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A Brief Thought on Learning

Fri, July 25, 2014 9:08 PM | Laura Parshall
Written by Laura Parshall, editor of the NEDRA News Blog and a senior research analyst at MIT

A Brief Thought On Learning

The other morning, I opened my e-mail, and came across a question from a development officer with whom I've been working for quite a while. She wanted to know if there was a way she could view a list of all the contact reports on the prospects in her portfolio, just so she could count them up and get an idea of how well cultivated each prospect was, relative to others. This wasn't something anyone had ever asked me before, and I hadn't been trained on how to do this. I suspected, however, that this had to be possible. Our programmers have created so many useful reports in our database that "there's an Advance report for that" could be as commonly heard in my office as "there's an app for that" is in smartphone commercials.

I reasoned first of all that this was a report that would have to be run against a saved list of prospects, and figured out, based on that, where it would be located in the system. Sure enough--there was a report listed just for this kind of purpose! I played around with it for a little while, testing it out and figuring out the most efficient way to use it. Then, I responded to the e-mail from my development officer, describing the steps she'd need to take to get the information she wanted. She thanked me immediately, and said it should do the trick just fine.

It occurred to me after reading her grateful e-mail that she probably assumed I'd known exactly how to do this already. Researchers know everything, right? Of course we don't, but we do know how to look for things. Sometimes, front-line fundraisers don't see the difference! Although I had been just as uninformed as my development officer when I received her first e-mail, that question gave me the opportunity to do a little digging and teach myself--and her--something new.

Sometimes, when someone asks us a question, the immediate answer is "I don't know." As researchers, though, we can always add on to that, "…but I will find out." These kinds of questions give us a chance to grow and improve on our skillset and knowledge base. The opportunity to say, "I don't know" is a valuable one. No matter how long we've been in the industry, no matter how long we've been at a particular organization, we always have more to learn. Learning starts with realizing that there's something out there that we don't know.


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