stress how helpful a tool like this is to your nonprofit, in that it will help each gift officer as well as management know “who’s on first”, etc. with your prospect pipeline and the overall organizational revenue stream.
  • If you are not already having prospect management/portfolio meetings, I do suggest having them on a regular (i.e. monthly) basis, keeping them to the point and productive. Effective data collection and management can be instrumental in discovering both opportunities and challenges for each gift officer.

Now that you have consistent and relevant data at your disposal, the next step is measurement. Check back here on Tuesday for some suggested metrics to evaluate your individual gift offers and the whole organization by.