Friends, family, and fellow researchers: conference season continues! In the first three weeks of May, I had the opportunity to speak at not one, not two, but three APRA chapter spring conferences. At each conference, I met a great group of local researchers, presented on some fun topics, and had a fair amount of travel adventures.
My Tri-APRA tour took me to Columbus, Ohio on May 1-2; St. Paul, Minnesota on May 6; and Lansing, Michigan on May 16. Before I go any further, I’d like to thank OPRN, APRA-MN, and APRA-MI for putting on wonderful conferences, and for inviting me to be a part of each one. It was a crazy three weeks, but I had a great time talking shop with all of you.
Here I am in action! Thanks to APRA Michigan for the photo:
The adventure begins….
Dates: May 1-2
Location: Columbus, Ohio
My presentations: Raising the Profile of a Researcher, Implementing Analytics from a Research Perspective (descriptions below)
- Raising the Profile of a Researcher
If you’re in prospect development, you’ve probably attended a decent amount of conference sessions that discuss how to best partner with frontline gift officers to do your work effectively and efficiently. But what about your relationship with your senior leadership team? Can you position the work you do with frontline gift officers to influence change within your organization? Are you able to synthesize your experiences working with staff to articulate patterns and develop recommendations, and are your recommendations heard? This workshop focused on best practices in building a relationship with a senior management team, and provided recommendations for making the most of the unique positioning of prospect development teams within organizations to improve fundraising efficacy at a micro and macro scale. I discussed real-life examples of how this has worked for me, and I also led a group exercise that helped attendees focus on delivering outcomes first and process second.
- Implementing Analytics from a Research Perspective
Regardless of whether your shop develops analytics in-house or outsources, research teams are the primary consumers of this data. We are often asked to overlay predictive modeling scores with wealth screening data and develop thoughtful strategies around verification of results and assignment of prospects into the appropriate portfolios. How do you make sense of all of this data? The workshop focused on strategies and best practices for implementing a predictive modeling project through thoughtful and comprehensive segmentation. Participants left the workshop with a clear understanding of key components of an acquisition project including how to define the project, preparing for success, obtaining buy-in from front-line staff and leadership, and establishing accountability.
OPRN knows how to throw a conference. This was a full, action-packed two day affair, with a Friday morning keynote by APRA’s president, Karen Isble. I was unable to attend Karen’s presentation as I had a previous work commitment; otherwise, that certainly would have been the highlight of the conference for me.
Instead, my work obligations ended just in time for me to sneak back in to hear Chris Brakenbury of The Ohio State University lead a great session on prospect management. Chris leads prospect management efforts at Ohio State and walked us through the department’s recent changes. This was a content packed session, and Chris was kind enough to share his prospect management materials with attendees.
Another conference highlight is getting to meet people you generally only interact with online. I got to meet Ginger Cole from Lexis Nexis! Ginger was my Lexis rep since I subscribed to the product back in 2006. I’ve been getting emails from her for years. It was great to see her and talk with her face to face. This is one of the great things about conferencing (or maybe a’conferencing is better?) – please make sure you take the opportunity to meet your reps, people you talk with on the L, etc. when you go to conferences.
Confession: I like ice cream. A lot. BUT, I don’t eat chocolate (WHAT? Yeah, I know. It’s a thing.), which means that many of the traditional ice cream offerings are not available to me. Rocky Road? Nope. Mint Chocolate Chip? Nada? Double Fudge with Oreos? (Is that even a flavor?) Sounds disgusting. Fortunately for me, Columbus is home to the BEST ice cream shop of all time, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams! I first discovered Jeni’s in 2004 on a trip to Columbus and have been hooked on this hard-to-find ice cream ever since. Jeni’s boasts some creative and delicious non-chocolate options such as wildberry lavender, pistachio and honey, and goat cheese with red berries, if you’re into those sort of things (and I am!). I could devote the rest of this blog to Jeni’s ice cream (and every blog thereafter), but then I’d have to rename the blog, which seems like a lot of work.
