Philanthropic Research

19/07/2017 at 22:42 Leave a comment


Sure, these days there are certificate programs as well as undergraduate and graduate programs in nonprofit management and philanthropy. I’m old (veteran, experienced what have you). When I began my career in philanthropy, I learned on the job.

This week I realized how my university work in Political Science and History with a minor in Sociology helped get me where I am today – along with a Mom who supported and believed in me and a network of fundraising professionals who held their hand out and pulled me up.

Currently, I am building fundraising portfolios from scratch. This includes reviewing current and lapsed donors. Talking about prospects suggested by leaders and those who seem a potential fit based on news items.

Photo credit: Maura Hernandez

Do they fit in a portfolio? Well that’s where my university experience doing research, writing and intuition comes to play. My majors and minors required a lot of research from primary and secondary sources. I had to write, review and think about the subject to determine if my thesis was proved or I needed more explanation. I am old – all this research was done without the Internet or a computer for that matter. I loved this work – the smell of the library, looking for resources in the card file and finding actual books on the shelves.

This love of research carries over to my work in philanthropy. I am curious – not a stalker. My work at university taught me to keep asking questions. Look for more information. Refine and narrow the details to hone my argument.

This is the same work I deploy when building a portfolio.

  • What tells me this person might have philanthropic interest (let alone capacity)?
  • Are their values aligned with the mission?
  • What experiences did or are they having that fit with the work?

So many more questions.

The research is but a first step. And one that does not take a long time. At some point I decide they should be in the portfolio and then determine what my outreach will be (moves management) so I can learn more from them as the best of primary sources.

There is nothing better than a face to face conversation about the donor’s experience, passion, interests and stories. And the beginning of a relationship where I can serve as a catalyst for their philanthropy. I want to help them turn their passions for mission into a philanthropic investment that has impact and provides them with a wonderful sense of belonging, accomplishment and pride.

It all began at university – unbeknownst to me and many decades later – I know why I was meant to hone my research skills.

Stay tuned on how and why writing all those political science and history papers contributed to my fundraising skills.

Entry filed under: Fundraising, Nonprofit fundraising, Nonprofit Research. Tags: , , , .

Guy Raz – Best Interviews Ever Good v Bad Philanthropy

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