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You Should Write a Blog About That!

As part of our goal to share industry and career-related information to colleagues in the fundraising development field, we encourage you to contact us if you would like to contribute to our blog. 

Current 2022 Blog Series:

T.R.U.S.T - What Does Collaboration Mean to You?

Completed in 2021/2020: 

The Research Rabbit Hole

The Hot Seat

The Prospect Development Professional's Haven

Questions, Questions, Read all About the Answers!

Placing a Seat at the Table

  • Mon, June 20, 2016 8:45 AM | Anonymous

    By Elisa Shoenberger, Benchmarking Analyst, Grenzebach Glier and Associates

    Dear Analyst,

    I went to APRA ARC and had a blast. I learned so much from my colleagues in the field. It’s amazing to see what people are doing! I’m thinking about next year’s conferences. I’d love to present what I have done in my research shop but I’m not sure if I should. What do you recommend? What did you do to get ready for the conferences you’ve spoken at?


    Potential Speaker?

    Dear Potential,

    That’s wonderful! I’m so pleased to hear that you had a great time at ARC. I’m even happier to hear that you are thinking about speaking next year at ARC or another conference. I think that is great. I’ve spoken at several conferences and I’ve enjoyed every single one of them. It’s always fun to share what you have learned and to continue discovering new things from other people.

    I know that speaking at a conference can seem very scary. When I first thought about it, I was not sure what I would say. What could I talk about? Or more importantly: What was I qualified to talk about? The answer was simple: my job. What did I do every day? What had I learned as a researcher and/or prospect manager? What processes did we build at my job? Because once you start going to conferences and talking to people in the field, you realize that everyone does things differently. So there’s your starting point. What do you do that is different? My first conference talk was a panel on planned giving, which is a really tricky part of fundraising for me. But I had spent years learning about it and spent a lot of time figuring out to translate my knowledge of planned giving (with lots of help from my boss and others in my organization) into conducting better research and management for my organization. And the presentation went well!

    Another idea is to look at an area that you find so fascinating within the field. Maybe you know something about it but you want to learn more. That’s totally a legitimate thing to talk about! I’m personally fascinated by corporations and foundations and decided to focus on this area for the past three talks. Now, it’s okay not to know all the answers. You can learn more about the topic in order to present. It’s more than likely that you’ll want to do some more research for your presentation. I spent time interviewing people and reviewing aspects about foundations that I did not know a lot about. And it’s half the fun of presenting!

    There’s also the possibility of co-presenting. I know several colleagues who present with other researchers in their offices. Sometimes they even present with gift officers and other non-researchers at their organization. Or you can present on a panel. As I mentioned before, my first presentation was a panel on planned giving where my co-presenters were from all over the US. A panel can be a great way to start presenting. You have fellow presenters to help you out (particularly with questions) and you learn new things from what they are doing.

    Okay, so you’ve gotten your speech figured out and you’ve been accepted by a conference, the next step is putting together the presentation. You do not want to put too much information on any slide. Too much information can overwhelm the viewer and make it hard to read the talking points. You can put the highlights to help people later on when they review the slides. I view my presentation slides as a guide in my presentation.

    One of the trickiest parts of presenting is the Q&A at the end. You’ve spent a lot of time preparing your speech but the questions can be about anything! (Well, hopefully about your speech and related topics). It’s okay not to know the answer. You may have questions that you really won’t be able to answer. Take it as an opportunity for new research and new learning. The questions may help to clarify a point about your work. Try to see the Q&A as a continuation of the learning process. That’s what conferences are all about.

    Finally, remember to bring lots of business cards. People will likely want to follow up with you or even send you documents about how they do their work on the topic to help you in your own work. As mentioned in previous Dear Analyst posts, conferences are a place to meet people and learn about new techniques, strategies in our field.

    So go forth and submit your presentation ideas! It’s well worth it!

     Jennifer Filla at APRA IL Fall Conference 2015

  • Mon, June 13, 2016 8:44 AM | Anonymous

    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

    Henry Lau-MI

    Kathryn Thomas-WI

    Susan Hunt-PA

    Jessica Szadziewicz- IL

    This group has been amazing and I hope to work with you all again!

  • Tue, May 24, 2016 10:42 AM | Anonymous

    There's still time to register for ARC!

    Take a look at these talks by local presenters:

    Sarah Brandywine Johnson, Research Analyst at the University of Chicago will be talking on “Shoperations: Research Shop Administration for Researchers” on June 7 at 3:30pm – 4:45pm.


