By Jessica Szadziewicz, Prospect Information Analyst, Northwestern University
This year’s Big Ten Development Conference was held at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana from July 26th through July 28th, overlapping with APRA International. Although much smaller than International, the Big Ten conference offered some valuable sessions for prospect research and management.
The conference itself is not solely focused on prospect research and management, but on development as a whole. Sessions also targeted major gifts, campaigns, annual giving, donor relations, talent management, and marketing and communications. As someone who only works in research, it was a nice change getting to network and speak with other development professionals. It was also very helpful getting an outside perspective on research, and how research departments are viewed in wider development. Research was definitely respected in most institutions, and those outside the department understood what we do every day.
If someone from a Big Ten school is considering going to this conference in the future, I would encourage it for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it offered fantastic networking opportunities. Even though the institutions represented are large, the conference itself is small with under 300 registrants. This provided me with an excellent opportunity to speak with executive directors and those in charge of research. Furthermore, it was great speaking with and learning from other research professionals in large shops. Being part of a prospect research and management team consisting of 16 people, it was educational and interesting to see presentations from other large teams. Purdue for instance has a team of 15 that is very similar to Northwestern’s. A major difference was that they have a data analyst on the team, while Data Analytics is separate at NU. They also use the vendor EverTrue, a donor management software that was described in-depth.
Finally, I would encourage attending for the Roundtable Sessions. Being a smaller conference, the schedule included two roundtable sessions where all attendees discuss a topic. The roundtable “Tracking ROI: Making the Case for Research” was very informative and interactive. Questions were presented, but the discussion was allowed to flow as the participants saw fit.
In 2017, the Big Ten Development Conference will be held at Michigan State in East Lansing, Michigan. Hope to see you there!