Director of Prospect Research & Management at the University of Tennessee Foundation

Emma Amuti is the Director of Prospect Research & Management at the University of Tennessee Foundation. She has more than 25 years of experience in institutional advancement, development fundraising, and prospect research and management.

Emma Amuti currently serves as the Director of Prospect Research & Management of the University of Tennessee Foundation, Knoxville, Tennessee.

Prior to the current appointment in January 2012, Emma was Director of Development, Research & Prospect Management at the George Washington University, Washington DC. From 2005 to 2008, she was the Associate Director of Training, Georgia Tech Foundation, Atlanta, Georgia after working as a program manager/proposal writer at Delaware Technical and Community College, Wilmington, Delaware. From 1988 to 2000 she served in a variety of fund-raising capacities at the University of Delaware-from front-line fundraising to prospect research. In addition, Emma works with international educational institutions, helping to strengthen their fundraising and advancement programs. In that capacity, she currently serves as the Vice-Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Achimota Fund in Ghana, West Africa. Emma is a graduate of Michigan State University (B.A., Sociology, 1973), the University of Delaware (M.A.. Geography, 1996) and has completed coursework on a doctorate in Urban Affairs and Public Policy from the University of Delaware.

Five Questions

1. What motivates your work in this sector?

My primary motivation to continue working in the non-profit fundraising sector has been the tremendous sense of fulfilment I get when a project I worked with from the beginning comes to fruition.  It’s the most gratifying experience to see your work in action.

2. What are the most significant changes you’ve observed in that time that you have worked in the sector?

I think the most significant change has been the introduction of technology into the non-profit fundraising sector.  I began working in this field in 1988 when personal computers were rare and very few people had ever heard of electronic databases.  Prospect research was slow and tedious—gathering information for a prospect profile took weeks.  Now if you possess the appropriate technology, the process takes hours.  It’s wonderful that we can tap into technology to aid our advancement efforts, but I am concerned that technological speed has replaced the personal relationships we used to treasure.

3. What advice would you give to new Advancement practitioners?

There are four rules of thumb I have followed in my career that I would to pass along to new Advancement practitioners.  1) Try to learn something new every day, related or unrelated, significant or insignificant— it makes you an interesting person;  2) Don’t be afraid to think outside the box—the best ideas, even in the advancement sector, are the result of unconventional  thinking. 3) Raise your hand and volunteer to learn new skills and experiences outside of whatever job you now hold in the advancement sector.  I began my career in the advancement sector as a development officer, but by “raising my hand” and volunteering whenever new projects came up, I learned new skills and met new people, all of which facilitated moving up in Advancement; 4) Mentoring is critical – find yourself a good mentor to guide you and when the time comes, be a mentor to someone else—I would not be where I am today without a wonderful mentor and I try to pass that experience along every chance I get.

4. What do you wish you had known when you started working in Advancement?

I wish I knew everything I know now! But seriously, I wish I knew the scores of great advancement professionals in 1988 who I am acquainted with now.  When I began this work, it was very lonely—there were few of us and even fewer resources– networking was a foreign concept to us in 1988.  Back then we could not have imagined where we are today.  We’ve gained so much since I began, both in the numbers of people working as advancement professionals and in the respect for our profession.

5.  What are the holy grails for you in non-profit work, i.e. which sources of information are you constantly referring to and or recommending?

My favourites list is too large for this article, so I’ll list those sites –I call them aggregator sites” have house a variety of links that offer both domestic (US) and international resources.  The one I use frequently also have some useful international links: –  University of Vermont  – University of Southern California – University of Virginia – Stanford University –  International Prospect Research Network –the Regional Pages are particularly useful  – David Lamb is a pioneer in compiling prospect research web links.

For a comprehensive knowledge of how prospect research works, I always recommend two books – Prospect Research: A Primer for Growing Nonprofits by Cecelia Hogan and  Getting Started in Prospect Research: What You Need to Know to Find Who You Need to Find by Meredith Hanck.  Both books will guide a new (and old!) prospect researcher from A-Z of setting up and managing a good prospect research shop.

Finally, I would urge those interested in learning more about prospect research to join one of the many organizations (and their discussion groups) dedicated to networking among research professionals.  I’ve joined one (through, International Prospect Research Association ( that promotes networking among its members.