The OPRN board gave me a Jeni’s gift certificate for my troubles and use it I did! My favorite flavor: Cultured Key Lime Pie Frozen Yogurt. If you threw a Star Trek reference into the name of this froyo, it would be absolutely perfect. Anyone who wants to try and persuade me to speak at a conference in the future, throw in some Jeni’s and you have a deal!
Date: May 6
My presentations: Prospect Identification Strategies, Board Prospecting: A Case Study
- Prospect Identification Strategies
Today’s research shops are being asked to identify prospects for initiatives that exist far outside the scope of your traditional prospect base. I discussed the following: methods and tools for prospecting in new interest areas, factors to consider when capturing new interest areas in your database, and strategies to expedite capacity ratings when conducting initial proactive research.
- Board Prospecting: A Case Study
I co-presented this session with Matt Hewitt from Concordia St. Paul. Some of you may recall Matt Hewitt from my third blog post, Minnesota Nice. Matt and I walked through a project we worked on last fall, when Matt was asked to look for some suitable board candidates to present for nomination to the board. Matt created an affinity score to prospect within his database for these names, then he and I walked through some research tools to verify information on them. We blended small-shop and large-shop examples in this presentation (I used examples on board prospecting from when I worked at University of Chicago), and had a great conversation with attendees. Also, this was my first presentation experience using Prezi, which made me feel hip and cool.
You may recall that I attended APRA Minnesota’s fall conference featuring Chris Pipkins and Lisa Howley (I covered this conference in Minnesota Nice). Being asked to speak at the conference this time was like coming home. I got to see my good friend Debbie Mueller, who is a past president of APRA. If you’re keeping track, I’m now 2 for 2 on catching up with APRA presidents at these spring conferences. What talented and amazing people work in our industry! Another highlight, thanks to my co-presenter and a number of other conference attendees, I learned a lot about Lutherans in Minnesota.
I experienced my first suitcase casualty as my trusty suitcase (from several years before I started this job) lost a wheel once I landed in Minneapolis. Since I wasn’t in the mood to lug a one-wheel suitcase around, I headed straight to (where else?) Target and got a new one. Meet Zippy!
Date: May 16
My presentation: It’s All About Who You Know
- It’s All About Who You Know
Once you identify capacity among your prospect pool, the next step for prospect development professionals is finding the connection between your prospect and your key board members and volunteers. This session explored some tools, both free and paid, that attendees can use in their shops to uncover and visually represent these relationships.
APRA Michigan features people from all over – you’ve got the Ann Arbor crowd, the Lansing crowd, and the western Michigan people, but then you have the UP-ers. They live really far away! Traverse City is pretty far up there, too. It was really exceptional to see people who drove so far just to network with their fellow prospect development professionals. The APRA Michigan group definitely made me feel at home in my time there.
APRA Michigan also featured a panel of fundraisers. I really enjoy it when frontline and non-frontline fundraisers are able to learn from one another and share experiences in an open space. Thank you to APRA MI for all the effort it took to put this together!
There aren’t enough words to describe the craziness that surrounded this conference. I was flying in from Phoenix to Lansing. “Ummm?” You ask. Yes, this:
1,941 miles, according to Siri (ps: check out my Vital Stats for my up-to-date mileage and conference counts). Step one was flying from Phoenix to Chicago. That flight was delayed about 45 minutes, so I landed at 9:04pm. Step two was flying from Chicago to Lansing. That flight was due to leave at 9:01. Sigh (I later learned that it was cancelled altogether). I wanted to earn Tri-APRA status, so I rented a car and tried to get excited about my middle of the night four hour drive. Oh, I forgot a detail. I brought a passenger along with me! I met a woman on my plane who was also trying to get to Lansing. We had a lovely time getting to know one another on our trip, and I got into town with enough time to catch a couple hours sleep before waking up and heading to the conference. I was very tired, but had a great time.
It was a crazy three weeks, but I really enjoyed my midwestern APRA travels. I hope you enjoyed reading about them as much as I enjoyed participating! If you have questions about any of the presentations I gave, drop me an email – I’m happy to discuss further.
Finally, one cool thing about presenting is that you get APRA swag. In addition to being an honorary member of all three APRA chapters (that’s my current requirement for speaking at an APRA chapter event), I was presented with some very lovely gifts for speaking. Here’s all my swag!