The Art of Research Brings Major Results

by Kirk Walden, Advancement SpecialistResearch

While time is always at a premium in our work, thinking long-term will not only save time over the space of a year; it will also bring powerful results that can begin even now.

As we look at 2015, let's consider some ideas that will benefit our advancement plan for a long time to come.

Scour that database!
Regularly searching for information in our donor software isn't just for the nerds and statisticians. It's vital for anyone who wants to see relationships and our bottom line improve.

Placing time in our regular schedule for research should be an integral part of our day in advancement. So what are we looking for?

Forgotten monthly donors—Check back a few years and find those who were giving monthly, but are no longer doing so. Some drop off because of moves or financial issues, but many either forget or lose interest because they feel forgotten. Our job is to remember!

Make a list of these friends, and if you know, jot down reasons why they stopped their monthly giving ("The Jones family moved"). Then, find those who might be motivated to give again, prioritize and plan ways to reconnect with these families, either by an appeal letter, a face to face visit—or whatever we need to do in order to begin rebuilding a relationship. Rebuilding doesn't need to start with an ask; it can be as simple as saying hello on the phone and telling our friend that we simply want to reconnect. Work on relationship, then the time to ask will be clearer.

One check and that's it—Go back 1-2 years and find those who wrote a check for $50 or more from an appeal letter or out of the blue. Consider an appeal letter to these friends, giving them a specific need and asking for a gift at least equal to, and perhaps 1.5 times the amount of this person's most recent gift.

A Google A Day—Might be the answer for getting to know those who give to us. I once Googled a major donor and found out that he split his time between the public sector (working for a University) and the private sector (researching energy issues). Gifts soared as he worked in the private sector, then flattened as he moved back into the university setting. We found that the best time to ask for major gifts was when he was working with major corporations—a valuable piece of information.

Many of those who can give major gifts can be found on Google, Bing, Yahoo or other search engines. This isn't stalking; it is vital research that can help us understand occupations, interests and more as we build good relationships. I even found one to be an author and we had the opportunity to talk publishing, information I never would have known without research. Knowing our people well builds relationships. The stronger the relationship, the more likely our friends will think of us when they give.

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