Do you see yourself in these numbers?

  • Published September 19, 2022
  • / By Sarah Clough

When you’re in the thick of it, it can feel like your program is the only one that experiences the challenges you’re facing. Benchmarking against your peers contextualizes what you’re experiencing and provides some solace that you’re not alone. Marts&Lundy surveyed prospect management teams via LinkedIn and the results show similarities across programs of every shape and size. 

Only 20% of respondents described the current state of their prospect management system/processes as fully functioning, with 50% having a loose structure. Sometimes an organization has a prospect management system on paper but isn’t necessarily operating within what’s been constructed. This is likely the case for the 30% who said their system exists but is not effective

When deciding how to improve your prospect management system, it’s best to begin with what is working well. The good news is, respondents largely feel that their prospect management systems are serving as the key drivers these programs are meant for: supporting strategic decision making, maintaining a dynamic pipeline, and collaboration with gift officers

While leaning into your strengths and ensuring continuity in the things your program does well, you can at the same time make changes to what isn’t performing to your expectations. Many teams wish they could be more proactive (38%), and often that current balance is a direct result of being understaffed (33%). It’s no surprise that these two challenges are the most problematic for respondents. This can be solved in a number of ways, including discontinuing projects with a low ROI, intentionally setting aside time for proactive projects, and clearly demonstrating impact of your current work and/or illustrating the additional progress that can be made with additional resources to make a case for increased investment. 

Many participating organizations (79%) are within the goal ratio of one prospect management professional to no more than 10 gift officers. This keeps the workload manageable and ensures there is time to do that proactive work teams are longing for. The remaining 21% are confronting an uphill battle, working with 16+ frontline fundraisers. (Note: No participants answered 11-15.) Depending on the functions assigned to your prospect management team, this could mean that only the “need to happen” tasks are taking place – and even that could be a stretch. Consider what advantages are lost with a ratio this large (e.g., long-range planning, opportunities for collaboration, ability to be flexible as needs change, strategic proactive projects), and determine if those concessions are worth it for your organization. 

If you find yourself within some of these shared challenges, consider what your best next steps should be. Incremental changes can lead to a slow build-up of progress that fuels future change as impact is realized. Significant changes might be disruptive to the day-to-day but can be worth it in the long run if change management is approached strategically. Involve colleagues who are affected by prospect management to create an environment where you’re developing, together, a future you want to see for the organization. There are many ways to influence change. Now you have some data to fuel the fire.