Category Archives: Prospect Research

Empowering Philanthropic Women: Survey Said

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Renewed by some conference learning courtesy of CPRA, Apra’s Colorado chapter, I’m writing from Fort Collins, Colorado, where I had the joy and pleasure of presenting “A Woman’s Place is in Your Prospect Portfolio.” Here, I outlined a business case and moral imperative for identifying, researching, engaging and stewarding women donors. Specifically, I offered suggestions for fund development organizations to start – or carry on confidently – on the wonderful journey of advancing female philanthropy with practical data techniques and engagement strategies.

In the presentation, I drew from some survey data that was informally and unscientifically collected, collated and analyzed by yours truly. Here are some highlights about what you shared with me.

Missing Women’s Report 

For prospect development and fundraising professionals, prioritizing or at least including her in prospect research profiles and prospect portfolios formed a prominent theme:

“Put her information first in a profile, and his in the spouse section.”

“Get over the discomfort of estimating non-visible wealth! Present the household wealth and philanthropic picture, not the single biggest gift.”

“Provide balanced information on a couple. Ensure that women (mothers, daughters, and granddaughters) are included in research. Also, provide some insight into maternal lineage.”

“Strategy should include HER interests and passions. Do not make assumptions on how previous donations were decided.”

Reach Out to Her

I also asked how female fundraisers in particular, can better engage women donors in our respective missions and causes. You shared some practical approaches like:

“It may be beneficial to have two fundraisers at a meeting so a quieter spouse can be drawn out in conversation.”

“Engage women on a one-to-one basis, focus on *her* unique reason for giving; empower her vision for a better world, and honour her decisions.”

“Treat them like individuals, not stereotypical “pink” females; create more social opportunities; advocate for volunteer leadership opportunities.”

Where We Women At?

The notion or concept of invisibility permeated through cautionary (and blunt) statements about marketing / communication and stewardship of women donors:

“Think very carefully before giving an honourary degree to half of a power couple. This could be very insulting to a woman if she doesn’t receive the same recognition.”

“I am very sensitive to the images that we use in fundraising materials; recognize that we use a lot of unbearably paternalistic poses of masculine elder and eager student.”

“Seriously stop it with the old white dudes holding giant cheques.”

Broader Problems

Many survey respondents are not optimistic that the fundraising and philanthropic communities will make steady strides soon, pointing to systemic issues in gender parity:

“It looks like a few women are going to have to set big examples to get noticed. Right now major gifts are usually credited to a couple or a family even if a woman prompted it.”

“Unfortunately, much needs to be done to educate fundraisers that they need to do a better job of reaching out to all prospective donors, regardless of gender. I’m not optimistic that there will be major advances in women’s philanthropy anytime soon.”

“Advancing women’s philanthropy” is closely tied to “advancing women” — this issue is part of a much bigger problem of how we view and treat women, and women of different backgrounds, races, gender identities, etc.”