    Shoperations: Research Shop Administration for Researchers is an overview of organizational and administrative tips and tricks for running the "office" side of a Prospect Research office: budget, information and project management, cat-herding, and communication for shops big and small, presented by a current research analyst and former project manager. Attendees will learn how to organize and manage office operations, come to understand the unsung value of post-it notes, and explore various software applications to assist in tracking tasks, communicating with fellow researchers, and storing information that just does not quite fit in a database.

    Klara Mueggenburg, PhD, Business Systems Analyst at Northwestern University, will be giving her presentation entitled: "Exploring the Relationship between Engagement and Giving" on June 8th from 9am to 10:15am.


    Engagement leads to giving. This statement makes intuitive sense to most alumni relations and development professionals. Yet when asked to quantitatively show the relationship, we struggle initially with even defining engagement. Should it just include events and volunteering activity, or should it also include alumni club membership and online alumni community activity? This session will provide steps for examining engagement and its relationship to giving. It will discuss how to define and measure engagement, how to improve data quality to support reporting, how to use graphs to explore trends in data, how to construct an engagement or affinity score, and finally, how to effectively present this information. Understanding how engagement and giving relate to each other can empower organizations to evaluate event and volunteering programs, and can strengthen the collaboration between the alumni relations and fundraising team.


    Elisa Shoenberger, Benchmarking Analyst at Grenzenbach Glier and Associates, will be presenting “Everything You Wanted to Know about Foundations but Were Too Afraid to Ask” on June 7 at 2:00pm to 3:15pm.


    Ever wanted to understand the difference between a family foundation and a private operating foundation? Confused when reading 990 forms? This session is all foundations, all the time. We’ll look at how foundations are formed and important considerations for new foundations. We’ll explore the different foundation types. We’ll explore the wonders of the 990 forms and talk about research products that I’d developed and used in my role as Senior Prospect Management and Research analyst in the past. We’ll also talk about interviews made with people who work and run small foundations about their work and their views on the grand world of foundations.


    Stay tuned for more sessions from APRA-IL members and legacy members and click here for more information from APRA International about ARC!

  • Wed, May 18, 2016 8:36 AM | Anonymous

    By Elisa Shoenberger, Benchmarking Analyst, Grenzebach Glier and Associates, and Katie Ingrao, Assistant Director of Prospect Management, Rush University Medical Center

    Dear Analyst,

    APRA ARC and APRA International are coming up. I’m not sure if I should go to either. I’ve been told professional development is important but I don’t know what I’ll really get out of sitting in a conference room all day. What’s the value in going to these conferences and things like them?


    Professionally Questioning


    Dear Questioning,

    Professional development is really essential in our line of work. There are so many developments in fundraising and data happening every day! Conferences and other events are a few ways to keep prospect researchers and prospect managers up to date about new trends and processes in our field. At conferences and events, you get to learn what other people in other shops have struggled with and the solutions that they have created. You’d be surprised at the amount of times you’ll find a shop facing similar issues as your organization! Their approach to the same problem can bring new perspective or a cautionary tale but either way its great information to have. You also can learn about new resources, new models of research and management, or even new strategies to deal with thorny issues in our field. You can take these ideas and apply them your organization. Or you can tell your boss and other people about things that worked and didn’t work. Even managers and directors can benefit from conferences; there can be tracks to help them strategize with moving the department forward or better manage their employees.

    But even more important than the conference sessions themselves, you have the opportunity to network with people in the field. At these events, you’ll meet people from all over the country and even the world who are there to learn and share. You can learn a lot from one another. Your tenure in the profession doesn’t matter. I went to my first conference only three months on the job and I was able to share things I had learned and thought about with other people. I learned a lot too. These connections are really important for the future as well. You’ll meet people who you can talk to later on if you are having issues and need outside support. I once called colleagues I met through APRA International and APRA IL to ask them about their programs to see how they compared to ours. You can ask them about their fundraising databases, vendors they’ve used or rejected, and so much more. Plus, they can be potential points of contact in the advancement of your career. You can also learn about new products and services from the various vendors.

    Conferences are largely what you make of them. If you are willing to learn a lot and share, they are a great way to enhance your skillset and network. Going to conferences were one of the best things I’ve done as a researcher. So if your work place permits it, I definitely recommend checking out a conference.

