Has Your President Publicly Commended the Work of Your Prospect Research Department?

Just four weeks ago our new president started at my institution, and today our division finally got to hear him speak at length for the first time. It was an encouraging and exciting meeting, as he gave us a glimpse of some of the ideas he has in store for the College. It’s clear we’re in good hands.

But our new president’s talk was the highlight of my day for another reason: he acknowledged the work of the Research Department.

After talking briefly about his background, he started into the exceptional things that he has noticed about our division’s operations at the College. He acknowledged the good work of our Alumni Annual Fund (who, for the ninth year in a row, ranked first in alumni participation rates among liberal arts colleges, according to U.S. New & World Report), he cited the exceptional College publication, the Voice (which has won multiple CASE awards), and he talked about the great alumni volunteer event held on campus just weeks ago. But before any of these, the FIRST two things he noted as being exceptional about our division were:

  1. The research he receives in preparation for visits with Trustees and key donors; and
  2. The background materials (prepared in part by Research) provided to him for donor cultivation events.

I was blown away. I was humbled by such high-level recognition, and I was intensely proud of the fact that the work of my team elicited such high praise.

But more than any of this, the president’s comments reinforced my long-held belief that I work in one of the best development shops around. I’ve been to plenty of APRA conferences and am sure that very few other researchers get the support at their institutions that we receive.

How did it get this way?

For one, our research shop has a long history of doing excellent work and being a best-in-class (dare I say best-in-show?) operation. Our “charter” Director of Prospect Research was a leader in the field, helping to found the Minnesota Prospect Research Association (which eventually grew to become APRA). So we’ve had the whole “best practice” thing down pretty well for quite a while (for the most part).

And this tradition of excellent, thoughtful research has remained consistent for roughly 30 years. This kind of performance helps to establish a pretty good reputation.

More important than this, though, is the fact that our senior fundraising leadership – our Director of Development, our Director of Major & Planned Giving, and our VP – fully understand the value and importance of a robust Research program, and they support it completely. As the Director of Prospect Research, I am included in nearly all major meetings involving fundraising. Research always has a seat at the table, and it is my belief that the organization benefits greatly from this.

I say all these things not to boast, but to explain why I’m really thrilled to work where I do. To be recognized so prominently by your organization’s president is a pretty amazing thing, and I think it’s the product of the good work my team does, and the great support we receive from our fundraising leadership. I sort of lucked into a really great shop, and I’m tremendously grateful it worked out that way!

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