Your care and commitment to this topic shone through, dear survey respondents, so thank you so much for participating!

~~~

I’m heartened by the thoughtful questions and comments CPRA attendees shared with me about women’s philanthropy at last week’s conference. It’s clear many are already thinking about how to unravel conventional data practices that have literally hidden women’s contributions to their respective organizations. I suggested a full and thorough data audit using a gender lens, covering wide aspects of fund development operations – donations processing, donor communication rules, formal research, prospect portfolios, and stewardship practices. It takes more work, but it’s clearly worth understanding women’s contributions to your organization; a critical piece in better understanding our donor bases of strong support. 

As always, would you please care to comment on this post? Our community is stronger with information exchange and dialogue. THANK YOU!

A Few Big Questions For You

…SO

Now that you’re rested and safely back from your respective summers, how would you like to answer a few big-picture questions for our community? Your thoughtful responses will:

  • advance gender-driven prospect development practices
  • empower female fundraising leaders
  • enrich the philanthropic journeys of women donors.

Or at least provide hopeful steps toward progress in these areas.

(Tall orders by a short brown girl.)

Big Q No. 1

Why are women often ignored by major gift fundraisers?

Big Q No. 2

What simple or significant steps can a prospect development professional take to raise the profile of female constituencies at our respective organizations?

Big Q No. 3

In order to increase women donors at non-profits, how can female fundraisers work to better engage them?

Bigger Q No. 4

From where you currently stand, what does advancing women’s philanthropy look like?

Please participate by sharing your comments – anonymously, if you prefer – inside this easy Survey Monkey, by September 29, 2017. Answer one, some or all of the questions – it’s all good. And please prompt the people in your life who are interested in contributing to this topic too.

Results will be shared in upcoming blogs and presentations.

Go to this survey now and BE HEARD – HERE

With gratitude, Preeti

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Dewi Saraswati, Goddess of Knowledge in Hinduism. Her statue is located along Embassy Row in Washington, DC (July 7, 2017).

 

 

 

 

 

A place where women rule philanthropy (…and it’s close to The White House)

Thank goodness for the late Madeleine Rast’s tremendous generosity. Had she not left a sizeable estate gift to her beloved National Museum of Women in the Arts, [NMWA] in Washington, DC, I wouldn’t have come across her transformational philanthropy on my media monitor, and certainly would not have learned about this place.

(Forgive me, Feminists, I’m Canadian.)

On the 4th of July, I walked and walked DC – passing by the comfort shoe stores and organic restaurants around Dupont Circle; and by the fancy shops on Connecticut Avenue; shuffling quickly next to the eerily quiet White House; and eventually entered this iconic building – formerly a Masonic temple – on 1250 New York Avenue NW.

Rather than attempt to demonstrate, through words, the meaning and beauty of the artworks housed inside these walls, I’m sharing photos of a few of my favourite pieces that arrested my steps and truly moved my soul toward a deeper appreciation of women’s artworks.

Since this space isn’t meant to be a travelogue, I point your attention to the NMWA as it embodies all the ways women have contributed to its 30 years in existence. You see, women founded this institution based on one simple, obvious, yet rarely asked question, “Where are all the women artists?”

Women volunteer their time here. They offer their talent here. Women give here.

I believe it’s one of the few places on this planet where women feature more prominently on the donor walls (and screens and steps) than their male counterparts. A brief scan of the NMWA’s latest annual report shows more women donors than I have ever seen giving to a single organization. Most generous donors start at the US$1M level.

It’s a place that wouldn’t be possible without women who support women artists.

This Prospect Researcher is heartened by such a place, especially since I spend much of my time and energy profiling fancy financiers (men, of course) who have amassed important art collections, rivaling the ones in spaces where you and I can actually enter.

The National Museum of Women in the Arts is not just an arts institution – a building where artifacts are stored and paintings displayed. It is an advocacy organization, working to champion women through the arts.

“Across the centuries, women artists have often been marginalized,” according to the NMWA. “While gender bias is less overt today, contemporary women artists still face obstacles and disparities, including being under-represented in museums worldwide.”

I hope this non-profit museum attracts more global attention by women who wish to present their work here and by media who wish to spotlight noteworthy yet lesser known artists. Avid museum goers won’t mind the US$10 fee to enter this building, even among the gigantic Smithsonian buildings a few blocks away, that are free to stroll in and out at leisure. ~~~

This post is dedicated to Jane Ebreo, my friend and colleague at St. Paul’s Foundation. She happens to be a scrupulous learner of new things and a visual artist of multiple forms. Jane has taught me how to appreciate art as storytelling, less by technique and design. Maybe we will see Jane’s work in the NMWA someday? I sure hope we do. ~~~

Stewarding donors and volunteers on steps and screens:

Stewardship

From top left: names on steps leading to one of the NMWA’s five floors; screen of donor champions; “Welcome to the museum” message (sorry you can’t see the whole image); and so many women advisers, volunteers and patrons live on the walls.

