Gwen Colwell

Gwen Colwell is Senior Development Strategist at Lewis Kennedy Associates

Recent Posts

How Using Data From Prospect Research Can Boost Major Gifts Revenue

Major Giving, prospecting

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As major giving programs become more important to the overall revenue picture at public media organizations, it is critical to run these programs as efficiently as possible. A key tool for many successful major giving programs is prospect research. Simply put, prospect research is a formal and organized way of determining whether or not a person is a good major gift prospect.

This kind of vetting is commonly used by hospitals and universities. Investments in prospect research aren’t as common in public media because stations tend to start their major giving programs at a lower level of giving ($1,000 or $2,500). As we in public media set our sights on higher levels of giving and conduct more relationship-based major gifts work, the benefits of prospect research become much more pronounced. Prospect research delivers the information and context that major gift officers need in order to do their job efficiently and strategically.

What Is Prospect Research?

Prospect identification and research: discovering and evaluating prospective donors and their interest, relationships, inclination to give and philanthropic capacity to inform and support an organization's fundraising strategies and outreach efforts.

- Apra (Association for Prospect Development)

Prospect research is most often thought of as a simple wealth screening tool where a company does an electronic sweep of all or part of a database and assigns a wealth score or grouping to donors. Prospect research then goes beyond wealth screening to develop a more well-rounded picture of a donor’s possible interest in an organization and in philanthropy, as well as their financial capacity for a charitable gift. Prospect research can be used to find new major giving or planned giving prospects from your current database, manage new prospects as they are discovered, sort through the volume of data you uncover, build major giving portfolios for new gift officers, and help giving officers identify the priority for donor outreach.

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Make This the Year to Beat for Year-End Major Giving

Major Giving, calendar year-end, giving clubs

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Every fundraiser looks hopefully to December when so many people give generously to nonprofits. In fact, over 30% of the annual gifts made happen in the month of December. There is great opportunity to connect to some of your most generous supporters by ensuring that your organization's gift-club donors ($1,000 - $5,000) are asked to renew their gifts before the end of the calendar year.

Here's a concrete (hypothetical) example of how gift-club renewals can line you up to meet your year-end goal: Say your station has a budget gap of $150,000 between your year-end goal and  your giving total as of December 1st. If you have 500 gift-club members ($1,200 entry gift), and 100 of them are due to renew their gifts in November/December, there is an opportunity to ask for $120,000 in gifts.

The difference between finishing the year on-budget or not could come down to the number of gift-club asks you make, so don’t delay. Here is a plan of action to solicit these donors and help them to be a vital part of your organization's successes in the coming year.

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How to Write a Capital Campaign Case Statement That Dazzles Donors

Major Giving, case statement, capital campaign

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One of the most visible work products of a capital campaign is the campaign case statement. This cornerstone – and, ideally, captivating – document illustrates the need your campaign is addressing, why it is urgent to address it now, and persuades the reader that they are key to making transformational change. It is a chance to demonstrate why your station is in a unique position to do amazing things. The most fabulous case statements are concise, urgent, and inspiring.

Your case statement should be unique to your organization and to the project that you are raising money to create. There is not a one-size-fits-all approach, but you must create a document that will clearly communicate to your prospective donors:

1. The problem facing your community

2. What your project is and how it solves the problem

3. Why they should be a part of the solution

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Creative New Ways to Engage Listeners During Your Next Drive

PMDMC, Membership, Social/Mobile, pledge drive

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Informed by recommendations and case studies from Paul Jacobs of Jacobs Media, and Frank Auer of WGBH.

On-air drives remain one of the biggest fundraising opportunities for public media and certainly the biggest driver of new donations to stations. But how can you keep listeners tuned in, engage them more effectively, and get more of them to give? Try experimenting with one of these ideas:

1. Connect with Millennials using relevant language and giving options.

Engaging Millennials is a buzz topic. While there is no single Millennial profile, Jacobs Media Strategies found several relevant takeaways about public radio listeners from this generation as part of their Millennial Project.

Non-commercial radio is a key concept for Millennials. They like that “it’s not trying to sell me anything.” The medium is viewed as trustworthy and credible. Also:

  • A connection to the world that offers lifelong learning.
  • Civil, not sensational.
  • Educational and challenges preconceived notions.
  • “The least partisan way of staying informed about things that matter.”
  • “Intellectual thinking with community-focused programming.”
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Three Great Ways to Grow Listening Among Your Audience

PMDMC, Membership, pledge drive, Engagement

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Informed by recommendations from Michelle Owens of Vermont Public Radio, Craig Oliver of Greater Public, Jody Evans of Public Radio Program Directors, and Izzi Smith of NPR

Listening is the most elemental unit of the public radio economy. The past year has seen record increases in listening, and many stations are converting that increase into new revenue, updated case statements, and new content for future audiences. The importance of listening is simple: Those who listen more have a better ability to understand and internalize the value of public media and the public funding model. Decades of studies have indeed shown that station revenue is listener-sensitive; more people listening means greater opportunity for fundraising success. Better fundraising leads to more investment in great programming, which brings in more listeners and so on.

Here are some great ways to grow listening over the long-term.

1. Understand that listening actually decreases during a drive and plan accordingly.

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Eight Easy Ways to Finish Year-End Fundraising With a Bang

Benchmarks for Public Radio Fundraising, Membership, #GivingTuesday, Year End Giving

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By about mid-October, you should get your year-end giving efforts underway. American donors love giving at the end of the calendar year. Trust the data: 30% of all giving in 2015 occurred in December and of that 11% in the last three days!

Make the most of your year-end opportunities and close the year with champagne, fireworks, and a healthy revenue bump by following these eight steps to success:

1. Make a plan and share it.

Whether you use the latest project management software or the cat calendar tacked above your desk, your campaign success depends on making an integrated communications plan. Decide which elements you want to use, then map out the start date and frequency of those efforts. 

In addition to produced on-air spots, direct mail, and e-appeals, consider adding some of these pieces to your communications mix:

    • Goal trackers
    • Lightbox
    • Live on-air appeals
    • Challenges/matches
    • Special giveaways
    • Homepage takeover
    • Digital ads
    • Street marketing

Share your year-end plan broadly, so that everyone at your station, from traffic to programming to the front desk, feels like he or she is working towards a shared goal.

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