For our final ShareTraining seminar of the 2011-12 ‘school year’ we’ve invited Karen T. Isble, Executive Director of Prospect Development and Analytics at the University of Michigan to talk about prospect management systems that work. In advance of her May 22nd seminar, we thought you might be interested to hear Karen talk a little bit about prospect management and its evolution.
I began my career in prospect management in 1994 when I was a researcher for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, before the field had been formally christened as such – prospect management was just part of my job. My tools and knowledge were basic and focused primarily on the mechanics of prospect tracking. When I returned to the field in 2006 after a seven-year stint in arts administration, I learned a whole new specialty within the research field had blossomed, and I was about to learn it crash course-style and introduce it to one of the largest, most decentralized and complex fundraising operations in the country.
During my first two years as Director of Prospect Management for the University of Michigan, I often likened my experience to standing in front of an iceberg with a dinner fork, trying to see how long before I could make a sizable dent. Incredibly, nearly six years later, the iceberg is still there, but it’s more like an ice floe, perhaps, and the dent we’ve made is deep and wide. It’s hard to imagine where we started – no processes, an archaic database system, an old prospect coordination policy no one paid any attention to, and a severe lack of intelligence on the goings-on within the major gifts program across the institution.
In the intervening years, the prospect management team has grown from 2 to 5, we are well-documented, visible and sought after for the services we provide, and we have an active and robust, if not perfect, prospect management system with clear, measurable metrics in place. We have just taken a massive leap forward in technology and processes with the implementation of new enterprise CRM software – a brave new world for our organization that will have us feeling like we’re back at square one for a while.
The prospect management team is part of a larger 19-member prospect development team, which includes research and the newest kid on the block, analytics. We’ve spent the past 18 months working to turn three distinct specialties into an integrated, internal consultancy focused on providing the fullest available spectrum of prospect knowledge management to our front line and to management. The results so far, with the amazing team of professionals I am so fortunate to work with, have been quite stunning, surpassing anything I might have dreamt of back in 2006.
I am excited to think about what we will be able to accomplish as we prepare for our next campaign – the work we’re doing now to support campaign planning was non-existent at the start of the last one in 2000, and the intelligence and efficiency we are able to bring to the process continues to be a learning experience both for the team and for our organization’s leadership. What will prospect management look like in another six years? Who knows? OK, I have some ideas, but I’m mostly gonna roll with it and let it lead us towards success. The most important part is believing that it can make a difference and bringing others along.