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The NEDRA News blog features topical industry-specific articles submitted by our membership; book, publication, film, and resource reviews; op-ed pieces about emerging fundraising topics and issues; and information and news specifically related to NEDRA as an organization.  We hope these selections will be of interest to you - and we encourage you to share your thoughts and comments here!

NEDRA News was previously a quarterly journal of prospect research published by the New England Development Research Association from the organization's inception in 1987 until the end of 2011. Since 2012, we have continued to offer to you, our members, the same NEDRA News content you have come to rely on - but in a blog format tailored to meet the changing needs of our members, and featuring new content on a monthly (rather than quarterly) basis.

  • Tue, September 25, 2012 10:42 AM | Laura Parshall
    In this blast-from-the-past article, Kathy Nadire at the Kent School provides some helpful tips for small shop researchers to find new major donors.

  • Tue, September 25, 2012 10:14 AM | Laura Parshall
    • September 1992: Laurie Lamothe elected president for 1992-1993
    • September 1993: 310 members
    • September 1993: account balance $8,637.98
    • September 1998: NEDRA hires an outside management company, The Guild Associates, Inc., to handle the organization’s administrative tasks.
  • Tue, September 25, 2012 10:06 AM | Laura Parshall
    NEDRA needs presenters for its 2013 Annual Conference! Do you have an idea for a presentation that would be interesting and helpful to your fellow researchers? Want to show off your PowerPoint skills? Share your knowledge and experience? Visit the conference presentation RFP page today, and sign up to be a conference presenter in the spring! Presentation proposals are due by October 19th, so sign up soon.
  • Tue, September 25, 2012 9:44 AM | Laura Parshall
    Amy Sacco, Director of Research at Assumption College in Worcester, MA, has prepared this list of helpful ideas for how researchers can help a new executive integrate into their organization. It was originally published by APRA - Upstate New York, and Amy has kindly shared it with the NEDRA News Blog.

    1.     Inform but don’t overload. Arm her with the tools necessary to hit the road running.  Provide an overview – she’ll know where to come for the details. Deliver all materials in one easy-to-use binder with a guide for easy review.

    2.     Start at the very beginning.  Provide an outline of the research department. Itemize the areas that you and your staff oversee, noting each staff member’s responsibilities. Provide samples of reports/lists/templates so he can get an understanding of how you currently present information to the staff.
    3.     Trustees. Include a list of trustees with either basic or full profiles including pictures and contact information.  She will want to be able to easily identify these individuals at events and meetings. She should be able to go in feeling like she already knows them.

    4.     Top prospects and VIPs.  Provide full profiles on your top prospects (again, pictures are key if you have them) so that he can start familiarizing himself with this group. Don’t load him up with 100 profiles but find a cutoff that makes sense for your organization. Also include profiles on those that may not be top donors but are key people to know. (e.g. they have a very interesting position or are locally or nationally well-known).

    5.     Campaign stats. Have you completed a campaign within the past year or so? Include your gift pyramid and list of top donors (including foundations). It’s not necessary to provide detailed information on this group, just a listing that notes constituency and giving history so she can get a sense of who played a major role during that time.

    6.     Community leaders. A listing of community leaders (name, title, and organization) is helpful for an executive who is new to the area. As he gets involved and/or attends functions outside of your institution it is wise to know who’s who in town – from the city government to the art museum!

    7.     Screening Results. If you recently went through a screening provide a few things: a quick breakdown on who was screened; your contract information (Cost? How many users? A terminology key). Throw in some of the charts that come back with the screening review; share some information on the steps your office has taken to go through the results and some general findings/next steps. Again, she’ll know where to go for the details so keep it basic for now.

    8.     Be creative. Pull some fun lists for him to review. (e.g. constituents from his hometown or shared alumni if he’s moving between educational institutions). Think outside of the box.

    9.     All work and no play…. Have some fun! Where is the best place to get a sandwich at lunch? Who has the best waffles for a Sunday morning breakfast? Cheapest movie theater in town? Not only is he new to your institution but is mostly likely new to town. Provide some maps and a brochure from your local chamber of commerce.

    10.  Face time.  Make an appointment for a one-on-one meeting. Present and review your materials.  It’s a great time to start your relationship and show her what a great research team she just inherited!

