Tag Archives: Prospect Research

Martha Taylor | A career devoted to women’s philanthropy

MarthaMs. Martha A. Taylor

VP of Development, Principal Gifts and Women’s Philanthropy Council at the University of Wisconsin Foundation, since 1975

GREATNESS: an outstanding fundraising professional, pioneer and leader in the international women’s philanthropy movement.


Meet Martha, who I like to call the “mother” of the women’s philanthropy movement in the USA. If you study philanthropy through a female lens like me, you have already heard of Martha and come across her work. She has crafted a stellar career with a life-long focus on fundraising. She wrote her master’s thesis on fundraising in higher education more than 40 years ago. Then she moved up the advancement ranks at the University of Wisconsin Foundation, becoming the first woman vice president of development in the Big Ten.

Martha’s tireless advocacy of women donors and prospects is what caught this prospect researcher’s attention. In 1988, she co-founded the UW Foundation’s Women’s Philanthropy Council, the first women’s major gift program at a co-ed university. It’s a program she leads to this day. Not stopping there, she and Sondra Shaw-Hardy co-founded and co-directed the Women’s Philanthropy Institute, now part of the Indiana University School of Philanthropy, to increase philanthropy by women to all causes. Along with Shaw-Hardy, she wrote the first major book on women’s philanthropy, which won the Grenzebach Research Award from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. 2015 represents the twentieth anniversary of that important work.

Her numerous accolades, from the Association of Fundraising Professionals to the YWCA, are highly-deserved.

Did I mention she’s an enthusiastic and supportive interview subject? I had a chance to speak with Martha last week, asking her some lofty questions about her interest and motivation in advancing women’s philanthropy.

“Twenty years worth of work in three sound bytes?” she asked as we first started our talk. Still, she didn’t hesitate to offer thoughtful, candid answers with characteristically mid-western graciousness.

On Anonymity

Martha wanted to dive right in to my question about why many women tend to remain anonymous with their major giving. I sent her two recent examples of major alumnae giving to Smith College and Wellesley College – $10M and $50M respectively – where the donors chose not to be named.

“I just found that so interesting,” Martha said.

“The fact they wanted to remain anonymous, doesn’t surprise me. But I still ask – why? That’s the way it is.”

When I asked her whether she thought anonymity is a generational issue, without any hesitation, she said, “No.”

Having worked with many women donors and prospects on their philanthropic planning throughout her career, some have told her:

“Get used to it, Martha, we don’t want to [be named].

“They want to be part of a group. That’s one of the key differences in giving by men versus women. Women respond to peer inclusiveness.

“It’s a big thing for women to pool smaller gifts – collaborative giving and making challenge gifts,” Martha said.

“These gifts are probably from baby boomer women, the age when their philanthropy is coming to fuller fruition. Older [civic generation] women have already made their lead gifts to their colleges.”

[Editor’s Note: must segment latest SYBUNT list by generation, that is if we track this data point in our system.]

On Philanthropic Women

When you manage to get the co-founder of the WPI on the phone, you just let her talk:

“People didn’t think women were making the [giving] decisions in the household, so they weren’t being approached to give. The woman’s interests weren’t being heard [by fundraisers].

“Women were disenfranchised by philanthropy. They weren’t being [exposed]. Women learn about philanthropy by being asked!

“That’s all changing now. We hope,” Martha said.

On Prospect Researching Women

Of course, I asked Martha what tips or advice she had for prospect researchers like me, on identifying and researching women.

First, focus on existing loyal donors:

“Look at women who have given your organization $100 each year for the past twenty years,” she noted.

Also, take a look at women who give to community foundations, since they offer a popular vehicle for philanthropic planning. (Martha currently serves on the Madison Community Foundation’s board and gives to their women’s fund.)

“The best indicators for women’s giving are indicators we don’t track in our databases,” she said, citing the work of her colleague Kathleen Loehr with whom Martha recently co-addressed the Minnesota Planned Giving Council.

“CRM systems are particularly bad for crediting women, recognizing women, tracking women. They’ve gotten worse!” Martha noted.

“Keeping in mind education and zip code [in my case, postal code] are stable…”

Just as Martha was getting ready to list off the top qualitative indicators prospect researchers could look for in identifying women from the database, the phone line dropped.

We got back on track quickly for Martha’s top tips:

  • frequency of worship – actively religious, especially among the baby boomers and older generations, who are prime prospects now.
  • number of children. Some studies have shown that number of children isn’t [a likelihood indicator] for very wealthy families, but it is important to note for upper-middle class donors.
  • source of money. This will help you understand the psychological relationship the woman has with money [and parting with it; giving it away]. Three ways to source money:

Inherit the money | Marry the money | Earn the money, or a combination.

