By Elisa Shoenberger, Benchmarking Analyst, Grenzebach Glier and Associates, and Katie Ingrao, Assistant Director of Prospect Management, Rush University Medical Center
APRA ARC and APRA International are coming up. I’m not sure if I should go to either. I’ve been told professional development is important but I don’t know what I’ll really get out of sitting in a conference room all day. What’s the value in going to these conferences and things like them?
Professional development is really essential in our line of work. There are so many developments in fundraising and data happening every day! Conferences and other events are a few ways to keep prospect researchers and prospect managers up to date about new trends and processes in our field. At conferences and events, you get to learn what other people in other shops have struggled with and the solutions that they have created. You’d be surprised at the amount of times you’ll find a shop facing similar issues as your organization! Their approach to the same problem can bring new perspective or a cautionary tale but either way its great information to have. You also can learn about new resources, new models of research and management, or even new strategies to deal with thorny issues in our field. You can take these ideas and apply them your organization. Or you can tell your boss and other people about things that worked and didn’t work. Even managers and directors can benefit from conferences; there can be tracks to help them strategize with moving the department forward or better manage their employees.
But even more important than the conference sessions themselves, you have the opportunity to network with people in the field. At these events, you’ll meet people from all over the country and even the world who are there to learn and share. You can learn a lot from one another. Your tenure in the profession doesn’t matter. I went to my first conference only three months on the job and I was able to share things I had learned and thought about with other people. I learned a lot too. These connections are really important for the future as well. You’ll meet people who you can talk to later on if you are having issues and need outside support. I once called colleagues I met through APRA International and APRA IL to ask them about their programs to see how they compared to ours. You can ask them about their fundraising databases, vendors they’ve used or rejected, and so much more. Plus, they can be potential points of contact in the advancement of your career. You can also learn about new products and services from the various vendors.
Conferences are largely what you make of them. If you are willing to learn a lot and share, they are a great way to enhance your skillset and network. Going to conferences were one of the best things I’ve done as a researcher. So if your work place permits it, I definitely recommend checking out a conference.
Have a burning question for Dear Analyst? Send your questions and queries to APRAIL@gmail.com.