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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.

  • Wed, May 31, 2017 1:13 PM | Laura Parshall

    What a great experience the annual conference was this year! It was wonderful celebrating NEDRA's 30th anniversary, getting a chance to network with peers, and learning from so many great educational sessions. We also had a chance to welcome four new people to the NEDRA board. These new board members will attend the board retreat in June to start learning their duties, and to help plot a course for the coming year. They will officially begin their roles on July 1. Please welcome Jennifer Grasso (Bowdoin College), Renana Greenberg Kehoe (Harvard Art Museums), Pamela McCarthy (Northeastern University), and Ginny Santamaria (American Cancer Society) to the NEDRA board! Read on for more news, announcements, and great input from our members.

  • Wed, May 31, 2017 1:06 PM | Laura Parshall

    Thanks to everyone who attended the annual conference and its accompanying Research Basics Bootcamp! Coming up on June 20, there will be a Think Tank on Prospect Management held at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, MA. This seems to be a popular session, because it's already sold out! If you'd like to be notified if and when space becomes available, you can join the waitlist on the event page. If you can't get a spot, don't worry: NEDRA is going to have more educational and exciting programming coming up soon.

  • Wed, May 31, 2017 1:00 PM | Laura Parshall

    All of us here know the value of prospect research and other aspects of prospect development. Most front-line fundraisers and administrators do too, but even so, it can sometimes be hard to convince leadership to provide us with the resources we need to do our jobs to the best of our abilities. In this article, Anne Givens, Assistant Director of Prospect Research at Gordon College, interviews Paul Edwards, Gordon's Chief Advancement Officer and Senior Vice President. Their dialog helps make a case for providing resources to prospect research, for the good of the entire organization.

    Spending Money to Raise Money:  Making the Case for Financial Resources to Your Leadership

    This is an exciting time to be working in the field of prospect research.  Gone are the days of phone books and trips to the library to review microfiche.  Never before have we had so much data available to us, with the list of resources constantly growing.  New products and methods increase the ease with which we gather prospect data and its accuracy.  But as we all know these tools do not come cheap.  With most non-profits having limited resources, convincing your leadership to spend five, ten, even fifteen thousand dollars per year on research tools can be a hard sell.  So how do we make the case to our leadership for dedicating these financial resources?

    I’m fortunate that my Chief Advancement Officer is an industry expert who is a firm believer in the value of prospect research.  In the following interview, we’ll discuss how to articulate the value of prospect research and why it is worthwhile to commit your organization’s dollars to these essential tools.

    Anne: What do you believe prospect research does for frontline fundraising?

    Paul: Prospect research adds three things.  First it adds substance to speculation, detailing what we know so that we can ask the question, “What don’t we know?”.  Great prospect cultivation occurs as a result of asking that question rather than using time to reconfirm things we already know.  Second, prospect research sharpens our ability to ask at capacity.  It’s relatively easy to get a “yes” when we under-ask or generically ask.  Good research lets us ask precisely and at the prospect’s capacity level.  Third, prospect research creates confidence for the frontline fundraiser.  He or she can have exploratory conversations that are anchored in facts and not wishful thinking.  The fundraiser will ask “so what?” to the “what” that has been provided by the researcher.

    In your experience, how high do you feel the return on investment (ROI) is for paid research tools? 

    Good major gifts fundraising has a standard ROI of 8:1, that is 8 dollars raised for every dollar spent, including investment in the major gifts officer, benefits and support including prospect research.  If you take out the prospect research, the ROI drop to 6:1 or even 5:1.  When you drop out prospect research you reduce the efficiency for every frontline fundraiser.

    What do you think is the most effective way to demonstrate ROI to senior leadership?

    There are two ways to demonstrate ROI, the first being to walk a senior leader through the content of a prospect profile and show how that data translates into a major gift proposal.  Second, compare the results of major gifts fundraising over numerous years for those prospects for whom a profile has been created and those that haven’t.  Using a dozen or so, this should demonstrate the effect the research has on cultivation success.

    Any additional thoughts for making the case for these resources?

    I started fundraising 39 years ago and at the time research was old school.  It was done by the fundraiser and it meant physically going to town hall and the assessor’s office and requesting documents, deeds and other records.  You went to the library and asked the reference librarian for genealogies, and you read Moody’s and the business journals.  Sometimes it even meant purchasing a single share of stock in a prospect’s public company in order to receive shareholder reports.  Back then frontline fundraisers were kept from asking because they had to spend all of this time researching.  These tools gather the information for you and are an astonishing improvement to efficiency. 

    Clearly, the benefits of prospect research far outweigh the cost.  Fundraisers have their time freed for face-to-face relationship building and they can go into each visit with the information that will lead to their success.  When prospect research contributes to an ROI of 8:1, your organization’s internal question will shift from, “Can we afford to pay for prospect research tools?” to “Can we afford not to?”.

