New and Learning All I Can: A Self-Proclaimed Newbie’s Journey From Prospect Development and Fundraising to Prospect Research

By Samantha L. Kafka, CHI Health Foundation

For as long as I can remember, I have loved to learn — from books, to newspapers and scholastic articles. It is, in part, an ever-increasing desire to develop my knowledge, while concurrently fulfilling a greater purpose. It’s a trait that drives both my life and my career.

I have served in the nonprofit sector for more than 10 years. My first role in development and fundraising was working in donor relations and stewardship for a large nonprofit. It was in this role that I was introduced to prospect management through basic research techniques and wealth screening. I enjoyed the opportunities to understand our donors, their passions and their reasons for giving. Here, I found a passion for working in the nonprofit sector.

After earning my master’s degree in public administration, I began my current position at CHI Health Foundation — and boy, was it a change. Our foundation is a seven-person department covering five hospitals. That being said, I wear a lot of different hats: finance, donor relations and prospect management, to name a few.

However, the role of prospect researcher within our organization is unique. Two people fill a traditionally singular role. My national team member, Amy Modin, has access to the wealth screening tools. She works remotely from Colorado and is able screen for potential prospects. Through this collaboration, we have developed new ways to encounter prospects for our development team. In addition, collaboration has helped to broaden our knowledge and strategize on moves management. In this case, two minds are better than one.

From a prospect research angle, my role includes the data input, analysis and varied research outside of wealth screenings. I feel like the new kid in school, occasionally wandering down the wrong hallway, searching for the right door. The knowledge I gained through contact with other Apra Great Plains members, webinars, articles and more has helped me to develop an understanding of moves management and best practices. However, I know this is the very tip of the iceberg.


It is my hope to master the integration of prospect research and management into a major gift program, determine the best way to navigate the data, and articulate the information in an informative and efficient manner to my team.

 

As a newbie, I continually encounter challenges. I struggle in the development of substantive action metrics, generating prospect identification protocols and, for goodness sake, how to find a verifiable prospect e-mail. Time and access are struggles as well. I’d love to have access to wealth screening tools myself, as it’s difficult to verify the information I gather and nearly impossible to create a wealth rating based solely on free resources while balancing this role with my other duties. Lastly, I don’t know what I don’t know.  There seems to be an array of books, articles and sources on the subject matter, so much so it is difficult to determine which are worthwhile.

I’ve been asked in the past what I want to know about prospect research and management, and largely due to my inquisitive desire, my answer is: everything. I realize that may be grandiose, but it’s true. From the most basic to the most advanced, I want to be able to understand and navigate the role. It is my hope to master the integration of prospect research and management into a major gift program, determine the best way to navigate the data, and articulate the information in an informative and efficient manner to my team.

As I look to the future, I know that conquering challenges leads to self-development, team success and ultimately advancement of our mission. That’s my ultimate goal. It is my hope that I can marry my experience in donor relations and prospect research to one day be able to help those who are in my same position — the newbie.


Learn more about the author featured in this article on the Connections Thought Leadership Page.

Recent Stories
Apra Connections Chapter Capture — Q3 2021

Ask the Ethicist: Return to Office

The Tumbleweed Approach: A Case Study on Continuous, Targeted Wealth Screening