Apra Reviews: ‘Prospect Research #ChatBytes: A Podcast by and for Prospect Research Professionals’


A review by Jennifer Huebner, Assistant Director of Donor Research and Recognition, Episcopal High School

What I’m reviewing: Prospect Research #ChatBytes is a podcast hosted by Jen Filla, president of the Prospect Research Institute and founder/CEO of Aspire Research Group, LLC.

How I found this resource: I was searching for a podcast that was an informative yet easy listen, in part to keep up with everyone else who became consumers of podcasts during Covid-19. Knowing Jen as an active contributor on Apra’s PRSPCT-L, and from participating in one of her master classes on SEC filings in 2014, I was delighted to find this podcast.

Where you can find it: Prospect Research #ChatBytes can be found via the Prospect Research Institute website, Spotify and Apple Podcasts.

What it’s about: Jen chats with prospect research and fundraising professionals to get their lived experiences, tips and thoughts on topics that matter most to our profession. She also “sneaks in guests from outside our field to shake up our perspective on fundraising and prospect research.”

Summaries of Select Episodes

Unleash Your Creativity for Board Prospecting, with Christal Cherry, founder of F3: Fabulous Female Fundraisers and Principal and CEO, Board Pro (October 5, 2021)

How many of us are involved with identifying and/or researching prospective board members? If you are, this episode is definitely of interest.

Christal Cherry describes herself as a “recovering fundraiser” who worked in higher education, faith-based and human services nonprofits for 23 years before becoming a consultant specializing in board development. Using a case study of her work with a nonprofit in Texas, Christal shared innovative methods for identifying board candidates over a six-month period that went beyond the conventional measures of looking for well-connected, wealthy individuals who already serve on numerous boards. This practice is more relevant than ever, as our profession makes strides in diversity, equity and inclusion work at our respective organizations.

Christal described how she looked for people with indicators of board interest and skills for serving on a board: smaller organizations (e.g., schools and churches) with missions similar to ours are places where potential board members may be sharing their time and expertise. We as prospect researchers often use LinkedIn to find career histories of our constituents — this platform can also be a means for finding companies (and in turn, employees) who value specific causes and ideals.

Takeaways and applications to our work: Christal’s recommendations and tips demonstrated how we can be even more intentional about finding board candidates who have great potential to be leaders and working members. While prospect researchers are often asked to reactively provide research on board candidates, we are still often in a position to partner with organizational leadership — and other teams, such as Alumni Relations — where these strategies can benefit outreach and fostering relationships with our constituents.

Dr. Russell James Reveals the Secret Behind Major Gift Growth – Psychology! (March 1, 2022)

Many of my former colleagues who specialize in planned giving have sung the praises of Dr. Russell James, professor of charitable financial planning at Texas Tech University. Dr. James wrote his dissertation on charitable giving and is interested in the question of how we can encourage generosity. His focus is on large, complex and transformational gifts, given that “we live in a world where almost 80% of the dollars come from 3% of the donors.” His teaching and research involve experiments, neuroimaging and other methodologies to help understand what motivates people to give major gifts. Feedback from fundraisers helps influence Dr. James’s subsequent research studies.

Dr. James shared what I found to be a keen and fascinating finding that large gifts tend to be the result of a psychological transformation in which donors move from making gifts out of their pocket change, or disposable income, to giving from their wealth. This observation really resonated with me after attending two webinars in the past month that emphasized the importance of encouraging, or even reminding donors that they can make gifts of assets other than their liquid income: namely, stocks, contributions through a donor advised fund, real estate, a bequest, or even cryptocurrency — especially given the current economic conditions.

Knowing and valuing donors is at the heart of starting these conversations, and Dr. James provided fantastic suggestions for talking with donors and prospects to help them define how they envision changing the world and achieving a “meaningful victory” through their philanthropy.

Takeaways and applications to our work: As researchers, we are in a powerful position to identify prospects’ and donors’ wealth, and other known philanthropy from public sources. In turn, we must use this information to strategically and thoughtfully make recommendations to our gift officers to help guide conversations with these individuals and families. A collective, genuine sincerity for helping donors create a legacy that ties back to their identity is just as, and arguably more important, than the quantitative data we identify and discuss.

What I would ask Jen: How in the world do you find such a great variety of experts to interview within and outside of the prospect research community?

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