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Finding the Path to Hard to Reach Prospects

Prospect Visual Success Story: How we use relationship intelligence to solve tough problems

My name is Elana Mendelson and I am one of two Prospect Researchers at the Museum of Science and Industry (“MSI) in Chicago, Illinois. For the past few years we have been trying to provide our fundraising staff with connections that could help us open doors to our prospects. While we had met with some success, the process was laborious and very limited in scope.

Traditional Methods Were Falling Short

Our original attempt to identify trustee connections used a Microsoft Word document with about 30 Chicago-area non-profits that highlighted which of our board members sat on which boards. Keeping it updated was nearly impossible and besides being restricted to only those 30 organizations, we had no way to include past connections.

We had looked into other mapping software, but it was too expensive or the free ones just didn’t have the capacity to do what we needed. When I saw Prospect Visual at the APRA International Conference in 2012, I was wowed by the possibilities. Within a few weeks we did the trial and eventually made the purchase.

We started using Prospect Visual as an additional source of information as we researched prospects. Finally we could include door-opening connections within our prospect profiles! And then when a new committee was formed for a special project, we used Prospect Visual proactively to see if there were new prospects we could identify in the committee members’ networks. We were able to provide meaningful information about relationships in a fraction of the time we had spent previously.

But it was in troubleshooting where Prospect Visual really turned us prospect researchers into information superheroes!

How We Went From Helpful To Heroes

One of our fundraisers was having trouble getting a visit with the president of a large, regional business. We discovered that one of our trustees sat on a board with the business owner’s wife. We used Prospect Visual to develop a list of the business owner’s connections and the trustee reviewed these with his wife. Through that conversation connections were discovered that ultimately got the fundraiser in the door on a visit with the prospect!

Another time, as our gala approached, our fundraisers had reached out to the donors and prospects in their pools, asking them to purchase tickets, but a number of them had not responded. Instead of pestering the donor, they wanted a peer to make the ask. We used Prospect Visual to identify peer connections within the MSI “family” and the connections we identified then agreed to send a personal letter to each of the prospects.

Saving Time and Raising More Money

It’s all about time, really. Prospect Visual helps us deliver the intelligence our fundraisers need in enough time for them to act. Being able to provide this kind of relationship information is amazing. We help our fundraisers solve their problems in a whole new way now. With Prospect Visual, we don’t just leap over houses anymore. As information superheroes, we leap over tall buildings in a single bound!

Prospect Visual Strategy Guide: Finding the Path to hard-to-reach Prospects

Step 1: Make sure your original import is in order

You need to have your internal connectors already imported into Prospect Visual and properly tagged. When you send your file to Prospect Visual, include the names, employer name, and up to three additional affiliations of which you are aware. Consider importing people such as your executive staff, trustees, advisory board members, closest major gift donors, and anyone else who is willing to introduce you to others. You might also want to include top prospects, event attendees, and membership lists to clubs where executives or board members belong.

User Tip: If you need help with tags, don’t be shy about contacting your Prospect Visual representative. Tags are essential to using the product efficiently.

Step 2: Add additional names one-at-a-time when identified

As new members join your board and committees, and otherwise become more deeply engaged, be sure to add them to your Contacts. Do the same for new or hard-to-reach prospects. From the Search tab, search for the name. Choose the person and add the record to Contacts by clicking on the orange “Save Contact” button. Be sure to add an appropriate tag to the record.

Step 3: Choose the best connections

As you begin looking for ways to connect with a “cold” prospect, scroll down the individual’s record to view Mutual Connections to Saved Contacts and Mutual Connections to Global Contacts. Mutual Connections to Saved Contacts allows you to view the connections in Path Flow, Tabular View or Map View. Global Contacts are shown in tabular view. You can click on the strength rating to view how the prospect is connected.

User Tip: When making your choices, in the tabular view consider the Connection Depth column as well as the strength of the connection.

Step 4: Map your key connectors against your prospects

In the Connections tab map the different tags you have used, such as “trustees” against “gala prospects”. You can now click on the column titles in tabular view to sort by things like connection strength and connection depth. You can also use the Advanced Filters to narrow the list further.

User Tip: Ask for a tutorial on creating and mapping Targets. Targets are another powerful tool for identifying new prospects from the global database.

Step 5: Once identified, verify or instruct

Although Prospect Visual connections are most often correct, they aren’t without error. If possible, before you deliver the list of names to the requestor, take the time to verify in Prospect Visual. You can hover over or click on any path for more details. You can also click on any individual to open up that person’s details record and click on the globe of any “role” to view the source document.

If working with a development officer, arm her with the information she needs to make the first contact. This will probably be whatever contact information or qualification level profile you usually provide.

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