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Research: Going for the Gold

News Story

For Lubin Professor Francisco J. Quevedo and Andrea Quevedo-Prince ’20, research is a family affair. The father-daughter duo and karate-do competitors are analyzing fundraising in the nonprofit sector, in attempt to promote a better understanding of the market and nonprofit dynamics, especially aimed at improving fundraising for Olympic sports.

Lubin Professor Francisco Quevedo is no stranger to fundraising—he’s been heavily immersed in the field for several decades. Recently, he thought it would be valuable and worthwhile to scientifically investigate fundraising in the nonprofit sector, particularly as it pertains to Olympic sports fundraising.

“I’ve been doing fundraising for about 10 years and have been working for nonprofit organizations for 30 years. This experience has provided me with what I'd call a working understanding of the dynamics of the sector, but not with scientific knowledge of fundraising, much less with a mathematical model, which is what we are trying to build,” says Quevedo.

As the instructor of Pace’s karate club and mentor to his daughter, Andrea Quevedo-Prince (who is a shotokan karate-do champion in her own right, having won nine world medals, with five national gold and silver medals this year alone), Quevedo was able to seamlessly merge his research expertise and passion.

“What we set out to do was build a predictive model for the nonprofit in general, first” says Quevedo. “In other words, what makes nonprofit revenues go up or down?”

Quevedo reasoned that fundraisers in the nonprofit sector will tend to know a lot about the field—be it religion, higher education, health, environmental fundraising, and so on—but he had been unable to find a mathematical formula that could be applied to the entire field. Namely, he asked, are there a confluence of factors that will be able to determine the success funraising in general, and of particular nonprofit fundraising initiatives?

With a grant from the Office of Student Success, Quevedo was able to enlist none other than his daughter Andrea Quevedo-Prince ’20, a dean's list health science major at the College of Health Professions, to help as a co-researcher and collaborator. Together, the two began to tackle the question at hand.

“We found out about the student-faculty research program, so we came up with the idea,” said Quevedo-Prince. “We realized, well, we have the practical knowledge for karate fundraising, but we could learn some theory and add some scientific knowledge to the field. And we could help Pace in the process, as we study the variables and correlations in higher education.”  

The duo is currently in the research phase, with Quevedo-Prince sifting through thousands of sources to preselect different indexes for Quevedo to cite, index, and run statistical inferences to determine correlations between different potential factors, and extract those which are most valuable to the model. 

“Fundraisers for this segment are really in need of telling them how this whole system works. Now that we are in the position to study the topic, we’re essentially saying, let’s tell them how it works,” says Quevedo.

For both Quevedo and Quevedo-Prince, who are the first known father-daughter collaboration in Pace research history, the topic is inherently personal. The duo has set their sights on Tokyo 2020, where karate-do will make its debut as an Olympic sport. Over the years, Quevedo has helped raise $4,000,000 in revenues from sponsors like Coca-Cola, Pepsico, and Liberty Mutual Insurance. Yet, both noticed a major disconnect between potential donors in the US, and the needs of Olympic sports in terms of fundraising.

“It's a matter of public awareness,” says Quevedo. “People donate to education because they have a connection to a school or college. People may donate to health because of a sick relative. Olympics don’t seem to be quote-unquote a need. How can we help people understand that health, sports, and heathly habits go hand in hand?”

“What we want to know is what actually makes donors give as individuals, and as a collective,” says Quevedo-Prince. “We’re trying to find out what we could do to improve fundraising.”

Ultimately, the duo hopes that their research will not only benefit their own fundraising aims, but serve as a guide for any nonprofit looking to better understand the factors of the market—be it an established University, an animal preservation fund, or another sport, looking to fund athletes to compete on an international level—who may not have the built-in sponsorships and moneymaking abilities of bona fide Olympic stars like Michael Phelps. 

“Michael Phelps doesn’t need the money. The 10 competitors behind him and the 100 wanna-be's behind them, they do need to money,” says Quevedo. “We really need to understand these things to pinpoint how to approach the donors—not for the Olympians, but for the 10, 100, or 1,000 people behind them, for the millions of people and young children who got inspired by a guy like Phelps.”

As for the research, it appears the Quevedo and Quevedo-Prince are formulating a strategy that is undeniably gold medal-worthy.