2018 Mariann Bishop Professional Development Grant Recipient - Della Keyser, Villanova University
The Mariann Bishop Memorial Grant presented me with a great opportunity to bolster my knowledge of an important area adjacent to advancement research – prospect management. My position as a Research Analyst at Villanova University sits firmly within prospect research; I work closely with our wonderful prospect management team, but my prospect management responsibilities generally start and end with assigning newly-rated prospects to a pipeline based on their degree. So I jumped at the chance to learn the basics of prospect management and signed up for “Fundamentals of Constituent Relationship Management,” an online class offered through Rice University.
The class, which is taught by APRA President Bond Lammey and Emily Walsh of the University of Arizona Foundation, provides a thorough and thoughtful introduction to the topic. Information is presented across four modules – Terms and Definitions, Tracking and Coding Relationship Management, Developing Relationship Management Policy, and Implementing Effective Relationship Management – each reinforced with course readings and a quiz. The class is ostensibly designed for those creating relationship management policy and CRM fields/codes from scratch. However, along with the basics, the instructors include many next-level suggestions, such as creating a way to measure the likelihood of closing a gift, that should interest those with an already-established system for prospect management. They also share current thinking and best practices on metrics for officer performance, as well as portfolio size and composition.
After completing the class, I read through Villanova’s Prospect Management Guidelines with new eyes, able to more clearly see the logic behind and strategies motivating the various policies laid out in the document. We maintain a small archive of past versions of the guidelines, and it has been a helpful exercise tracking how they have changed over time as our team has taken new approaches, adapted to challenges, and incorporated best practices. That flexibility and readiness to reflect on our organization’s needs – two qualities that Lammey and Walsh stress— is going to be key for us, too, as Villanova prepares to launch our next campaign.
Along with classes on gift administration, donor relations, analytics, prospect research, and fundraising systems management, “Fundamentals of Constituent Relationship Management” is one of six classes at Rice that comprise a certificate in fundraising operations. Based on the quality of this course, I am hoping to explore these other topics at Rice in the near future as part of my continuing professional development.