“It’s a very different dynamic with inheritors,” Martha said. “Source of money isn’t something development officers and prospect researchers tend to track in our databases at the moment. These indicators aren’t on prospect radar screens.

“Take a look at the research from the Lilly School of Philanthropy. Then think about what indicators are searchable in our data systems? What do we keep track of? We’re not taking advantage of all this good research out there on women.

“It’s going to be a slow process,” Martha noted.

On Personal Recognition

“Women donors’ biggest pet peeve with non-profits is crediting their gifts. Not public recognition [like a cheque presentation or a donor reception], but personal recognition. Having the CEO and key people in the organization know who they are, value and appreciate them as donors. That’s what they want.

“One of the key ways to show them appreciation is to credit their gifts correctly. Have acknowledgement letters addressed both to them and their men. Solicit women for gifts directly, not all of the time, but some of the time.”

Great advice on research and stewardship from a great woman in our field!








Christina Pulawski | A Leading Prospect Researcher

Ms Christina Ann Pulawski

Director, Prospect Development & Information Strategy, Art Institute of Chicago and Principal, Christina Pulawski Consulting

GREATNESS: An award-winning, versatile researcher and effective leader who keeps it real

IMG_3522This interview constitutes the second half of my conversation with native Chicagoan Christina Pulawski. You’ll find the first half – where I ask her about great researcher traits and leading people – on APRA-Illinois’ blog here.

Who are your mentors?

One of her early mentors was “ridiculously intelligent. She would be terribly interested in whatever I was into at the time, no matter how kooky, and despite generational differences. And it was always sincere,” Christina recalled.

“Curiously, a couple of people I consider mentors now are people I’ve trained. They’re people who are terribly intelligent, innovative. And I got to teach them the ropes. Here are the Legos and levers of research and prospect management and then they took it to a different degree or level. Now, I ask them for advice. It’s awesome to see where they take fundamentals.”

Yours truly was in Chicago last weekend to present on researching women donors and prospects at APRA-Illinois’ fall conference. With women philanthropists and prospect researchers on my mind, I asked her:

What advice to you share with those in our field who want to progress to leadership/management, knowing that you’ve presented on this topic recently to both APRA International and APRA-Canada? Most in our field, according to APRA’s demographic data on our members, are women. Do you have specific advice for women who want to lead?

I had a problem with that one. I grew up in the Seventies and the way to be enlightened in the Seventies was to be completely blind to anything that people might use to differentiate themselves like gender, ethnicity, race, economic strata. Honestly, I’ve seen no reason to change. It’s important to take people one by one, not as groups united by any one thing. I’d more likely consider specific advice if I sensed an individual was an introvert or had a particular type of education or level of experience.

“So any advice I give women to be strong leaders is the same that I would give to men to be strong leaders.

“Is it still a question?” she looked pointedly at me, referencing Dorothy Leigh Sayers who I later had to Google. 🙂

[“Central to Sayers’ thinking is that both men and women are first of all human beings and must be regarded as essentially much more alike than different. We are to be true not so much to our sex as to our humanity. The proper role of both men and women, in Sayers’ view, is to find the work for which they are suited and to do it.” – From EqualityDepot.com]

Christina went on to offer the following gender-neutral advice:

“Over-communicate. Over prepare. And realize that the skills that might have gotten you far as a researcher are frequently diametrically opposed to the skills you need to be a leader or manager. Not all of them, but some of them. Technical skills sometimes hold people back from the skills you need to navigate on behalf of other people.”

“It’s hard to keep your hands off of [research] though,” Christina acknowledged with a small smile.

Then somehow, we meandered into philosophical territory about data-driven fundraising, specifically that donors are human.

“The rise of statistical modeling and data analytics result in a strange dichotomy,” Christina said. “On one hand, the way we relate to individuals in the workplace, is supposed to be egalitarian. Yet, we’re putting more labels and scores and creating more segments than ever existed [on individual prospects].”

Then she motioned her index finger in the air to demonstrate a bulleted list and said in a robotic-like tone:

  • Has more than a college education.
  • Income range = X.
  • Buys these kinds of cars.

“We use that in our work to identify prospects. And obviously the big segments like gender, age, ethnicity – are all the things in the workplace we’re taught not to focus on or use to differentiate employees. Yet the source of good in our work is to label people. We’re labeling them as prospects.

“Maintain sensitivity in your research. Don’t lose that empathy. Your ultimate client is your donor and you can’t forget that your donors are people; although what makes an efficient researcher is to forget that every once in a while.

“There are a thousand different ways to segment them. Philanthropists come in all shapes, sizes and backgrounds. And they behave in very different ways.”

Thank you for your time and your prolific commentary, Christina Pulawski. Follow this prospect research rock star on Twitter @christinaap.