Some random pieces:

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From top left: Revival billboard outside the NMWA; What if Women Ruled the World, 2016 by Yael Bartana; “I am a writer…” (now I’ve forgotten who she was and the image isn’t great); They call me Redbone but I’d rather be Strawberry Shortcake, 2009 by Amy Sherald; and Blue Gowns, 1993 by Beverly Semmes (chiffon that goes on and on).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Donation Desensitization?

Do you remember John A. Paulson? He gifted Harvard University US$400M for its engineering school, two years ago. I draw attention to his gift based solely on its astronomical size. “An historic act of generosity” is the way Harvard described its largest-ever gift, at the time.

Do you remember Marilyn Beaudry-Corbett? She gifted the University of Southern California (USC) US$4M to support mature female MBA students, two months ago. Called “visionary and courageous,” her gift happened to squeak in to my media monitoring of gifts at the million-dollar mark (and above) across North America.

John and Marilyn share a couple of commonalities. Both are intelligent investors who chose philanthropy to do some good. Both John and Marilyn value education and seek to increase access to it, as their giving clearly demonstrates.

Both John and Marilyn attended Harvard’s business school. During Marilyn’s time, however, Harvard did not allow women on its campus, so she went to nearby Radcliffe College to attend the Harvard-Radcliffe School of Business Administration. (I suppose Harvard professors agreed to teach the women only if they stayed in their place.)

I guess that’s where the similarities between John Paulson and Marilyn Beaudry-Corbett end. Also, I’m guessing that you’ve never heard of Marilyn until just now, unless you meticulously monitor media for mega gifts. Her smaller donation may not have registered in the kind of way his larger one did. As gifts grow in size, are the smaller gifts – you know, the $4M ones – merely philanthropic rubble under $40M and $400M rocks? Are we increasingly desensitized to all the great big giving going on out there?

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I think prospect development professionals are particularly prone to this phenomenon of “donation desensitization” since we study such giving so closely. We suffer from repeated exposure to transformational philanthropy!

Think about this: we’re trained to look for financial indicators first and foremost – the more, the better. The higher, even greater. Capacity of major gift donors and prospects is growing by extreme proportions. (Millionaires are OK, but billionaires are better.) Take a look at the #prospectresearch hashtag on Twitter, where you’ll find the latest news about sky-high luxury real estate in NYC (pun intended) or the growing number of gazillionaires on the latest Forbes list.

Are mid-level million-dollar donors – in the $1M to $10M range – even worth a prospect researcher’s attention now? This working-class prospect researcher hopes so. I’m trying not to perpetuate “donation desensitization.” For example, when a $40,000 gift comes in to my organization, I take the time to congratulate the frontline fundraiser who secured that donor’s generosity. I want to know more about who that donor is and what prompted her or his act of giving; trying hard not to take such a gift for granted.

We would likely pay more attention to women’s philanthropy if we face “donation desensitization” straight on. Women give big, but perhaps not quite at the $400M level yet. Watch power women like Mellody Hobson and Sheryl Sandberg patiently, as they are just starting to set inspirational examples on their respective philanthropic journeys.

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Her giving deserves eternal accolades, too. Perhaps she initially gave more of her time and then her talent; eventually her treasure? Even if she left a gift in her will that was realized only upon her death. Or maybe her outright donation didn’t crack the mega-million dollar mark? Is her philanthropy somehow less transformational? I say she deserves acknowledgement still.

Please refer to a new kind of donor roll: [*drum roll*] Donations at the Diva Level. It’s a short summary of major gifts made by women, sometimes specifically for women’s causes, that managed to make the headlines (and their way into my media monitor).

Bookmark Donations at the Diva Level Page HERE

These women made gifts at the million-dollar+ level to organizations of their endearment in recent memory. This is my little way of celebrating their philanthropy, by sharing with you, dear readers, the positive emotional responses their gifts continue to elicit from me.

Care to comment? Tell me about a woman at your organization who has quietly gone about giving her time, talent and treasure with little fanfare. I would love to add her generosity to this list. Let’s celebrate her altruistic and courageous acts together, shall we?

 

Lady Links You May Like

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Power pose outside Lawrence Arts Center, Kansas (April 2017)

So far, I have resisted the urge to compile and collate a list of resources (web links) about anything, knowing there are more competent prospect development professionals out there who are better resourced and best placed to provide this kind of intelligence for our community.

Recently though, I began a thorough cleansing of Chrome bookmarks and noticed that my links about women donors and prospects has grown substantially over the past few years. Why not share the best of these articles, blogs, reports, statistics and lists with other researchers, fundraisers and even donors who are also passionate about women’s philanthropy?

Lady Links was born – you can view (and bookmark) this page on A Few Great Women:

https://diversitydrivendata.blog/resources/