    Have a burning question for Dear Analyst? Send your questions and queries to APRAIL@gmail.com.

     APRA IL Fall Conference 2014

  • Wed, May 11, 2016 7:13 AM | Anonymous

    By Joan Ogwumike, Development Coordinator, Mikva Challenge


    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.

    Is our commitment to the field because of the impact we can have on the world

    through our  work? Is it the fact that for many of us, Prospect Development careers

    are a “perfect fit” with our skill sets? There are countless reasons to build a career in

    Prospect Development: through  this blog series we will explore what drives

    industry leaders to propel their careers and  Prospect Development forward.

    Our first interview in this blog series features APRA-IL president, Katie Ingrao 

    speaking on why she does this work.

    Stay tuned for upcoming feature profiles in this series each month!

    C:\Users\rdo392\Pictures\APRA-Illinois\Katie Interview Template.png

    APRA-IL: Describe your motivations to build your career in Prospect Development, and what keeps you engaged.

    Katie Ingrao*: I, like many people, fell into Prospect Development, and there are several reasons that keep me in it. One of the more prevalent reasons is that I feel this field truly utilizes and values my natural talents and skills. My background is in education and library and information science, and I consistently rely on that experience in my work with database trainings, data management, and general research. This [experience] allows me to feel more versatile in my work and not restricted in the future opportunities available to me. I know that I can continue working in prospect management or branch off into data analytics and still be within the same field and maybe even the same organization.  

    The people that I meet in Prospect Development have kept me engaged in the field. I have always enjoyed connecting with the different people who make up the fundraising industry. They all have different experiences, educational backgrounds, and skills. It’s really rewarding to me to hear how and why they got into fundraising because it shows how truly diverse our industry is. This diversity, I think, makes my work experiences so great.

    APRA-IL: Can you share a piece of advice with the readers, on what 

    you've gained by professional development?

    K.I.: I have gained quite a bit from professional development through APRA-IL. Most importantly, I’ve been able to build my skills of networking and understanding the importance of connecting with professionals beyond my office and even beyond my specific field. I started out in a single-person shop and it was very intimidating as a new Prospect Development professional to be completely independent with no structured support. Joining APRA-IL and attending conferences has forced me to be more engaged and confident. My involvement has taught me confidence and how to be more assertive in my daily interactions with colleagues and being a better advocate for my work.

    APRA-IL: What is next for you? Is there anything you would like to

    accomplish or challenge?

    K.I.: I’m not entirely sure what’s next for me professionally. I think a great aspect of Prospect Development is that there are lots of options and always new opportunities to consider. Going forward, I hope to learn more about data modeling and implementing those data analytics skills to prepare for my organization’s next campaign. I have never prepared for or gone through a campaign so that’s an exciting upcoming endeavor. As for new things at APRA-IL, I hope to increase volunteer engagement among our members. I have found the experience extremely rewarding and want to encourage more chapter members to participate.

    *Some aspects of Katie’s answers have been paraphrased. 
  • Mon, April 18, 2016 9:01 AM | Anonymous

    By Elisa Shoenberger, Senior Prospect Management and Research Analyst, Loyola University Chicago

    Dear Analyst,

    I’ve been living the prospect researcher’s dream. I’ve been doing a lot of proactive research and finding a lot of great new leads for my organization. But none of the gift officers seem to be as excited as me. How do I get them interested in these new people?


    Excited but Frustrated Researcher

    Dear Excited,

    That’s super great that you are finding great leads to feed into your organization’s pipeline. But as you are finding out, that’s only half the battle. As researchers and prospect managers, we have to help convince gift officers that new leads are as great as we think they are. We have to market the leads so they go out and see them. That process can be very frustrating.

    There’s a lot of different ways that you can do that. First, there’s the evaluation itself. What information are you including? How are you communicating what is awesome about a prospect in your written work? Does the person have a lot of securities, or a snazzy house with a giant mosaic covered pool? Is that in there? Does the person give a lot of money to their other alma maters? Or do they live in a coop in NYC or own a plane? These details can help explain why the person is so great. Make sure you write down what’s in your brain so there’s a record of it.

    The next step is delivering the information. There’s a couple of ways of doing it but the effectiveness depends on the gift officer. For instance, I’ve heard over and over that giving a list of prospect leads on a spreadsheet is the kiss of death. A long list of people in a spreadsheet can be daunting but a small one might be okay. It really depends on the comfort level of the gift officer. If they like spreadsheets and are comfortable with data, then I think it can work. But I’d make sure that list is short. And maybe include a sentence on why they were included.