    About the authors:

    Anne Givens - Assistant Director of Advancement Research, Gordon College:

    Anne has been working in higher education finance for 17 years.  Starting in accounting, she transitioned to Advancement operations and prospect research four years ago.  Filled with innate curiosity, she feels she has found her true calling and passion in the research field.

    Paul Edwards - Chief Advancement Officer and Senior Vice President, Gordon College:

    Paul has extensive experience in all facets of nonprofit organization management and fundraising, including his recent direction of a 10-year, $1 billion campaign for Wycliffe Bible Translators.  In addition to securing major gifts, Paul has trained the staff and boards of 90 domestic and international nonprofits including Duke University, Yale University, Princeton University, UC Berkeley, the American Red Cross, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and New England Medical Center, to name just a few.

  • Wed, May 31, 2017 12:56 PM | Laura Parshall

    Warm congratulations are in order for Helen Brown! Helen’s many contributions to the field of prospect development were recognized by NEDRA when she was given the Ann Castle Award in 2006. Now, she has been recognized at the international level by Apra for her great service to the industry!

    Apra Distinguished Service Award

    Established in 1990, the Distinguished Service Award honors an individual who has enhanced both the prospect development profession and Apra through exceptional contributions beyond his/her daily paid work. The award takes into account professional competencies and personal competencies (contributions that facilitate learning and talents that are exceptional).

    The 2017 Apra Distinguished Service Award recipient is Helen Brown, President of The Helen Brown Group LLC.

    About Helen

    Helen is the president of The Helen Brown Group LLC, a prospect development consulting firm based in Watertown, Massachusetts. She is a co-author of Prospect Research for Fundraisers; the essential handbook. Helen is a past board member and longtime volunteer for the Apra and a past president of the New England Development Research Association (NEDRA). Helen is Special Advisor on Fundraising to the board of the North American Foundation for the University of Manchester, and a Fellow of the Royal Society for Arts & Manufactures (RSA) in London. She is a former non-executive director of The Factary Ltd., a prospect research consultancy in Bristol, England. Helen was honored to receive the NEDRA Ann Castle Award for service to the prospect research community in 2006.

    Check out all of this year's award recipients here: http://www.aprahome.org/page/apra-awards

  • Wed, May 31, 2017 12:54 PM | Laura Parshall

    This year, with the help of our members, sponsors, and friends, NEDRA celebrated 30 years of promoting prospect development and related fields. Truly, April's conference was a milestone event. A table in the hallway displayed all sorts of historical memorabilia from earlier days of our organization and our industry. Photos from conferences past shared space with old copies of Who's Who and the Social Register, as well as stacks of floppy disks (yes, those things that look like three-dimensional representations of the "save" icon). A binder held old issues of the NEDRA News from the days before "blog" was a word. Those who had been in the industry for a long time reminisced about the early days of their work, while those more lately come to the field learned about the tools that were in use before the days of ubiquitous internet. Conference attendees also shared their favorite memories of NEDRA, leaving notes with their favorite program, the name of someone they'd met through NEDRA, their favorite conference memory, and more. We also wrote memories on slips of paper to add to a time capsule, to be opened at some point in the future to remember our first 30 years.


    Other highlights of the anniversary celebration included a beautiful cake, cut by NEDRA president Amy Begg and Marianne Pelletier, the conference attendee who'd been a member of NEDRA longer than anyone else present. On Thursday night, after the iWave-sponsored networking reception and after dinner, attendees partied at a private NEDRA karaoke event with (of course) a 1980s theme.


    While we celebrated our history, we also celebrated some of those people who make NEDRA great. Jill Meister of the University of New Hampshire (and president of Apra) received the Ann Castle Award for her many contributions to our profession. We also congratulated our scholarship recipients. Varounny Chanthasiri of the Whitehead Institute received the Helen Brown Group-NEDRA Conference Scholarship. Sam Kjellberg of the Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra and Nina Emmi of Bates College received the Heater Reisz Memorial Scholarship.


    From Julissa Arce's inspiring keynote, to the interesting and informative educational sessions, to the karaoke party, to the end-of-conference think tanks, there were many opportunities to learn, network, and have fun at this year's conference. It was a great reminder that while we've had 30 great years, the next 30 are likely to be even more exciting!


