Written by Elisa Shoenberger, Prospect Management & Research Analyst, Loyola University Chicago
We’re counting down the days to the 27th International APRA Convention in Las Vegas. We here at APRA-IL are very excited about the upcoming conference. It’s four glorious days of lectures, workshops, networking, and socializing. In order to prepare for the conference, we have asked our fellow APRA-IL members to reflect on their memories of and lessons from conferences past.
Rodney Young, Prospect Data Project Coordinator at DePaul University, wrote, “I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the APRA International Conference 2012 in Minneapolis! It was a great time to connect with Prospect Research & Management professionals across the nation. I learned about best practices, innovative ideas, and challenges in different types of institutions. The connections made at APRA International led me to join the APRA-IL chapter and get involved. I highly recommend APRA International for anyone who wants to take their career to the next level!”
Elisa Shoenberger, Prospect Management and Research Analyst for Loyola University Chicago and presenter at this year’s conference, wrote about her memories of her first conference in 2012: “At APRA International Conference 2012 in Minneapolis, I was really gratified to meet other people in my field. I met people whose experience varied widely. Some people had been in their roles for years while others just started. The environment was so positive and collaborative. At ‘The New Researchers Symposium’, I remember asking for help on international research. One of the session leaders was willing to help; she shared a PDF of international resources, such as websites and tips! It was really useful! While I was getting wonderful advice and insight, I remember explaining what a donor pipeline was to a researcher I met on the bus. Even I had something to share with my follower APRA conference goers. But it’s not all about work either! There are a lot of great social opportunities. I remember taking a 6:00am walking tour of Minneapolis with my fellow researchers. We wandered over to the Sculpture Garden at the Walker Art Center to see the giant spoon and cherry sculpture. I can’t wait to go this year!”
Amelia Aldred, Research Analyst at University of Chicago, wrote about her best memories of APRA International 2013 in Baltimore, Maryland. She had a great time “meeting lots of new researchers at the New Researcher Symposium and comparing notes on how we got into prospect research.” She reflected on one session in particular: I went to “a session about family trees at the time, I thought, ‘This is interesting, but when will I use it?’ Then the week after APRA, I was assigned to create a family tree of one of our main donor families!” She also had a blast eating Baltimore crabs with her team and generally "geeking out."
Catherine Cefalu, Lead Prospect Research Analyst at the University of Chicago and presenter at this year’s conference, made some helpful recommendations to first time conference goers:
“This year is going to be my fifth time attending the APRA conference, and my second time presenting at a session. Here are some of the things I've learned over the years:
- Do your research on the sessions and speakers, interesting places to eat near the hotel, and things to do in your spare time.
- Bring your business cards: both for networking with colleagues, and for the WealthEngine Money Ball!
- Dress in layers in the session rooms; the A/C tends to be pretty chilly.
- It’s okay to spend time by yourself; I nearly ran myself ragged trying to Meet Everyone and Do Everything my first year.
- Don’t be afraid to ask people to lunch or dinner, or to visit local APRA chapter happy hours. Last year, I had a great time hanging out with RIF UK.
- You’ll probably lose your conference program at some point. Keep an extra one handy.
- Plan carefully what you bring with you when you head down to the conference for the day the elevators are often mobbed after each session.
- Not every session you sign up for has to be relevant to your current job or organization. I work in higher education, but like to attend at least one member/cause-related session per year.
- It’s okay to leave a session if you think you might get more out of another one going on at the same time (unless it’s completely full -check at the registration desk if you’re unsure). I wouldn't recommend walking out of the New Researcher Symposium, though…
- Take good notes so you can debrief with colleagues when you get home!
- There is a sad tendency for some sessions to devolve into complaining about gift officers. Venting can be tempting, but don’t let yourself get sucked into a toxic conversation. Remember: partners in fundraising!
- Visit the vendors and snag some swag! And pens. Get as many pens as you possibly can.
- Plan adventures!”
We can’t wait to see you all there and hear about your experiences. See you soon!