Related Source:

Rory Green, “Four Things from #IFC2015 That Will Help you be a Better Fundraiser” – 101fundraising blog —


Jane Griffith | Facilitating a strong community of women


Ms Jane R Griffith

Partner & Practice Leader, Academic & Not-For-Profit Sector, at Four Corners Group, Inc.

GREATNESS: a self-professed women’s advocate who began her career in prospect research and now finds fundraising leaders for the non-profit sector through executive search.

Meet Jane Griffith, an accomplished and community-minded executive search consultant in Toronto. You’ll be impressed by her biography, between her diverse education credentials – from legal history to environmental studies – to her progressive move up the ranks of well-respected recruitment firms. It left me wondering when she found the time to found an advocacy group called Council for Women Executives and volunteer with AFP Toronto Congress (on the management team).

Jane started her career as a prospect researcher at the United Way of Greater Toronto.

“[The career path] is never a straight line,” she told me over a phone conversation earlier this week. “I fell into prospect research as a lot of people do.”

Fresh out of university, Jane was volunteering at the UWGT when a prospect research position came up. “I liked the idea of using my research skills from my master’s degree,” she said about her early career days.

I haven’t met Jane in person, but we share a kindred connection: APRA-Canada. Jane is one of the founding board members of APRA’s largest chapter which was first formed fifteen years ago. (By “largest,” I’m referring to both geographic expanse and membership numbers.) According to this chapter’s inaugural issue of The Scoop (2001), Jane helped establish a mentoring program and served on the professional development committee during her time on the board.

She moved on to prospect research positions at KCI (Ketcham Canada Inc.) and York University. Citing the need for a new challenge (and a shorter commute), Jane then turned to executive search consulting, a field with “strong parallels” to prospect research.

“The difference with [executive] search is you’re on the phone a lot, interviewing prospective candidates; it’s more extroverted work,” she noted.


It was Jane’s advocacy work that caught my gender-focused attention a few months ago. Delving further into her background – indeed, I created a kind of prospect profile on her, minus financial indicators! – I thought, here is a real woman’s woman.

Currently, she is part of the steering committee which is launching the 30% Club in Canada, later this month. Founded in the UK by Helena Morrissey, an asset management executive (who happens to rear nine children!), the 30% Club “believes that gender balance on boards not only encourages better leadership and governance, but diversity further contributes to better all-round board performance, and ultimately increased corporate performance for both companies and their shareholders.”

Simply put, gender equality makes sound business sense, and the Club believes that change should happen from within the sector itself without the use of mandatory quotas. Their goal is for 30% of board seats to be held by women by 2019.

Corporate Canada is well-positioned to meet this aspirational target in the coming years since women already comprise 20.8% of such positions, but groups like the 30% Club need to continuously apply pressure.

It’s Jane’s job to rally the search sector around women since she’s placed at the critical intersection between women leaders and the organizations who employ and champion them.

That led me to ask her why advocating for women is important to her.

“It’s a provocative question and it forces me to really think about what I’m doing,” Jane said.

“I’m a big believer that if we want to change and grow community, we need to get involved ourselves; whether it’s through fundraising, volunteering or helping people find meaningful work that is tied to mission.”

“I help women become more aligned with their aspirations. This is how I see myself helping community, the community of women.”


Towards the end of our conversation, I couldn’t help but ask this former prospect researcher for prospecting advice, specifically for women prospects, and how to get our fundraisers to act on them?

“Kind of in the same way that women aren’t seen to be qualified for board directorships or senior management roles, the same applies to fundraising. Women aren’t seen as the big donors,” she admitted.

“Research shows that women are key decision-makers when it comes to charitable giving. Women make up more than 50 per cent of the population, so we’d be foolish to ignore them in our fundraising efforts,” she said with determination.

Since her career focuses on finding great fundraising leaders for non-profit organizations, what are the character traits of a successful fundraiser? Jane offers a confidence boost for professionals in my own sector:

“Researchers make really strong fundraisers. They already know the basics, they know ‘the how.’ They understand the art [of fundraising].

I look for people that are honest, have motivation and drive, and know why they want to be successful.”

Jane emphasizes the mission and cause of the organization. A successful candidate will demonstrate how she intends to help fulfill that organization’s mission.

With more than a decade of experience talking to women candidates, Jane shares that “we tend to talk more about our weaknesses. We start with our weaknesses!”

She urges women fundraisers to change that conversation. Let’s talk about our strengths first.

“We need women in senior leadership roles. They have to want to step up. Be ready to take the next step. It’ll take more of your time, so make sure you’re doing what you love.”

Some good advice from a great woman!

A Few Relatable Sources:

Canadian Business Magazine: Women now hold one in five corporate board seats in Canada. [January 2015]

Read more about the 30% Club in Canada, by Jane Griffith on the Four Corners Group blog, here.

Hunt Scanlon recently interviewed Jane about her work with the 30% Club from an executive search perspective here.