    Bonus Tip:  Be Ready!  Be ready for brainstorming sessions; for a review of your workload, your processes and your obstacles.  You can prepare for weeks or months in advance but know that this person is coming in with new ideas and a burst of energy.  Hopefully it’s the breath of fresh air that the whole office needs!    

  • Mon, August 27, 2012 11:03 AM | Laura Parshall

    The NEDRA Board of Directors had its monthly operations call on Thursday, August 23. Among the topics discussed were upcoming NEDRA programs, the 2013 conference, and the excellent volunteers who have stepped forward to help out in a variety of ways. Read on for more information.

  • Mon, August 27, 2012 10:57 AM | Laura Parshall

    The Board of Directors would like to take this opportunity to thank those people who have volunteered their time and effort in the past month to help the Board and their fellow NEDRA members.

    Tina Tong at Tufts University has volunteered to coordinate session hosts, formerly known as room monitors, at the 2013 Annual Conference.

    Allison Gill at Brown University has volunteered to serve on the Membership Committee.

    Suzanne Milauskas at Bentley University, Tim Wilson at Harvard Business School, Kimberly Giedd at Boston University, Debbie Neumann at Children's Hospital Trust, Tina Tong at Tufts University, and Margaret Houska at Teach For America have all volunteered to write articles for the NEDRA News Blog. Look for Suzanne's article below!

    NEDRA would not be able to serve its members so effectively without the help of these and our other volunteers. If you want to help out, keep an eye out for the Volunteer Opportunity of the Month every month in the NEDRA News Blog, or contact the Board of Directors to learn about other ways you can volunteer!

  • Mon, August 27, 2012 10:55 AM | Laura Parshall
    This month, the Membership Committee is seeking volunteers to contact lapsed NEDRA members, find out why they did not enroll this year, and ideally inspire lapsed members to renew their memberships. Volunteers will be provided with training on how to conduct these calls, along with information they can share regarding the benefits of membership. If you are interested in volunteering for the Membership Committee, please call Ian Wells at (617) 643-6596.
  • Fri, August 24, 2012 2:49 PM | Laura Parshall

    This month, Suzanne Milauskas, Director of Prospect Research and Management at Bentley University, describes her decision to screen alumni based on reunion year on an ongoing basis, instead of in a large batch every few years. Read on to see how it's working for Bentley.

    A Case Study – Wealth Screening by Reunion Class


    The first week I started working in the field of prospect research, the modeling results of 50,000 constituents with wealth screening results for 10,000 of them were delivered to our department.  Dropped right into the fire in September 2007, I spent the next year with the then Director furiously analyzing all the asset data. It was a major focus of our time and our first priority. Even so, it took the two of us many months to research this “new-found" wealth.

    We had made a decision not to circulate any results until all the major gift prospects were confirmed.  Since the screening was supposed to be the start of our pre-campaign planning phase, and the new ratings would form the basis of our campaign pyramid, we felt it was too risky to send out data straight from the vendor without confirmation. In theory, it was a good plan.  In reality, it wasn’t a huge success.


    By the time we delivered the “top-tier” results to the development team in the fall of 2008, a year had passed and a lot had changed.

    • Enthusiasm for and recollection of the screening had waned among the development team, so assignments of newly found prospects were not fully embraced.
    • There were plans for major staff changes in 2009, resulting in a reluctance to alter portfolio makeups.
    • The Financial Crisis had begun, and gift officer confidence in the new ratings plummeted, divisional goals and focus shifted, and campaign planning was delayed - all in response to the economy.

    So, the investment of time and money in screening this large number of prospects yielded few positive results due to a confluence of unpredictable events.


    Fast-forward to April 2011 and the arrival of the NEDRA News, in which Amanda Yost Parker wrote a great piece about creating an effective plan for a wealth screening. I remember reading her paragraph about the importance of planning how to handle the results and the dissemination of a screening. I was the newly appointed Director of a department that now consisted of just me, and Amanda’s insights got me thinking about how to balance the future need for wealth screenings with my time availability, and how to ensure that the development staff used the results effectively.


