Written by Elisa Shoenberger, Prospect Management and Research Analyst at Loyola University Chicago
What a wonderful 26th annual APRA International Conference! It was a fantastic four days of conference learning and getting to know our peers at the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas. People came from all over the US and even the world to attend the fifty-four education sessions in six different tracks, from Prospect Research to Campaigns.
While I attended many fascinating and insightful presentations, my favorite session was “Venturing into High-Tech Research” by Christopher Haight from Cornell University. Mr. Haight talked about the high tech industry focusing on both individual players and companies themselves. He outlined five groups of individuals that researchers should think about for prospecting: Investors, Founders, Early Employees, Bankers, and Lawyers. With respect to founders, he pointed out that they are often quite young when they get their big payout and exit the company. These founders may be disinclined to give a gift. Moreover, they may have sold many shares of their own company to get the financing for it to expand or go public. Mr. Haight suggested that organizations change the way they ask for gifts or imagine a gift’s structure. Instead of asking for outright gifts, organizations can ask for shares in a company. Imagine if your institution had asked for 1% or even 0.50% of Facebook! I believe his session was recorded so you may be able to check it out for yourself in the near future.
We also participated in great roundtable discussions in conjunction with APRA talks, our version of TED talks. Before the roundtable discussion, we heard three short talks on leadership. Josh Birkholz from Bentz Whaley Flessner presented his research about the power of leadership with character for companies’ bottom lines. Sandra Campero of Arizona State University talked about trusting your own instincts and helping other people become leaders in their own right. John McBride from the University of Chicago talked about having the confidence in oneself to succeed. After these insightful presentations, we had the opportunity to discuss leadership in general and in our specific shops with our fellow researchers. One fellow researcher mentioned that he brought his dog to work! He said that bringing his dog to meetings helped to reduce the overall anxiety of his fellow colleagues. What a fantastic idea!
In addition to attending these fabulous sessions, this was a special APRA conference for me personally. Not only was it my third conference, but I was also fortunate to be asked to speak on a pre-conference panel called “Managing Planned Giving Relationships,” which promoted a dialogue between gift officers and researchers to facilitate and expand planned giving programs in our respective organizations. My fellow panelists were Lawrence Henze, Principle Consultant at Target Analytics, Camille Licklider, Executive Director of Gift Planning at Northwestern University, and Tina Pugh of Nature Conservancy. Our panel suggested that organizations steward planned giving prospects when they give an annual gift, not when they are identified as a planned giving prospect. The message of the moment: stewardship, stewardship, stewardship! It was also fascinating to learn how some factors correlate with certain planned giving types. For instance, people who tend to give political contributions tend to elect for annuities while people with stronger giving to religious organizations more often choose bequests.
The conference wasn’t only mind-blowing ideas; we also had opportunity to get to know our fellow researchers. APRA IL hosted a happy hour on Thursday after sessions at the Cosmopolitan’s fancy Chandelier Bar, where we had the opportunity to meet many of the colleagues we’ve talked to via phone for APRA IL meetings.
During our happy hour, we each shared our favorite parts of conference so far. Catherine Cefalu, Lead Prospect Research Analyst at University of Chicago, noted that her favorite part was geeking out over keynote speaker Una Osili, Director of Research at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. Amelia Aldred, Prospect Research Analyst at University of Chicago, fondly recalled following the APRA 2014 Twitter feed. She said, “I liked hearing people’s thoughts about different sessions and I introduced myself to several prospect researchers simply because I liked their Twitter feed so much.” She also noted how much fun she had following #APRAhooligans, a “fun joke Twitter feed about APRA, full of pirates and ninjas and even Carmen Sandiego. So much geeky fun.” She also had a blast “walking the Las Vegas Strip with my colleague Sarah Johnson. She is an organized crime history enthusiast, so we went to a bunch of sites where famous mobsters worked and cut dealsundefinedvery fun!”
APRA International Conference is the only way to do Vegas!
Until next year!