Bre Alexander, Content Marketing Manager, iWave

By now, we’ve all heard the term “software as a service” or “SaaS”. SaaS refers to a web-based software solution or delivery model which allows a customer to purchase software and access it online. Normally, when thinking of a service, we think of a delivery service or cleaning service. But as we’ll explore in this blog post, we should start thinking of research and fundraising as a service too.

Ultimately, using a service is about making something easier, providing value, or completing a job that we don’t otherwise have the time or expertise to do. Someone delivering our food means we don’t have to cook. Someone cleaning our homes means we don’t have to scrub the tub this week. It’s about freeing up time to do something else.

Donor Research As a Service

So let’s say research is a service. What is the service you are using? What problems are you being solved through the service?

Researchers, equipped with the tools and data necessary to fundraise with confidence, are fundraising to keep your organization moving forward. The prospect research they gather and evaluate leads to identifying major gift donors and allows for cultivating existing donor relationships. Research is crucial to the success of your organization.

So, who else knows this? Who else do you need to get on board to be successful inside of your organization and, therefore, outside in the real world? Who else might you need to add to your team to ensure you’re as successful as possible?

We all know the common barriers to change within our organizations are budget, time, staff, and skills, but oftentimes the biggest barrier is leadership buy-in. Do you ever feel like you are working in a silo and that an investment in people or time into your department seems like a dream? Or that the leadership or board of your organization doesn’t truly understand? Don’t worry, you’re not alone.

Prospect Development Professionals Provide the Service

The reality is that prospect development professionals provide a service. Nonprofit organizations are made up of teams that all impact each other’s success. The executive team is responsible for making sure things are running smoothly. The communications team makes sure the organization’s brand is stable and awareness about the impact is growing. The fundraising team makes sure that the organization can continue to operate, and makes sure the community, donors especially, get involved. Finally, the prospect development team helps fuel all the above teams to aid in an organization’s overall success.

So, how do you prove the need for researchers, analytics, prospect management and more on your team.


You sell. That might sound a little weird. It also might make you feel indignant, or that you shouldn’t have to sell what you need to do your job best to your own organization. In a perfect world, you wouldn’t have to. But the reality is that people are busy and in their own worlds. So sometimes you have to make sure you’re getting the resources and people you need, instead of waiting for it to happen.

Who Should You Bring On Board?

Depending on your organization, will depend on what your “selling” process will look like. Maybe it’s a simple conversation with your executive director to talk about the ways that research can help secure a major gift. Or maybe it’s a presentation to your gift officers about what goes into building prospect profiles. No matter where you start, understand who you are going to be speaking with. Much like a conversation a fundraiser has with a potential donor – being prepared for the conversation and anticipating questions is key to making your point. Try getting into the mind-space of the services team you so badly want on your team. Talk with your network and your colleagues that have research experience. The better prepared you are, the better outcome you’ll see.

Ask and Listen: Building Relationships

As with any relationship, the importance of listening is key with your colleagues and management. Listen to what they are saying. There is a good possibility that if you feel your team needs to be expanded to include a researcher, there are others who feel this way as well.A few great questions to start with are:

  • What makes prospect development valuable to your role?
  • How will research or additional services be beneficial to the organization?
  • How can our departments work better together?

Make Your Case

Maybe it’s as simple as creating a document that shows the correlation between research and a major gift. Or you could prepare a presentation of what you’ve learned at a conference – show what you’ve learned and how you’ll support a new colleague or program. Maybe it’s some kind of regular update to your team that outlines some goals you’ll be able to meet with the assistance of research.

Outlining your case could inspire more people on your team to jump up and share their pain points and needs as well. And hopefully, it’ll inspire more productive conversations among team members!

So, how is your organization set up? Do you currently have a prospect development team complete with prospect researchers, prospect management, business intelligence, and more? We would love to hear what’s working, what’s not working, and what your ideal structure looks like!