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 Mallory Lass, Assistant Director, Prospect Research at the University of California Berkeley.
Mallory Lass is Assistant Director, Prospect Management at UC Berkeley, where she also supports regional fundraising efforts in Los Angeles and the Bay Area, and the Vice Chancellor for Research Office. Mallory works with her fundraising clients to provide comprehensive prospect management, prospect research, and data analytics services. Mallory started in prospect research as a student worker at UC Santa Barbara and was able to embark on a career in the industry after graduation. She returned to Prospect Development after she took a career detour as an estate planning attorney, where she was also involved on many community boards. Mallory joined the board of CARA (California Advancement Research Association) in 2014 as the Northern California Regional Chair. She is the immediate past President and current Communications Chair.
To stay in touch with Mallory, follow her on Twitter @datalover916
Apra-IL: Two-part question: Why Prospect Development? And what has kept you motivated?
Lass: I actually got involved in fundraising as a student. I attended UCSB and was looking for a student job and saw a posting that basically said computer proficient, so I applied. It ended up being in Prospect Development, and it opened up my world a lot. I took a detour to law school and practiced Estate Planning for a few years; in part because of the inspiration I had from fundraising and advancement to help people realize their goals. Ultimately, I was called back to the world of Prospect Development and have always been in Higher Ed because public education is my passion. Literacy and access to education are really important to me, so the students keep me going. The seemingly never-ending slew of world problems we have yet to solve are also a source of motivation. I know I am doing work that has wide-reaching effects, which will ultimately touch thousands of people. I don’t think everyone gets to say that about their job. It really is mission driven work for me. I find it intellectually stimulating even though it can also can be quite theoretical.
Apra-IL: What role has Apra/Cara played in your professional journey?
Lass: I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today without the Apra/CARA community. I remember, even back when I was a student worker, the woman who ran our prospect management program at the time attended Apra and came back full of new ideas. It sounded exciting, and I remember how nice she said everyone was, and that has always been my experience with the community; so willing to help and share information. As a life-long learner, professional development is something I am really passionate about. More than that, I think these organizations create a space to build community. Even though it seems like it sometimes, we don’t operate in a vacuum. We have peer institutions, parallel and intersecting missions, etc. and there is something really comforting in that. As our community grows and becomes more vibrant, there is no better place to be than in the mix at Apra PD or a CARA conference and seeing everyone so engaged and genuinely happy.
Apra-IL: Could you tell us one perception people have about professionals in Prospect Development? What's the truth?
Lass: I know there are stories about encounters with people in the outside world who have some perception of Prospect Development, but I would say for the most part, people have no idea that this is even a profession, nor what the day-to-day work is like. From early on, when I first got into this industry as a student, I created a little elevator pitch about what I did. The elevator pitch of my youth was certainly full of more snark and even some cringe-worthy language. But I have spent a lot of time now educating the general public/friends/family about philanthropy, even if it is with more professional language and the short pitch works. I can always go into more detail if people are interested. I continue to discuss the importance of private support for public education, the importance of supporting organizations and causes whose mission aligns with your own values, etc.
I think from within other areas of advancement, people are not always sure what we do over in prospect development. So, it is a little bit about demystifying our processes. Doing proactive education is a big help. There is no magic box, we work really hard to gather and analyze data and provide key insights into our strategies and prospects.
Apra-IL: Fill in the blank with a piece of advice you wish you had received in your first Prospect Development role: When in doubt, ___________.
Lass: When in doubt eat ice cream.
Everything we do (okay, mostly everything we do) is important, or can be traced to an important outcome. That said, sometimes we can take ourselves too seriously. When I get stuck on a problem, a prospect research request, a data project, have a challenging meeting, etc. the best thing for me to do is take a break and stop thinking so hard about it. Most of the time, the problem will still be there when you get back. For me, my happy place is eating ice cream, so I either grab some co-workers to join me, or just go it alone. I have been known to “schedule” ice cream related meetings into my calendar when I know I have a ton of non-ice cream related meetings, or a big deadline. The real advice here is give yourself and the people around you a break. Our work is important, but nothing is worth an ulcer. Okay, the real, real advice is to eat more ice cream!