By Preeti Gill
Hello, my name is Preeti and I am a passionate, proud and purposeful Prospect Research professional.
When Phil generously offered me some space on his new blog, I thought it would be a good opportunity to shine a positive light on the “brains of the fundraising world” as my British counterparts refer to us. We tend to toil quietly (and happily) in the background, arming frontline fundraisers with thoughtful information and strategic next steps to invigorate and improve partnerships with generous and motivated donors. You will find most of us in higher education and healthcare institutions.
Prospect Research elicits a variety of reactions from other non-profit staff. I have met with mild interest, sheer fascination, outright dismissiveness and slight terror at the thought of researching prospective donors to secure major gifts.
To address these reactions, I set out to write an elevator speech of sorts which clearly describes what I do; how this line of work benefits my organization’s bottom line; and perhaps most importantly, the enhanced value Prospect Research adds to building relationships with prospective and existing donors.
Before putting pen to paper, I did some research (of course) and discovered some wonderful resources about the elevator speech – its purpose; how to write one; and even how to tailor one for the non-profit genre. Fellow Prospect Research veteran Helen Brown addressed this very topic recently and I suggest you read her eloquent piece about what she says when asked about her work. Helen is a highly-regarded champion of our profession.
Something that came up often in researching elevator speeches was good old fashioned passion. Be passionate about what you do if you love your work. Pursue your passion if you are not there yet. Find it again if your work isn’t fulfilling you anymore.
In the current economic climate, you cannot afford not to pursue your personal and professional passion. It is what Oprah calls your life purpose.
In The Almighty Elevator Speech, Eugenia Kaneshige encourages us to find our passion “because the world cannot resist a person with passion and the hardest thing to sell is something you do not believe in. You must believe in yourself and what it is you do. If you do not, it does not matter how good you are at it, someone who loves their work will beat you almost every time.”
Further reinforcement comes from lifestyle writer Tracy Howard. “If you do not love what you do, you are screwed in this new hypercompetitive era,” one career expert bluntly told her for a magazine feature about the new career path.
Part of Howard’s three-step process to discover what you’re meant to do, is think back to what excited you as a kid. Early passions and pursuits can point to your purpose, before you were clouded by other influences (and your parents’ expectations).
When I was growing up, my Dad and I took routine trips to the Kitimat Public Library, where we would quickly part ways. He retreated to the international newspaper shelves and I gravitated to biographies and those colourful monthlies about the Royal family. While my middle school mates turned to Nancy Drew and Choose Your Own Adventure, I was immersed in Vanna Speaks, Vanna White’s autobiography. (Remember the perky game show letter flipper from the 1980s? Everyone is fascinating to someone.)
The late Princess Diana’s wardrobe, jewels and the beautiful little family she co-created were captivating, especially spread across glossy magazine pictorials (of an official capacity, of course). Early on, I loved reading and hearing about real people’s stories. They entertained, informed and motivated me back then and continue to fascinate me now as a Prospect Researcher.
Since then, my quest for people’s stories has evolved from the realm of royalty and celebrity to the world of career and life success, community and transformational philanthropy.
- Who are these prospective and current donors, at their core?
- Where do they come from?
- What kind of adversity did they overcome to be successful?
- What motivates them to live and give?
- How about the scope of their fortune?
By exploring these questions, I am helping my organization better understand people and connect compassionate, generous donors with community causes that need their attention and care.
This is what I am meant to do. I cannot afford not to. Does that belong in an elevator speech?
If you want to delve deeper:
Helen Brown, “What do you say?”
Eugenia Kaneshige, “The Almighty Elevator Pitch” (three-part series)
Tracy Howard, “If you don’t love what you do, you’re screwed,” Flare Magazine, September 2012
Please feel free to contact me or leave a comment here.
Preeti.firstname.lastname@example.org | preetigillyvr.blogspot.ca