By Elisa Shoenberger, Senior Prospect Management and Research Analyst, Loyola University Chicago
What an APRA International for the record books! Over four days, researchers, prospect managers, analysts came from all over the US and the world to New Orleans to learn, converse, and network. APRA IL Chapter had a particularly strong showing. We had fifteen members present at the conference this year from topics including dynamic portfolios, international research, corporate and foundation research and prospect management, and much more!
Below are a few of my takeaways from this year’s conference.
The regular conference started off with a Keynote Speech from the incredible Dan Pollatta. His talk focused on the problematic ways society thinks about philanthropy. He talked about the problem with compensation for nonprofits. We are okay with CEOs of for-profits getting paid a lot of money, but there are investigative reporters going undercover to reveal the salaries of nonprofit CEOs. US society is just not comfortable with paying a lot of money in salary for nonprofits. However, if you want to attract the best and brightest and retain them, this perception is hurting nonprofits and their work.
There’s a similar discomfort with marketing and advertising. Corporations can spend millions of dollars but charities that spend a lot of money talking about their cause are perceived as wasteful. Overall, the obsession with overhead costs only hurts charities and their causes. Instead of looking at how much a charity spends on operating costs, organizations and people should look at what the charity is doing and how many people it is helping. That’s just a small part of his speech. Check out his TED talk here: http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_pallotta_the_way_we_think_about_charity_is_dead_wrong?language=en
I attended “All the Right Prospects: Dynamic Portfolio Reviews” given by David B. Nacol, Executive Director, Schools and Programs, and Rebekah D. O’Brien, Assistant Director, at Northwestern University. What an incredible talk! The room was bursting with people! The speakers talked about the case of Northwestern’s portfolio review process, a part of their larger Prospect Management system. At Northwestern, they have mostly transitioned to smaller portfolios, generally 25 to 35 prospects in solicitation or cultivation. Typically, gift officers only manage prospects that they have personally qualified. When gift officers join Northwestern’s central fundraising teams, they start with zero people in their portfolio and gradually add people as they get to know prospects. That’s just a tiny nugget of information from their talk.
I also attended “Corporate and Foundation Relations: Creating Impact” given by Michelle Heyn, University of Minnesota Foundation. Her talk focused on Corporate and Foundation Principal Prospects, rather than Corporations and Foundations as a whole. She talked about the various products that they create to help advance those relationships. One thing that blew my mind was that they use the Risk Factors section in a company’s 10k and orient their strategy to help the company meet those challenges. What a brilliant idea.
At the CASE Conference for Corporate and Foundation Gift Officers that I attended in June, a representative of a tech company advised that universities and colleges should understand what problems a corporation is trying to solve when they approach them. This will help deepen the relationship. When asked how to find this information, the representative suggested talking to C-level individuals. This new idea of looking at “Risk Factors” is another way of tackling it. While not all companies have this information available, namely private companies, it’s an important resource if we have it.
There was another round of APRA Talks, styled like TED talks. Presenters had about 5 minutes for their talk. The first was Greg Lambousy of the Louisiana State Museum talking about Hurricane Katrina. He explained that it took two years after the Hurricane to rehabilitate the buildings and collections damaged in the storm. They were fortunate since they already had a year’s worth of operating budget in the bank; not all nonprofits did and many had to shut down. Nonprofits with connections with federal government or branches in other cities fared better than those that did not.
Jennifer McCormack, Associate Director of Advancement Analytics at University of Washington, talked about innovation and analytics. She explained that the greatest challenge to change was experience. Moreover, people make the mistake of forgetting that change is emotional. Will this hurt or help me? She explained that communication was key. Speaking their language is a must to get people onboard. She also explained that better storytelling of successes will help to get other onboard and eager to participate.
The final speaker was David Robertson, Director of Operations Research at Syracuse University, who sang us two songs! Here is “Prospect Gold” for your viewing pleasure: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=5urx104-PkA&app=desktop
He talked about how we have to be creative experts and look beyond our industry. He suggested looking at how the for-profit sector is doing in terms of forecasting, etc. Great advice!
We had a lovely time at the APRA IL breakfast at the Ruby Slipper. Grits, hash, and gravy were had by all! That’s just a taste of APRA International 2015. I can’t wait for APRA International 2016 in Nashville!