  • Wed, May 31, 2017 12:48 PM | Laura Parshall

    Many thanks to everyone who took the time to fill out the conference feedback survey and the member survey that went out during the past month! The conference feedback survey is vital in helping NEDRA to provide the best and most relevant conference experience for our members, and we take it very seriously. The member survey isn't just useful to NEDRA as an organization: it's also useful to our individual members. The results of the survey paint a picture of our industry in this geographic area, and provide us with standards and benchmarks that we can use in creating job descriptions, advocating for more staff or resources, or advocating for promotions or pay increases for ourselves or our teams. We're very grateful to our sponsor, GG+A, who volunteered to administer the survey at no cost to NEDRA, and who will be working with us on interpreting the results.

  • Wed, May 31, 2017 12:34 PM | Laura Parshall

    In this article from the Spring 2011 NEDRA News, Amanda Yost Parker shows us how to make the most of wealth screenings.

    Digging for Gold- Creating an Effective Wealth Screening Plan.pdf

  • Mon, April 24, 2017 3:55 PM | Laura Parshall

    The NEDRA board got together in Portsmouth on March 31 for a meeting and a walk-through of the conference hotel. This is something we do every year, to help us deal with the logistics of the conference, and to make sure we're ready for it. As has been the case for the past two years, the staff at the Sheraton Harborside was helpful and accommodating, and the conference is sure to go smoothly. At our meeting, the conference was the main topic of discussion, as might be expected. Read on for more information!

  • Mon, April 24, 2017 3:50 PM | Laura Parshall

    Thank you to everyone who came out for the 30th anniversary celebrations in Maine and New Hampshire! Unfortunately, due to lack of registration, we were forced to cancel the one scheduled for Vermont. Hopefully, some of our Vermont members will be joining us for the conference to celebrate there!

    The last bit of programming before the conference itself is the Research Basics Bootcamp that will be held at the conference hotel on Wednesday, 4/26. Former NEDRA President Amber Countis and current NEDRA President Amy Begg will lead this full day of instruction in the essentials of prospect research. See the Upcoming Programs page for more information.

  • Mon, April 24, 2017 3:41 PM | Laura Parshall
    People find their way to a career in prospect research by many different routes. In this article, NEDRA board member Erin Dupuis shares the superhero origin stories of a number of people who came to this industry by different paths, and of how they ended up where they are now.

    All Roads Lead to Prospect Research

    by Erin Dupuis

    Have you ever wondered how your fellow prospect researchers ended up in the field? Truthfully, I love what I do and I haven’t thought of a veering off the Prospect Research Career Path since I stepped onto it over a decade ago, but I must admit this career hasn’t been my dream since childhood, which I would venture to assume is the same for most people in the field. I'd bet that if we surveyed elementary school teachers, they'd say that they’ve never had a student stand up and say, “when I grow up, I want to be a prospect researcher” mixed in with students exclaiming, “when I grow up, I want to be a fireman!” or, “when I grow up, I want to be a doctor!” If a group of high school guidance counselors were polled, I would find it highly unlikely that they’d have heard their college-bound students declaring, “I want to attend blah-blah-blah University: I hear they have a great prospect research program!” or “I really hope I get into such-and-such College: it's the best place to go for someone interested in becoming a prospect researcher”. Nonetheless, people still end up in this career, and they come to it in many ways. Read on to learn about the different roads that led many of our fellow prospect researchers to our amazing profession.

    Erin Ambrose Dupuis, Director of Research & Prospect Development, Merrimack College

    "I graduated college with the plan of going on to become an advertising/marketing executive. My for-profit marketing career lasted for about a year before my career took a turn and I ended up in the non-profit sector. As luck would have it, during my time as a member of the direct marketing team at Children’s Hospital Trust my desk was situated among the Prospect Research Department. I was fascinated by their work and the critical role it played in the success of the organization. I was fortunate to begin my journey into the wonderful world of Prospect Research at my alma mater, Stonehill College. Thanks to my former colleagues, whom I still consider close friends and the best mentors anyone could ask for, my career in the Prospect Research field has been going strong for over a decade."

    Kristen Cocce, Director of Development Research and Prospect Management, Emmanuel College

    "I was a junior at Stonehill College when I decided to participate in the school’s “Semester in the City” program in New York City, interning full-time at Carnegie Hall. As an English major, I was supposed to be working with the foundations team editing grant proposals, but they had such a great need for foundation research that that quickly became my main focus. Soon I was presenting my findings and taking part in conversations about strategic next steps; being a part of the process that would seek support for such amazing initiatives was something I found to be so rewarding!  Upon graduation, I was fortunate enough to join the wonderful team at Children’s Hospital Trust as the development associate for prospect research, and have been in the field ever since. Ten years later, I still love the idea of finding and strategizing on the next major donor!"

    David Eberly, Independent Research Consultant

    "I started my career quite by accident, when I left the Grolier Book Shop in 1980 to work as a part-time researcher at Tufts. I brought with me my knowledge of SEC documents, stored in the basement of Mugar Library's Microforms Room, and of early databases like ERIC and Dialog with me. I counted Bobbi Strand and Ann Castle among my colleagues and friends, and was perhaps the first in the area to professionalize my research staff."

