By Katherine Ingrao, Assistant Director of Prospect Management at Rush University Medical Center
It was a true honor to be the first host and chair of APRA International’s first ARC Conference. The conference kicked off on Monday June 6th at the Marriott Chicago O’Hare and was a great success. The purpose of this event was to create a conference that would cultivate and support networks of prospect development professionals on a regional level who could then continue to collaborate and learn from each other all year round. The choice of Chicago as the first location for ARC was symbolic of APRA International’s history, having been founded in the region almost 30 years ago. The conference will be moved each year to a new region and hopes to grow in its attendance, programming, and impact.
When planning this conference, we wanted to think outside of the box and create more dynamic programming and opportunities for networking for professionals within the host region. We targeted those within the Midwest region because we thought that it was a more affordable conference and close for people to drive to. Surprisingly, APRA members flocked to Chicago from all across the US and Canada! When speaking with attendees, they mentioned that the whole experience of the conference was great because of the smaller format, manageable session options, and higher probability of repeat networking opportunities with attendees From my experiences at PD conferences, I would agree that ARC allowed people to really get to know someone sitting next to them in a session because you’ll probably run into them again at lunch. These connections were my main goal when organizing this conference. While I had thought initially I would be helping to cultivate regional connections and collaborations, it was actually on a much larger scale.
In addition to meeting people from across the country, attendees were treated to a new session format called Open Space Conversations led by Claudia St. John. Claudia helps to facilitates large conference groups such as ours to hold unstructured audience generated discussions. It was a new idea chosen by the ARC planning committee to shake up the conference offerings and allow attendees to choose the topics that they were most interested in. It was an interesting concept and worked fairly well. In the future, I can see this being used in a more structured way since out profession can be very broad in job responsibility and interest.
The real highlight for the conference came on Tuesday from our keynote speaker Andrew Means. Andrew is the co-founder of The Impact Lab and is a local data analytics expert to the Chicago area. He has previously held leadership positions at The University of Chicago’s Center for Data Science & Public Policy, Groupon, and the YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago. Andrew focused his keynote on the importance of how an organization uses and promotes its data to tell their story, purpose, and mission. He noted that these stories are often unintentionally misleading and that there needs to be more transparency and collaboration with other nonprofits to efficiently use data for the social good. His speech really resonated with attendees and spurred great conversation regarding our own internal reporting and transparency within offices in addition to our donor relations.
The overall experience of ARC for me was significant. I was able to do so much more than host a conference for my colleagues. I was able to form great connections with the wonderful prospect development professionals that call the Midwest home.
Special thank yous go out to my entire ARC planning committee:
Karla Davis- IL
Michael Pawlus- MI
Katie Linder- MI
Marissa Todd- MO
Jessica Szadziewicz- IL
This group has been amazing and I hope to work with you all again!