Take a look around, stay for a while. Find out who are the most influential African-American women in corporate America (or were, as this list is from 2014) or check out Catalyst Canada’s comprehensive CVs of board-ready women professionals.

(Like you, I love lists, and when it comes to women, influence and power are key identifiers.)

I hope to grow Lady Links with fresh content often as both grassroots and media interest in women’s wealth and philanthropy grows.

Please do feel free to suggest additional resources in your purview or tell me what you think. If I mentioned your work in this esteemed group of resources, THANK YOU for making a positive contribution. We’re in this quest to narrow the gender data gap in philanthropy together!

— Preeti

 

Michal Shaw | Growing a Women’s Giving Program

Dear great women,

Meet Michal Shaw, a fundraising executive at Oklahoma State University (OSU) Foundation in Stillwater.Michal Shaw

Michal has an impressive depth of diverse experience in higher education fundraising which includes research, prospect management, scholarship administration, gift administration and compliance. In her current role, she oversees donor relations, stewardship and special events.

A double OSU alumna, Michal also leads the University’s women’s philanthropy program, called Women for Oklahoma State University. 

(Basically, she does it ALL.)

I was first introduced to Michal through a joint learning initiative between Apra and the Association of Donor Relations Professionals (ADRP) in 2015. While still on maternity leave, Michal kindly agreed to co-present a webinar with fellow prospect researcher Jennifer Filla and me on harnessing the power of women’s philanthropy. Our collaboration highlighted statistics on women’s wealth; offered practical prospect research techniques specific to female donors; and introduced the concept of starting a women’s giving program.

You can view this webinar in its entirety here as well as read a recap blog post on the Apra website here.

Once the webinar wrapped, for some reason, I thought Michal and I would cross paths again given our mutual interest in advancing women’s philanthropy, but I didn’t think we would reconnect so soon.

A chance meeting at the Women’s Philanthropy Institute Symposium in Chicago still warms this prospect researcher’s heart. Meeting Michal in person compelled me to look closer into the Women for OSU program which is led by an advisory council of passionate donor volunteers.

The Women for OSU Council is made up of about 40 women who hold a minimum lifetime family giving history of $50,000. The council advises OSU Foundation staff on programs and events designed to engage both alumni and friends.

Each member agrees to make a $1,000 annual commitment to Women for OSU while serving on the council which meets three to four times a year.

With that background, I was fortunate to catch up with Michal Shaw recently, to ask her some additional questions about her women’s giving program.

Me: What are the major goals of your women’s giving program?

Michal: Our primary goal is to channel passions and strengthen women’s connections to the University through their relationship with our program. We also aim to increase the number of female donors to OSU as well as increase their total giving through the Women for OSU Endowed Scholarship, a prestigious award that recognizes academics, philanthropic and volunteer activities among OSU students. Funds for this endowment are generated through private donations and sponsorship from events, allowing students to become stronger leaders and educated philanthropists.

Our mission statement says that, “Women for OSU is a diverse group of visionary women who share a passion for inspiring leadership and financial support to OSU. Women for OSU envisions a culture of giving and service that acknowledges the significant impact women have here and inspires others to positively shape the future of the University through philanthropy and engagement.”

Me: I noticed that OSU has a prospect research/management team. Can you tell me about a successful collaboration with your team? If you haven’t worked with the prospect research team, how could they help you increase participation by women donors?

Michal: Our prospect research team plays a crucial role in our success. Not only does this team refer potential WOSU donors and council members to us, they also assist us with research on potential members who have been recommended by third parties. Ultimately, the goal is to find women who are looking for opportunities to engage with the University and/or are passionate about leadership.

Additionally, this team ensures we are strategic in our approach to regional events. We are in the midst of planning an event now for the Washington, DC, area and rely heavily on prospect research to provide us with women who have high interest and high giving capacity, but are not assigned to a development officer or currently engaged.

Me: Just to play devil’s advocate, do alumnae need to be deliberately pursued in a separate giving program in order to feel engaged by the university? 

Michal: No, although the more deliberate, collaborative and strategic we can be in our engagement, the better! It’s been my experience that the more we tailor engagement to a particular donor’s interests, the more likely and quickly she is to jump on board.


Thank you, Apra, ADRP and the WPI for bringing Michal and me together in conversation about building a women’s giving program as well as the critical role prospect development can play in growing our female donor bases of support.

RELATED NEWS:

“Alumnae announce new goals in women’s philanthropy,” (aim to fund 250 scholarships by 2019); Dartmouth News; May 5, 2017 – here

When a woman self-advocates, does she show too much #ResearchPride?

I’m supportive.

As a prospect researcher, my primary responsibility is to offer strategic support for front-line fundraisers, by helping them better understand our donor base. To aid from the background with gentle nudges of informational wisdom.

