How Prospect Development and Research should handle the COVID-19 pandemic

“Whatever you do, don’t stop! Keep moving.” That’s what Julie Craig, Senior Director of Prospect Analytics and Research at the Kansas State University Foundation shared on a recent webinar. Julie’s advice for advancement rings true as we all find ways to move forward during these challenging, kinda crazy days. 

In the midst of the coronavirus crisis, Prospect Development holds a unique opportunity to lead entire advancement shops. As the hub of the organization, PD and research teams are positioned to guide gift officers, work with alumni relations and annual giving groups on segmented outreach to engage and steward donors, and build lists for future gift pipeline.

Now is the time for action. And here are the actions you can take.

Encourage gift officer activity and portfolio maintenance

Shelter-in-place restrictions have pulled gift officers off the road. But that doesn’t mean activity has to stop. This is an opportunity to check in with every assigned prospect, to add virtual visits or video chats as an activity type, and encourage gift officers to be conduits between the organization and donors.

“This is an opportunity to check-in with donors and see how they’re doing,” says Jacob Astley, Senior Director of Prospect Development at the Oklahoma State University Foundation. “With some prospects that have been hard to pin down — those who travel a ton and it’s hard to know when they’re home — this is a chance to talk.”

This is also a good opportunity to help fundraisers with stage management. Who has lingered in a stage for too long? How many prospects have been added to a portfolio, but still haven’t received a meeting? Put those lists in front of your development officers and help them prioritize outreach and stay active.

We put a guide together for frontline fundraising during COVID-19


Keep going with portfolio consultations

“One of the key components of prospect development is being visible for your gift officers,” Jacob said. “If you do regular portfolio reviews, I certainly would not recommend putting those on pause unless you can’t do them effectively. Even getting a development officer on the phone and saying, ‘Hey, do you need anything from us right now?’ is critical.” 

If you have quarterly check-ins with fundraisers, keep them on the calendar. Be a resource as they look for guidance on breaking in with hard-to-reach prospects, staying on track with metrics, and share research needs.

In these upside-down times, maintaining as much of your typical routines and rhythms can help everybody handle uncertainty.


Look to the future: Build qualification pools

While we don’t know how long the COVID-19 pandemic will last, we do know that we will return to fundraising. The world may look different and advancement may have adopted new tactics, but we will absolutely need to build major gift pipeline quickly.

This is a great time to build a shared list of “pre-screened” prospects — ones who are highly engaged, show capacity indicators, and regular giving. There are hundreds, even thousands, of donors who are ready for a qualification visit from a gift officer. When “normal” fundraising resumes, be ready. 

Create a general pool of prospects that fundraisers can pull from as they plan filler visits. Or think ahead to the capital projects you know are coming — how can you use this time to find interested, engaged donors who are good fits for a future visit or ask?

See how to do this in EverTrue (or just hit “play” below).

Tackle data projects

As we plan ahead for full fundraising activity, there are portfolios to build, prospect lists to create, planned giving research to do, engagement scores to refine, and wealth screenings/net worth calculations to look into.

What data do you need to make that happen? It could be Facebook interactions to know how alumni and parents are engaging with your organization and what they care about the most. It might be updated career info to spot new prospects or upgrade your segmentation. We’ve got you covered!

If you’ve recently done a wealth screening, now is the time to dig in and get that information to a place where your team can use it. Or if you’re thinking of investing, you could flip the switch to send monthly net worth updates to EverTrue and always have accurate information on all your wealthiest prospects.

Build and share more saved searches

There is a never-ending need for pipeline — from leadership giving to major gifts to principal donors. As you plan ahead for future projects and to hit the ground running, now is the perfect time to build saved searches to generate alerts for new potential prospects. Share them with your fundraisers and you’ll both get alerts when donors cross a giving threshold, their net worth changes, or the hit high levels of digital engagement.

These always-running searches bring the most interesting, high-potential prospects to the surface so you can pass more leads to the frontline while also enhancing stewardship opportunities. Pretty cool, right?

Here’s EverTrue’s take on the novel coronavirus pandemic and its impact on advancement: We don’t have all the answers, but we’re going to learn from each other and share best practices for remote fundraising, working from home, and handling uncertainty. Bookmark this page and subscribe for ongoing updates.

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