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Jay Frost Interview

Now Available in December 2010 Issue of The Networker

A great interview with Jay Frost is featured in the December 2010 issue of APRA-MN’s members-only quarterly newsletter, The Networker. Excerpts from the interview are available here, but if you’d like to read the article in full, become a member of APRA-MN today!

How do you counter the idea that non-professional social media (e.g. Twitter) is providing ever-increasing levels of distraction and reductions in productivity?

First, it is important to acknowledge that these channels are in fact disruptive. They interrupt the usual trajectory of our work and have their own increasing demands not to mention a certain addictive quality. So why spend time on social media? Quite simply, these channels provide access to a much deeper reservoir of current and pertinent information on a much wider universe of individuals than any resource we have encountered in the past. The databases of insider securities ownership, biography, real estate and business ownership we have traditionally used are dwarfed by the rapidly growing datasets of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social networks. How much of this information is relevant? That depends on our definition of relevancy. One thing is certain: the information is highly relevant to those who are producing it. It showcases their identity as they see it and want it to be seen, including their passions, peeves and peccadilloes, and even catalogs their circle of friends and influence. In short, social media is providing us an unexpurgated view of what is important to our market. If we are nimble and efficient, an investment of time in social media need not result in a loss of productivity. Rather, it can accelerate our retrieval of information and get us closer to its source.

What are the biggest misconceptions that you have noticed researchers have about screening and analytics services and tools?

The disconnect between what has been done and what needs to be done. There are largely two approaches to screening data and both are a path to disappointment. But this is also easy to change.

One of the ill-fated approaches is to take the results and then hide them from the fundraisers, going through each record and painstakingly re-researching the results. Nothing makes fundraisers more furious than barring them from access to information on their donors. On the other hand it is understandable that research does this since so many results mix data that is matched concretely with data that is impossible to match with unique identifiers. Where some research departments go too far is in wanting to confirm everything first, greatly delaying implementation and holding themselves to a task which is in fact impossible for them to achieve: proof positive authentication of all the data.

The other road to perdition is the immediate distribution of unchecked screening data without any kind of expectation setting, training or support. In this scenario, there is always a fundraiser or executive who assumes everything in an individual report has equal weight and accuracy and, upon sensing something is not 100% right, disavows the entire program and perhaps development research along with it.

I believe a better approach to screening is as follows: First, decide what type of data and service you want. Second, find a company that offers that type of screening. Third, draft a plan to implement the data, with responsibilities, metrics and timelines included, for execution upon receipt of the data. Fourth, upon receipt of the results, conduct quick triage, making rapid assessments and recommendations and redistributing data with training and support, all in accordance with the expectations set by the plan.

Fundamentally, fundraisers don’t need perfection, they need preparation. No one is better able to prepare them, from procurement and planning to execution, distribution and tracking, than the research department.

You've been an active volunteer and leader with several professional associations (e.g., APRA, the Metro DC Chapter of APRA, CASE, etc.) – what role, if any, did this involvement play in furthering your career?

Enormous! Everything I know in fundraising generally and research specifically can be directly attributed to my experience in learning from and working with colleagues in APRA and other associations. My relationship with what was then called the American Prospect Research Association began in 1989 when my VP for Development at Meridian International Center suggested I attend a meeting of the newly formed local chapter in DC. I started volunteering almost immediately, helping with the newsletter and programming and later serving as president. Along the path I entered a writing contest sponsored by APRA and The Information Prospector, a company run by David Lawson, and had an opportunity to speak before the national conference in Oak Brook, Illinois. It was my first speaking engagement and I was deadly, reading the paper verbatim and without any visuals. Somehow I wasn’t tossed to the curb. I have since had countless opportunities to explore new ways of supporting nonprofit organizations, here and around the world, through resource development thanks to the generosity of the members of APRA and other associations. In my view, there is nothing more important to one’s career than reaching out to colleagues, asking questions, sharing ideas and supporting our mutual growth and development.

Jay is a veteran of the fundraising industry and currently works as a speaker, author and consultant through Frost on Fundraising ( Special thanks to Jay Frost for sharing his insights! If you’d like to get Jay’s take on other topics, you can check out his blog at Jay also is active on Twitter (@GordonJayFrost).

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