OSU Goes Proactive with Research, Discovering 250+ New Prospects This Year

We spoke with Jacob Astley, Director of Prospect Research at Oklahoma State University (OSU) Foundation, to learn more about how his team placed more than 250 prospects into gift officer portfolios this year.

AT OSU, Jacob leads the prospect research team and is responsible for serving about 40 development officers in 13 departments. Continue reading or watch our conversation with Jacob to learn about OSU’s rapid success.


Proactive Prospect Research

What is proactive research, you ask?

According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, the term “proactive” is defined as: “acting in anticipation of future problems, needs, or changes.” So, proactive prospect research is all about understanding and anticipating your institution’s needs and creating a pipeline of potential donors whose interests align with those fundraising priorities.

In our interview, Jacob said, “Proactive research was my top priority for this fiscal year. We had three tactics to achieve this goal: working with our fundraisers to understand their initiatives and priorities, having a tool like EverTrue to help tailor our referrals to those priorities, and building a great Tableau report that enables us to track referrals.”

For example, in order to support OSU’s aviation program by expanding the facility and building new hangars for its planes, OSU needs to find donors who are passionate about this initiative. Jacob and his team used EverTrue to search for prospects using digital engagement, giving history, and wealth indicators. Whether it’s through social engagement, recent giving, or a combination of the two, Jacob looks for prospects who have demonstrated an interest in this type of project.

“For example, we post updates on the college Facebook page about our fleet,” Jacob said. “Through those posts, we can see who’s interacting, liking, and commenting. Then my team will identify those constituents to see if there is something we need to communicate to a gift officer.”

Once he creates a list of people, he culls those down and passes along individual prospects to gift officers, making pipeline-building a smooth and seamless process.

The Benefits of EverTrue

Jacob’s team uses EverTrue to rapidly run targeted searches for potential major-gift donors. As Jacob explains, his team doesn’t want to waste their own time, their gift officer’s time, or their alumni’s time. Integrating EverTrue into his process helps OSU achieve more results, faster.

“The great thing about EverTrue is that you are guaranteed results,” Jacob says. “I honestly have found and identified more individuals than I have time to refer out currently, so it’s a good problem to have! It’s something that has allowed me to not only surpass our original goal of 150 (it’s now 200), but it allows us to tailor our referrals more directly to those fundraising initiatives and priorities for our gift officers.

We feel like there is more follow-up with our referrals because these prospects are a match. They are somebody the gift officer wants to reach out to because—whether through Facebook interactions or giving—they know there is documented interest. Additionally, we use the LinkedIn feature in EverTrue heavily to increase industry-specific prospecting.”

At the end of the day, Jacob’s team wants to cultivate donor relationships based on potential donors’ passions and interests, and EverTrue makes that possible.

“Through its Facebook data and the overlay that serves as our database, EverTrue allows us to match our constituents with their passions and interests,” Jacob said. “Uniting those between the donor and the university is key for us.”

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