    Jenn Grasso, Assistant Director of Development Research, Bowdoin College

    "I’m not sure what the direct path to becoming a development researcher is, but I sure am glad I stumbled upon this field. As a foreign language major in college, my career path went in various directions and I worked as a paralegal, high school teacher and financial aid officer. I found that I really enjoyed working in higher education, and after moving to Maine, I was lucky enough to land a job in the Alumni Development Information Systems department at Bowdoin College. This role allowed me to learn about fundraising and our database from the ground up. I remember meeting the research team (then two people) on my very first day, and being in awe of what they did. When a position opened up three years ago, they took a chance on me. I look forward to being in this role for many years to come."

    Claire Moitra, Senior Research Analyst, Rhode Island School of Design

    "While attending the MLS program at Drexel University, I worked on the annual fund team at the Free Library of Philadelphia Foundation. I thought it would the perfect "in" for when I received my graduate degree and became a public librarian. Sure enough, after graduating, I transitioned into a librarian position in the social sciences department with a few days weekly in the Cooperating Collection of the Foundation Center. Again, I was surrounded with fundraisers and helped them to find funding sources through our print collection and databases. Swiftly, I started to realize I loved the research component of my job and not so much the public library aspect of it. Soon after, I started work as a prospect researcher and have been in the field and loving it since 2007."

    Emily L. O’Brien, Prospect Research & Management, Salem State University

    "To call my career path circuitous is an understatement. After earning my doctoral degree in medieval history and a short stint in academic administration, I ran away from universities and worked at a rare book dealership. The siren call of the non-profit sector lured me into the Prospect Research group at Massachusetts General Hospital. A little over a year ago I came full circle and am once more happily ensconced at a great school, this time in my hometown."

    Dave Owens, Senior Prospect Researcher, Children’s Hospital Trust, Boston

"After graduate school, I was working in health care administration for a major hospital in Boston. Helping patients and their families was gratifying work, yet I was not fully utilizing my writing and research skills. A career strategist I was working with discovered a posting for a prospect researcher position at Boston Children’s Hospital; she believed my skill sets from academics as well as experience in health care would be an ideal fit as a prospect researcher at Children’s. I applied and interviewed at the Trust, and the rest is history. For over fifteen years, the field of prospect research has been rewarding both in helping my organization raise money for vital patient care, and in giving me a chance to develop and exercise the strategic, constructive and critical thinking skills I applied in academics. And yes, thanks to this wonderful profession of Prospect Research, there’s hope for those inquisitive Philosophy majors everywhere!"

    Dave Perkins, Assistant Director of Prospect Management, Harvard Law School

    "After graduating college I worked for a number of years at the National Archives. That led to an offer to join a firm that located missing and unknown heirs--a very interesting and surprisingly competitive field, but one that wasn’t the most stable. After the owner shut his doors, a former colleague urged me to give prospect research a try, and I was fortunate to land a job first at Boston College, then at Babson, and now at Harvard Law School. As an old hand--I started before the internet, believe it or not-- I’ve seen the profession evolve in so many ways, but have always found the work interesting and rewarding, and I have to say, the people in the profession are just the best."

    Stacey Vial MacDonnell, Director of Prospect Strategy and Research, Corporate & Foundation Relations, Tulane University 

    "My career in prospect research began on a whim, as while obtaining my undergraduate degree at Elon University, I was recruited by a friend to take over her on-campus job helping out the Director of Prospect Research in their development office. The stars would truly align for me when post-graduation, I was interviewing at Boston Children’s Hospital, not for a job in research, but in foundation relations. My interviewer noticed the previous prospect research experience on my resume and led me down the hallway to the one-and-only David Eberly’s office – the rest is history. Seven years of working with the prospect research team at Boston Children’s was invaluable to my career, and I owe each of them a debt of gratitude for the wealth of prospect research knowledge they imparted to me."

    Ian T. Wells, President, Ian T. Wells & Associates 

    "It dawned on me about a month prior to graduation that majoring in philosophy might not have been a particularly lucrative decision. Determined to avoid homelessness, I followed the advice of a headhunter who recommended that I apply for a job as a Development Associate at the Children’s Hospital Trust. What began as a temporary means to make ends meet blossomed into a career in which I’ve worked for amazing organizations, met some of my closest friends, founded my own company, and had the blessed fortune to con the love of my life into marrying me. For an industry I had never previously heard of, prospect research has proven to be nothing less than remarkable."

    A sincere thank you to everyone who contributed to this article by sharing their stories. If you are interested in sharing your story please feel free to comment on this article to share with others which road led you to the wonderful world of prospect research!


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