I’m also critical.

Having practiced prospect research in all of its progressive iterations for more than 15 years, I’ve worked at a number of advancement and non-profit institutions, gathering experiences and formulating opinions about how to work effectively. I’ve grown to judge when it’s not working as well. Out loud, I should add.

subversive-imagery

Decades in the workforce have offered some serious self-awareness shaping as well; it’s not just about the work itself, but who is doing that work? [*Coughs*} A white male, I am not.

That’s me: a colleague-pleasing prospect researcher who strives to support. And a veteran non-profit professional who doesn’t tolerate well inaccuracies, inefficiencies (and other not-so-fun stuff) in the grander fundraising operation. Who feels an obligation to  critique provide feedback; to speak out; to self-advocate; and to school teach. Someone who therefore risks not seeming supportive.

I want to be liked and also want to succeed. As a short, brown female professional, is it possible to be both at the same time? If I continue self-advocating, do I risk being disliked?

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Power woman and social technology executive Sheryl Sandberg writes about this issue in her bestselling book Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead (2013). Refer to her chapter on “Success and Likeability,” where she resigns working women to being both damned and doomed! She cites research conducted by a number of American business schools including Columbia and Harvard to show how gender stereotypes disadvantage outwardly successful women.

“Our stereotype of men holds that they are providers, decisive and driven. Our stereotype of women holds that they are caregivers, sensitive and communal. Because we characterize men and women in opposition to each other, professional achievement and all the traits associated with it get placed in the male column,” according to Ms Sandberg’s research.

What does it mean for working women? She argues:

“If a woman pushes to get the job done, if she’s highly competent, if she focuses on results rather than on pleasing others, she’s acting like a man. And if she acts like a man, people dislike her.”

Consequentially, some women temper their professional accomplishments and goals. I’m no different.

Certainly, I think twice before taking credit, pointing to my own value and other self-promoting behaviour, knowing I may be disliked by men and women alike. When I do advocate for myself, it’s handled carefully and infrequently.

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During Chapters Share the Knowledge Week last year, I shared with fellow Apra members some stories about my own challenges as a solo prospect researcher in my previous fundraising shop that didn’t fully ‘get’ me.

One of my defense mechanisms is an elevator speech which is the ultimate self-promotion tool. The speech articulates – during those times other staff don’t respond to or seem to appreciate – the work I do to help them sound and act smart and strategic in their donor interactions.

The speech is crafted and ready to launch well in advance of an actual emotion-triggering incident, hence assuring a coherent response. (!)

Recently, Apra board member Amy Turbes asked me to create a new elevator speech as part of a toolkit the advocacy committee is developing to help all Apra members self-advocate in their respective shops.

Before this sensitive soul shares said speech with you, it’s worth mentioning my pre-writing process:

For weeks, I looked for language before tackling this small writing exercise, partly because I’m a wurd nerd, but also being careful not to appear self-serving or ‘braggy.’ (Bragging is just not lady-like, I’ve been socialized to believe.) So, I thought about gentle, pleasant words and phrases I could use to describe prospect development efforts at my organization.

Referencing other sources for inspiration was also helpful. If you’re interested in crafting your own elevator speech, please have a look at the American Library Association’s tips here.

I managed to draw up this little diddly which met my own approval:

By ensuring they have access to relevant, accurate and strategic information, I encourage front-line fundraisers to engage our donors in more meaningful ways, ultimately to secure their support.

Stimulating interest, curiosity and awareness about our current and future donors forms a critical part of the strategic support role I play at my organization.

Specifically, new funding opportunities that I identify for further consideration always demonstrate financial capacity alongside some linkage or known interest in my organization. I help fundraisers determine the initial approach for these quality leads based on ethically-sourced research and my own humble experiences.

It requires intelligence and preparation to make the right ask at the right time of the right person. My work equips fundraisers with the informed confidence they need to make it happen.

Anything less is just Googling.

Notice how I carefully tempered this self-promotion with non-threatening words: encourage, support, curiosity, help and humble. 

As a social being naturally wanting to be liked, my quest for likability intensifies at work, especially based on the scope of my role. Being conscious of it has helped me self-advocate anyway, as needed. I’d rather be real and effective at work to advance my organization’s goals. Really.

Apparently, Facebook king Mark Zuckerberg agrees. He told Ms Sandberg that her desire to be liked by everyone would hold her back, as relayed in Lean In. “He said that when you want to change things, you can’t please everyone. If you do please everyone, you aren’t making progress.”

Like me or not, I raise a stemless goblet to progressive prospect development during #ResearchPride month!

#IWD2017   #WeAreApra