March 2016 marks the second anniversary of Prospect Development Pride Month, a celebration of our profession inspired by Helen Brown's seminal article Coming Out.
Reflecting on the progression of the fundraising intelligence field, we have great cause to be proud. The past two decades have seen Research break out, like a caterpillar from its chrysalis, from a support/admin role to being true partners in fundraising (forgive the butterfly cliché, but I'm under the influence of the Eric Carle Museum just down the road).
The perception of our field is more professional and respected than ever before. Employers are realizing how critical we are. We're seeing it again and again – a small shop without prospect development staff recognizes the need and hires one of the many awesome consultants out there; or dips its toe by bringing on a part-time researcher. A nonprofit with a part time researcher designates a solid FTE to prospect development. Employers that have long had research are expanding the team, adding positions in prospect management, analytics and more. We are at the important meetings, we are serving on campaign committees, our input is sought on key decisions.
I firmly believe that the advocacy, education and networking provided by APRA International and its chapters have been important drivers of this progression. The number of NEDRA members is on track for a record-breaking year – a testament that this field's ranks in the nonprofit world are growing, and that our employers are investing in our professional development.
Fatherly.com recently reported on a nationwide poll of what kids want to be when they grow up. Prospect development did not make the list--unless you very liberally interpret one kid's response of "gold miner." (I know you want to see the data. Here you go.) It's not a huge surprise that kindergartners aspire to be doctors, not fundraising analysts; more worrisome is how few college and grad students are aware of this great career option. We don't even make it onto the list of "18 Awesome Career Choices College Kids Have No Idea About." Ask a roomful of us how we got into this field, and I'll bet the leading answer is "fell into it accidentally."
It's time to take advocacy to the next level. APRA is making this a priority and doubling down on it. NEDRA is doing our part as well. In April, Tim Enman (Smith College) and I will present on prospect development careers to a gathering of library school students. In May, Stacey MacDonnell (Harvard Law School) and Erin Dupuis (Merrimack College) will be giving a talk to AFP-Mass, "Prospect Research 101: So Much More Than Just Google." NEDRA welcomes your suggestions and participation to keep this initiative going.
It's clear from the abundance of passionate #ResearchPride outpourings that there is a great deal of career satisfaction in our prospect development world. We're happy and we know it. Let's clap our hands and share it with the world!
© 2018 New England Development Research Association