Return on Effort: The significance of prospect management.

  • Published February 10, 2022
  • / By Sarah Clough

As you make tough decisions about where to spend precious budget dollars and person hours, it’s easy to fall back on what you know, what feels safe, what feels absolutely necessary, etc. You might view prospect management as a luxury. And if you’ve gotten by okay without it all these years, is it really all that necessary? The short answer is YES!

What is it, anyway?

Prospect management is a disciplined approach to managing the overall prospect pool to ensure an adequate and timely flow of prospects through the cultivation cycle (source: Apra).

In short: Prospect management is an investment into the success of your fundraising program. It’s much more than creating lists, shuffling prospects from one pool or portfolio to another, or making database update after database update. Prospect management is taking a list of thousands and being able to identify the next best one hundred. It’s setting a new fundraiser up for success by selecting the next best prospects for them to engage with – based on data and hard-earned expertise. It’s maintaining clean data so timely decisions can be made and acted upon.

But isn’t it more work?

Here’s the truth: it is more activity. But that effort pays dividends. It will lead to a more cohesive fundraising team, resulting in collaborative strategies and more timely decision-making grounded in data. Prospect management allows you to see how a sea of prospects are moving through the pipeline, where activity is getting stuck, how many asks it takes to get a win, which prospects are raising their hand through increased engagement, and where your team might fall short if a change in strategy doesn’t happen quickly.

Run, walk, or crawl – it’s all worth it

You may not  have all of the staff or resources in place to immediately develop a prospect management program. Baby steps are okay. Often, as an institution begins putting some of the pieces in place, they will start to see glimpses of impact and everyone’s work life getting a little bit easier. That makes the next step easier and things can quickly accelerate from there.

Or maybe you have an existing program and want to build on what you’ve started. Perhaps some of your frontline staff are utilizing this resource but you want everyone to see the benefit and do the same. You have a file of processes collecting dust on your intranet but who knows the last time they’ve been updated. The good news? You have a start! Pull some key stakeholders around a table (or virtual room) and talk about what’s working well and what changes are necessary to take things to the next level.

Or you could be old pros at prospect management who’ve been doing it for years. If the past two years have taught us anything, it’s that fundraising needs to morph with the curveballs of the world. Surely there are changes that you’ve made – or need to make – in this everchanging environment. It’s always beneficial to take a look under the hood from time to time to see what could be improved upon – even if you’re already knocking it out of the park.

If you’re interested in learning more about prospect management or what you can do to take your program to the next level, reach out to us today. More information about our prospect management services can be found here: What We Do