What’s your process for automating prospect/proposal stages?

I’m using the two interchangeably here even though in actual practice they’re not.

Stages are sometimes difficult to keep track of and if gifts come in and something should be moved from solicitation to stewardship for example, pipeline reports can reflect incorrect information. This problem is compounded in larger shops where fundraising may be decentralized and units may not realize that gifts or pledges have come in.

One approach is to automate this pragmatically. I’m not a huge fan of using this method, in fact not a huge fan of anything that modifies a fundraising database directly. Routines like this, while useful are not typically supported by vendors, and philosophically, I’m always wary of any changes that might collide with software updates or make that process more difficult or complicated.

Additionally there may be subtleties that a program cannot catch. Example – a proposal for a major gift is in solicitation stage, an annual giving gift comes in and is accidentally linked to the proposal – the program moves the proposal into stewardship, which could in fact kick off a number of other activities. In many shops, most proposals are for major or larger gifts and I feel that these need continued scrutiny rather than automation.

What I prefer is a collection of data cleanup errors that ideally can be run automatically that cover a whole variety of pipeline logic conditions that may need to be reviewed so that the data can be updated directly by the appropriate staff. Here are some example of errors that can be tracked:

*** Proposal Declined or Withdrawn and Still Showing as Active ***
*** Target amount has not been entered or is 0. ***
*** Target date has not been entered. ***
*** Proposal committed date < proposal ask date. ***
*** Proposal Ask Date More than 6 Months ago and Commmitted Amount is 0. ***
*** Proposal ask date is in the future. ***
*** Proposal in Solicitation Stage and Ask Amount <> 0. ***
*** Proposal in Solicitation and Ask Amount = 0. ***
*** Proposal in Solicitation and Target Amount = 0. ***
*** Proposal committed date is in the future. ***
*** Sum of revenue attributes do not add up to proposal target/ask amount. ***
*** Gift linked to proposal – proposal created after the gift was received since 20140401. ***
*** Gift coded as unsolicited – where proposal is in place. ***

The errors above are just a sample selection and would vary depending on the controls within your own fundraising software and your particular shop. It’s a comprehensive approach as you can see and something that would be quite difficult to do programatically. The errors can be used as a training tool for fundraising or administrative support staff.