Role of prospect research in corporate giving

Prospect research is critical in securing corporate & foundation gifts. In every gift I’ve helped secure, I cannot underestimate the effort I’ve invested in  understanding the “giving pulse” of a corporate or foundation entity. Here are some useful takeaways from discussions among prospect researchers and corporate & foundation staff at a recent CASE conference:

  1. Ask intelligent questions. From where did my peer institutions get funding?
  2. What personal connections do we have with the corporation or foundation?
  3. Zero in on who else got what?
  4. Network with peers at similar organizations.
  5. Study the vendor list thoroughly.
  6. Analyze prospects based on institutional priorities, prospect fit and grant amount.
  7. Do not spend too much time on prospect research. If it’s a good fit you will be able to find that out in an hour.
  8. Inform faculty or others seeking funds quickly if your research yields less prospect for funding.
  9. Check giving averages carefully. The mean is tricky, so focus on the typical grant that was given to an organization that was like yours.
  10. Always ask: What problem are you trying to solve? What opportunities are you going to seize?
  11. Do not talk money first, instead focus on the problem and find a solution.

Rockstar Entrepreneur: Nathan J. Reis, Entrust Bankcard

At first sight, Nathan J. Reis is not your typical CEO type. Wearing a black Steve Job’s T-Shirt (Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish), you wouldn’t think that this small-town boy from Wisconsin would hit it big in dry, arid Arizona.

But Reis is a wildly successful “big growth” Arizona entrepreneur. He candidly told his story at a business seminar jointly organized by the Mesa Chamber of Commerce and Mesa Community Colleges. He began with three failures and then talked about starting Entrust Bankcard as a bootstrap initiative. Entrust provides merchant processing products and services and  is now Inc. 500’s 18th fastest growing company in the nation. As the company grew, Nate realized he “didn’t have the vocabulary to explain to employees about this fast growth in business.”

The supersized growth came with trade-offs. “If you wait to grow your business, put all the NO’s up on the wall.”Entrepreneurs must decide “what you don’t do.”

He credits the growth of his company to the work culture that he has created. Well, what is culture in a business? Is it reverence ? Is it conformity? To Nate, culture is being as “loud and noisy as possible.” “People will tell you to keep your head down.”

According to Nate,  extreme success happens when we  create a for-profit approach to a social problem. And, he is aiming for the sky. He wants to grow Entrust 50% year on year and increase his customer base to 250,000 small businesses. He believes in CRM software and the future of cloud technology. At the same time, he has started preparing for where he will be in two years.