Blackbaud CRM™ Prospect Plan Best Practices


“Prospect” is one of the most robust areas of Blackbaud CRM™. You can manage all aspects of moves management - from tracking both identified and assigned prospects to other individuals - both internal to your organization as well as external - who are involved in the solicitation process, and proposal pipelines. But are you using the Prospects area to its fullest extent?

“Major Giving Setup” is the area in which the Prospect Plan outlines are built, but the terminology is a bit confusing. Prospect plans of any type can be built there - not just plans for Major Gifts. The most efficient use of a Prospect Plan, regardless of type, is to build an outline that will work with the majority of those plans. It is much easier for a fundraiser to add or delete steps from the outline than to start from scratch with each plan.

It is also important to make sure the due dates on the plan steps are realistic. The Major Giving Management dashboards are among the best reporting tools in Blackbaud CRM™ and alleviate the need to write custom reports to see your data. However, if the dates on the plan steps are too close together, your dashboards will quickly become unmanageable with overdue steps if the dates are unrealistic.

Using Prospect Plans for Corporate/Foundations Relations tracking can be somewhat different from a true Major Gift Plan so I recommend building a separate plan type for those. For example, a true Corporate Foundation might have very strict guidelines and due dates for proposal information. There are often many more individuals involved in a solicitation of this type, unlike a major gift plan that might have only a Prospect Manager and/or Development Officer involved.

Are you using the Prospect area to build plans for Leadership Annual Gifts? Prior to becoming a fundraising consultant 9 years ago I was the Director of the Annual Fund at my alma mater, Wake Forest University. Tracking contacts with Annual Fund donors is much more time consuming than tracking contacts for Major Gifts because of the number of prospects need to be solicited, so we didn’t track them. The “Manage Prospects and Plans in Bulk” process is an excellent tool for adding plans to those prospects you would like to solicit for an annual gift all at once rather than adding plans one at a time. Problem solved.

Are you using Stewardship Plan Templates? Why? As any fundraiser will tell you, stewardship is the most important interaction with a donor. Whether it’s ongoing stewardship or permanent stewardship it is imperative that donors are thanked for their gifts early and often and it should be tracked on their Constituent record. However, there is a limitation in the Stewardship Plan Template, which does not allow you to record contacts. Wouldn’t you want to be able to add a contact report for a Stewardship Plan? My recommendation is to use a Major Giving Plan template and call it “Permanent Stewardship” (or some variation of that name) and have a Plan Type of “Stewardship” for easy filtering, reporting and querying. You are not losing any functionality that the Stewardship Plan Templates provide; you’re actually gaining functionality by using the Major Giving Plan instead.

Last but not least, have you ever thought of using Prospect Plans for non-monetary tracking? One of my past clients wanted to be able to track Volunteer moves management and had a very well-developed set of steps that needed to be taken and recorded to engage their Volunteers. The Volunteer area of Blackbaud CRM™ didn’t meet their requirements. We decided to create Volunteer Plans in the Prospect area. These plans were very similar to solicitation plans but no Opportunity (proposal) was created. Another client took it a step further and customized a non-monetary opportunity form so that they could track all of the other Opportunity fields except those pertaining to an Ask.

Recently, a customer we are working with uncovered a requirement for Prospect Plan Templates that required some customization. The customer planned to rely very heavily on Prospect plans for both monetary and non-monetary prospect tracking. The out-of-the-box plans did not allow for a default category and subcategory to be set during configuration. In order to create the default categories and subcategories, we need to extend the plan steps table in order to save this info along with the rest of the information on the plan setup.

Because the plan steps are in an XML field, we couldn’t extend the Plan Add and Plan Edit forms to include category and subcategory using a regular data form extension. Instead, we cloned the forms, coded the new fields, and extend the SQL to handle the defaults. We also need to create custom UI model forms to both preserve existing functionality around date increment/decrement, plus add code to refresh subcategory options when a category changed.

It was important for the customer to understand this customization and carefully document it. Because the Add and Edit forms were copied and modified, there is a possibility that during upgrades some additional work would be required to ensure these new forms were again visible and functioning properly.

With a little creativity in your Functional Design the possibilities are endless! BrightVine can help you find significant efficiencies, giving your staff the freedom to fundraise and strategize and focus on donors. Leveraging years of industry expertise and deep knowledge of best practices, we can help you ensure your program runs more efficiently – allowing you to focus on your mission, not the software.

Read more about what you should ask your users when designing your CRM or contact us for more information.

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