What makes Prospect Development a great career?
APRA-IL is asking local and national industry leaders what the field means to them and why and how they have pursued success in Prospect Development. Through this blog series we will explore what drives industry leaders to propel their careers and Prospect Development forward.
For this month's piece, Joan Ogwumike, APRA-IL member and volunteer, interviews Carrick Davis of the Wisconsin Foundation & Alumni Association.
Carrick Davis is a Senior Prospect Development Analyst in the Research & Prospect Management team at the Wisconsin Foundation & Alumni Association. He is responsible for supporting twenty development officers in prospect development, portfolio and pipeline management, and ad hoc analytics projects. His areas of specialty include relationship management, data mining, and applying data visualization techniques. A regular speaker at Apra International and chapter conferences, Carrick also serves on the board of Apra Wisconsin.
Carrick has served as a data analyst in a number of non-profit industries, including economic development and transportation policy. Immediately before coming to WFAA, Carrick was a data and research analyst at Beloit College, his alma mater, where he earned Bachelor of Arts degrees in Sociology and Health Care Economics & Policy. He holds a Master’s degree in Urban Planning from the University of Michigan.
APRA-IL: Describe your motivations to build your career in Prospect Development, and what keeps you engaged.
Carrick: I’ve held a number of roles in various industries before I found myself in prospect development. The thread that I can string through all my positions is a focus and commitment to promote social good. I have a strong commitment to reducing inequality, and I believe education is a critical element of that work. I get satisfaction from knowing that my work in prospect management and analytics is improving educational access to a world-class institution through scholarships and student support.
I also like that the field is flexible and continually evolving. There are many opportunities to innovate and try new and entrepreneurial approaches to solve prospect management problems. This is an industry that encourages pushing the boundaries of how data and information are used. I love the idea that I’m working on something that may have never been attempted before.
APRA-IL: Describe your journey into your current position.
Carrick: Seven years ago I got my first job in prospect development after graduate school, when I returned to my undergraduate alma mater to work in the External Affairs office. At that time, my only exposure to the field had been what I’d seen in the job description. My Prospect Researcher role demanded technical literacy (finding, confirming, synthesizing and storing information), communicating that knowledge in a way that development officers can use, and a commitment to using that data in new ways to further the organization’s mission. I was drawn to finding ways to quantify largely abstract qualitative concepts like “engagement” or "affinity”.
I found that there was a limit to the amount of data inferences I could make given the small alumni base. I moved to Madison to take a position at Wisconsin Foundation & Alumni Association, in part because I would have a larger pool of alumni to work with.
In the last four years at WFAA, I’ve had the privilege to work with top-notch fundraisers and data professionals. I like to think of my niche in the organization as nestled between prospect development, information technology, and development. My tenure at WFAA has been full of learning and contributing to a world-class public institution, for which I am deeply grateful.
APRA-IL: Could you tell us one perception people have about professionals in Prospect Development? What's the truth?
Carrick: I think there’s a misconception in the greater development community that prospect development professionals are shy, introverted and prefer to work in the back office. Prospect development, as a field, used to be focused on qualitative prospect research. Those researchers often came from librarianship – which is perhaps where this perception comes from, feeding off antiquated stereotypes of librarians being shy and introverted.
Over the last twenty years, the industry integrated more sophisticated data warehousing and analytics into the world of prospect development. Prospect Development professionals now spend much of their time communicating about data to influence the actions of their development colleagues. Armed with these skills, prospect development professionals enjoy stronger partnerships with leadership that guide development strategy. While we are not frontline fundraisers, we are now sitting at the highest levels of the development strategy table, data-informed recommendations for our organization’s continued successes.
APRA-IL: Can you share a piece of advice with the readers, on what you've gained during your professional development
Carrick: Cultivate relationships with frontline fundraisers. Ask questions that will help you understand their needs as fundraisers. The better you know how they make choices, work, and feel motivated, the better you’ll be able to support them. A great deal of prospect development is centered on providing information and counsel to help development directors make decisions about which prospects to prioritize. By showing that you are interested in their work and both the art and science of fundraising, development directors will trust that you’re providing recommendations that align with their needs and priorities.
At the end of the day, Prospect Development supports Development Directors with data, information and strategic council. When you can approach a situation knowing how your Development Director thinks, your odds of success for your mission increases dramatically. This will also increase your job satisfaction, knowing your guidance is valued and utilized.
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