Focus on your top prospects using prospect management

Are you ever worried that you are going to "lose" someone in your database? Does this lead you to "hoard" names in an ever-growing list, so that it's difficult to maintain focus on your most active prospects? If this sounds familiar, then it's time to implement or shore up your prospect tracking systems.

It's important to differentiate between prospect management tracking and moves management tracking.  Prospect management is a larger process, and moves management nestles within it. Moves management is concerned with what happens while a prospect is actively assigned to be qualified, cultivated, solicited and stewarded.  Prospect management encompasses what happens before, during and after moves management.  To help you keep track of folks at different stages in the prospect management process, consider tracking an overall "prospect status". Here are some ideas for prospect status coding:

Research -- This is for those folks who have been identified as potential major gift prospects, but no research has been done.  Use this code to create a holding pool, and pull out a few folks every week to research.

Assignment Pending -- If you have the happy problem of more prospects than staff to see those prospects, use this as a holding pool for prospects who have been researched and found to likely have major gift capacity (financial ability to give a major gift).  Use this pool to replenish your major gift prospect list as you disqualify prospects. Of course, the exception to this rule is "hot prospects" who have high capacity and high affinity (interest in and engagement with your organization), or maybe just very high capacity! Hot prospects should skip the "Assignment Pending" pool and move right into active moves management.

Active Prospect -- Apply this label to individuals who are currently in the moves management cycle, being actively managed by development staff.  At this point, start tracking their moves management stage as well: Discovery/Qualification, Cultivation, Solicitation, or Stewardship.

Disqualified -- This indicates that this individual has been determined not to be a good prospect for major giving.  Some shops further delineate between "Disqualified for Capacity" and "Disqualified for Affinity", which is a great and helpful distinction.  You'll want to review these individuals periodically  to see if it might be time to try again, based on changes in engagement or financial circumstances.  It can also be helpful to track who disqualified the prospect: did it happen at the research level, or based on a face-to-face interaction with the prospect?

Watch -- Also sometimes called "will inherit", though "Watch" is a better term, as it also encompasses entrepreneurs and others who might experience a liquidity event (that magic time when fixed assets become liquid cash, e.g. an IPO or a company sale).  Use this code for folks you want to keep an eye on and cultivate due to expected major gift capacity in the future.  You'll want to review these individuals from time to time to see if it might be time to move toward a major gift ask.

Lifetime Stewardship -- Sometimes you know a donor is never going to give a large gift again, but should be stewarded for significant past giving.  Use this code to keep these donors out of your major gift pyramids, and possibly even out of major gift portfolios, while making sure they remain in the stewardship limelight.

Partner -- If your database does not allow you to treat couples as a "household" for prospect management tracking purposes, consolidate all of your prospect tracking data on one primary prospect record, and give the partner a status code. This allows you to only count each household one time when forecasting major giving.  It also serves as a flag that the individual tagged as "Partner" is a major gift prospect and that there is tracking data available on their partner's record.  The exception to this rule is couples who make all of their philanthropic decision-making separately -- each partner should  be treated as a distinct prospect.

Conduit -- Use this code to identify donor-advised funds or family foundations where the gift will be initiated by an individual who is already tracked as an "Active Prospect". The organization itself is a "conduit" for a personal gift. It's kind of like the "Partner" code, but for an organization. Similar to with spouses, you don't want to double-count in your forecasting, but you also don't want to lose track of these important organizations.