Prospect researchers tearing down the silos!

publication date: Oct 12, 2017
author/source: Julie MacBain

Let’s face it folks, prospect research can be a lonely gig at times. It’s easy to feel isolated, especially if you work in a small shop. You do the research, pouring your blood, sweat and tears into finding out the essential information for the Development Officers who rely on us to bring them fresh names and facts. Often, DOs do not close the loop with us so we have no knowledge as to whether our work resulted in any positive outcomes. This can often be attributed to a siloed workplace mentality.

No matter the size of an organization, large or small, it frequently operates with a siloed mentality. Often, we work with colleagues and other departments that do not want to share information – whether it be ideas, best practices or general knowledge that could move the whole organization forward. Unfortunately, this can reduce fundraising results, work efficiency, successful project outcomes, organizational reputation, employee morale and, ultimately, erode the possibility of an enduring, fruitful organization.

Prospect researchers to the rescue to tear down those silos! You may be wondering why I’m suggesting it’s your responsibility to tear down the walls that others have built within your organization.

The truth is, it’s not.

Really, it’s not. Period.

But, prospect researchers don’t do the work they do for praise or recognition; we are the backbone for our organizations that few people see or even know. We can use our quiet power within the walls of our organizations for good. We can be the silent few who surreptitiously make our not-for-profits tighter, more integrated organizations. Please indulge me while I share a story.

I work in a small development office at a small university identifying and researching prospects for major gifts. Two weeks ago, I was updating some research on an undergraduate alumna who had left campus more than 25 years ago. She is an accomplished woman, to say the least, having pursued her masters and PhD, started her own company in a male-dominated industry and successfully taken it public. I could tell from my research that a financial gift would not be in order any time soon, but it was obvious that she had much to give back to the university. I quickly contacted the individual who lines up guest speakers for our business school and suggested that we invite her to campus to speak. He was elated! One would have thought that I had given him the best present he had ever received.

I could easily not have passed on the potential guest speaker’s name. It’s easy to work in a box. However, it doesn’t (and didn’t) take much more effort to compose a quick email and send it to my colleague…and, I got the satisfaction of making his day – maybe even his week! Not losing entire sight of my major gift focus, though, I know that volunteers are more likely to become donors, so in a sense, I helped myself, too.

Making the extra effort to share our knowledge with colleagues inside and outside our departments will lead to reciprocal action. Rest assured, it will not happen overnight. Let’s each of us take the leadership mantle and show our colleagues how this is done, knocking down one or two stones of each silo at a time. You’ll become known as a “collaborator extraordinaire” and bring to light all the great work that we Prospect Researchers do. What could be better than that?

Julie MacBain is a Prospect Researcher at a Maritime university. She is a member of Apra Canada. She can be reached at or at 506.874.9446.

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