RAISE Podcast: Jessica Jones Wilson, Dickinson College

On this episode of the RAISE podcast, Brent chats with Jessica Jones Wilson of Dickinson College. Check out this recap featuring our favorite takeaways from the episode, and how to tune in yourself!



Here are some highlights from the episode…

This episode is for our listeners who:

Are frontline but thinking of making the switch to prospect research. Or vice-versa.

Want to learn about a crowdfunding initiative through which, instead of asking alums for money, Dickinson asked alums to vote on potential campaign priorities. (They received 5,000 comments and votes from 3,500 alums.)

Need some inspiration to make their prospect research work more proactive.

Want to hear how an introvert can thrive as an uber-successful advancement professional.

Are interested in Dickinson’s President Fellows program, through which students connect with thousands of alums in their geographic regions every summer (and gather invaluable data through those conversations).

Believe that Capital Campaigns Sprints are the future of fundraising.

About Jessica Jones Wilson

Jessica Jones Wilson fell in love with fundraising after she secured her first $1K gift as a student telefund caller. She loved talking to alumni, athletes, and parents, and she soon became the telefund manager. As she was considering applying to graduate school to study Psychology, the VP of Development at Dickinson asked her, “You know this is a career, right?” He took out a (printed!) copy of the Chronicle of Higher Ed and circled positions she would be eligible for. Soon after, she began her first full-time development position at Hollins University. 

After serving in roles on the annual fund, in campaign planning, and a brief stint in the for-profit world (the pull of mission-driven higher ed fundraising was too strong to keep her there for long), Jessica landed in the prospect research world at Gettysburg College.

How was the transition from front-line relationship-building to the data-powered strategizing of prospect research? Jessica explains how it was an easy transition and a super successful one because as a former gift officer, she knew what gift officers needed (and wanted) from a prospect research team and could anticipate their questions and requests. 

With her front-line experience as her super power, Jessica eventually found her way to Dickinson College where she has been changing the game for prospect research. Today, the only reactive research that her team conducts is for their president. Otherwise, they are entirely proactive in their work and are constantly discovering, suggesting, and assigning qualified new leads to a team of fundraisers that wholly grasps the value that Jessica’s team brings to the Dickinson fundraising machine.

A major highlight of this episode of the RAISE podcast is Jessica’s explanation of Dickinson’s Presidential Fellows, a group of students who are tasked with having conversations with alums near their hometowns over the summer. The students are equipped with contact lists, iPads, a script of questions they can pull from, and a custom-built app that feeds the students’ contact reports back to Jessica’s team. The students build their networks through alumni connections; the alumni love talking to the students; and Dickinson has a gold mine of data points and insights to dig through after each summer’s Presidential Fellowship conversations. It’s a homerun program that any institution could mimic.

One of the most valuable questions that Presidential Fellows ask alumni: What would you never change about Dickinson?

In this stocked (and well-lit!) episode of the RAISE podcast, Jessica shares details of some of Dickinson’s most innovative and successful data-driven initiatives that have brought so many alums closer to the University, such as the Revolutionary Challenge through which alumni suggested, voted on, built out, and promoted the priorities of Dickinson’s new campaign. Her deep and broad knowledge of the advancement world leaves us feeling inspired, energized, and hopeful that other insitutitions can use Dickinson as a model for what’s possible in 2021. 

A main takeaway of this episode is that prospect research should always have a seat at the table. Thank you for all the lightbulb moments, Jessica!

Want to connect with Jessica? She can be reached on LinkedIn or by email at wilsonje@dickinson.edu

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Kirk Swenson
Kirk Swenson
3 years ago

Jessika is a rockstar!