    Fast-forward again to the release by WealthEngine of the 2012 Higher Education Report: Best Practices for Prospect Research in Higher Education Fundraising - 2nd Ed., in which it was reported that “one hundred percent of HPOs [high performing organizations] screen alumni, friends and donors on a regular basis, with 86% screening parents, 79% screening reunion classes, and 41% screening faculty and staff.” We already screened incoming parents every summer but I had not considered regularly screening by reunion year before reading these statistics.

    Since the industry considers the lifespan of a wealth screening to be five years, now in 2012 is the time to consider refreshing the data from 2007.  It is unrealistic to think I can handle a large-scale screening on my own and still attend to all the other requests and duties of my position. Our Annual Fund department recently created a dedicated Reunion Director, and our Vice President has separated Homecoming and Reunion weekends to give each its own focus. It therefore makes sense to align the wealth screenings with the divisional importance now bestowed upon the Reunion program.


    Since the Reunion Director would like to be able to select volunteers, peer solicitors, and committee chairs 18 months in advance of Reunion, I need to plan backwards and assume that my screening of the two reunion class years must be submitted in December/January, so the results can be analyzed, rated, and disseminated in advance of when the data is needed.  


    The benefits of adopting this approach are three-fold:

    • 1. Budget
      • We just converted to a new database and moved offices, both substantial University capital projects, so it is not likely that a large amount of divisional budget will be approved to do large-scale screening in the near future.
      • I can reallocate my departmental budget to accommodate the addition of 5,000 names to be screened each year. (I have budget to send two staff members to both the NEDRA and APRA annual conferences and am a department of only one right now). My current analytic subscription allows for 2,000 names to be submitted in bulk per year, and I will continue to screen the incoming parents every summer.
    • 2. Time Management
      • It is feasible to add a regular analysis of a smaller batch of names to my schedule every year, rather than attempting to analyze a huge batch of records on my own at the exclusion of the rest of my job.
      • The regular screening of undergraduate alumni will capture the growing assets of our constituency as they mature, allowing for the transitioning of prospects out of the Annual Fund and into Major Gift portfolios when appropriate. Fewer alumni will fall through the cracks as their careers progress.
      • Newly rated major gift prospects will be entered into portfolios in a systematic procedure, avoiding the overwhelming glut of ratings from the large-scale screening.
    • 3.  Database Cleaning
      • By screening by reunion year, each class will be screened right before attention is about to be focused on them, thus allowing for the ratings and data to be as fresh and relevant as possible.
      • Every list that is submitted to the screening will leave behind a list of alumni without sufficient data to have been screened and thus will continually highlight areas of the database for the Bio department to focus on and update with a year advanced notice.
      • The Reunion committee volunteers will also know who among their classes are considered truly “missing” and can reach out on our behalf for updates.


    The only flaw with this new model is that is it geared towards the domestic undergraduate alumni population only. Moving forward, I will want to consider how to factor in a screening of the graduate alumni, the faculty and staff, and our individual “friends.”  International alumni research is a topic for another day!


    This different model of handling our wealth screenings will result in ~ 5,000 names being screened and records updated every year, rather than 10,000 every five years. (Note: these numbers represent the domestic households with good address and/or employment data to qualify for the screening). The data will always be fresh for each class, the manageable chunks can better be fit into my existing schedule of activity without being my sole focus, the process will continue regardless of staffing changes, and the gradual discovery of higher ratings will ensure a smoother pipeline of prospects in our division.

  • Fri, August 24, 2012 2:46 PM | Laura Parshall
    Are you interested in being a presenter at the 2013 Annual Conference? If so, keep an eye out next month for the Conference Committee's request for proposals. This time around, those who are interested will be able to fill out a convenient web form on the NEDRA website to describe their proposed session. Start brainstorming your session ideas today!
  • Fri, August 24, 2012 2:43 PM | Laura Parshall

    Last month, the NEDRA News reported that there would be a Research Basics Boot Camp on October 19th at Northeastern University. If you're interested in a Boot Camp but won't be able to attend that one, don't worry: the Program Committee is working on scheduling another one for November! Details will follow at a later date.

    There will also be a Research Directors' Forum in November, facilitated by Chris Dechellis. Also on the horizon in November is a RING at the Boston Ballet, focusing on small shops research. Stay tuned for more information on those two programs, and on the Data Analytics 101 workshop to be presented by James Cheng!


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