    Another option is to send one off emails. You can make a case for why the lead is awesome in an email. It’s a direct way of marketing the person to a gift officer. However, it’s extra work to write one email for every person you find. You could try 2-3 but it’s still another email. Plus emails can get lost in the quagmire of one’s mailbox.

    Recently we implemented a new report called the “New Prospect Report” that helps spread the word on leads. This report records all new research analysis in a time frame who are not assigned to a gift officer. It includes the name of the person, city, state, degrees, the research note, and their rating. It’s like a semi-monthly email that goes out to all the gift officers. Then gift officers can see all the wonderful work you’ve been doing. And then, they can let you know who they want assigned!

    However, I think the best thing you can do to market your new finds are meetings. Yes, I believe that is the solution for a lot of problems but that’s because face to face communication is really effective. I think it would be great to meet the gift officer with a list of a few individuals that you think they should take a look at. Or if you have a pre-existing meeting, just add it the agenda. That way, you can tell the gift officer why you think someone is great. Hopefully, that’ll result in some new additions to their portfolio!

    These are just a few suggestions. If you have more, please let us know at APRAIL@gmail.com

    Have a burning question for Dear Analyst? Send your questions and queries to APRAIL@gmail.com

    Photo Credit Julia Mc Gannon. Featured Elisa Shoenberger and Erin Gernon

  • Thu, March 24, 2016 3:09 PM | Anonymous member


    APRA-IL member Carolyn Hersch shared a piece she wrote for C.A.L.L.’s (Chicago Association of Law Librarians) newsletter regarding her work with APRA-IL and bridging gaps between development professionals and librarians. APRA-IL President Katie Ingrao also provides her thoughts on APRA-IL’s first webinar and the positive impact of partnering with Carolyn and outside organizations like C.A.L.L.


    Last fall, I attended a daylong conference hosted by APRA-IL, which focused on hot topics in prospect research.  APRA-IL is an organization for prospect development professionals in the Chicagoland area.  Prospect research involves researching, managing, and analyzing data with the goal of gaining donors for non-profit organizations. Librarians are getting hired in this field, as the skill set matches neatly with the profession. The majority of prospect development positions can be found with universities and hospitals, although the field is growing.

    According to APRA, Prospect Development has evolved to include the following roles and responsibilities:

    ·     Prospect identification and research: discovering and evaluating prospective donors, and their interests, relationships, inclination to give and philanthropic capacity to inform and support an organization’s fundraising strategies and outreach efforts

    ·     Relationship management: managing, tracking, and reporting on an organization’s activity with its constituent and prospect pools, and making recommendations to positively influence fundraiser and campaign activity

    ·     Data analytics: supporting an information-driven decision culture by deriving conclusions and identifying trends through the statistical analysis of internal and external data

    The skills that our prospect research counterparts have are important for librarians to be aware of, regardless of the work setting.  Future attorneys and law firms need to know how to research whether prospective or existing clients have the means to pay them. Law schools have fundraising arms.  Law firms like to understand what strategic advantages they can get.

    One of the connections I made was with APRA-IL President, Katie Ingrao. Katie is the Assistant Director of Prospect Management at Rush University Medical Center. From our meeting came CALL’s first collaborative webinar. On February 17th, CALL, APRA-IL, and APRA-MN presented a webinar comparing and contrasting competitive intelligence with prospect research. Over 50 participants from the three organizations listened in. Jerry Burch, from Latham Watkins and Darren Cooper from the Mayo Clinic discussed competitive intelligence and its non-profit sibling, prospect research. Jerry and Darren each presented on their respective fields and then held a panel discussion comparing the type of research they do, ethical questions, skills, tools, intricacies of both professions, and the divide of nonprofit vs. for profit organizations.


    APRA-IL hosted its first webinar on February 17th and we partnered with APRA-MN and C.A.L.L. (Chicago Association of Law Librarians). Our topic focused on the fields of prospect research and competitive intelligence. My goal with this webinar was to explore professional fields beyond development that are relatable to prospect researchers and can be sources of inspiration, motivation, and collaboration for us. This was a goal easily met since competitive intelligence professionals are so relatable in their methods, techniques, and general purpose within their organization. Besides starting to build a network beyond development, I took away two important lessons from the process of putting this webinar together.

    I found this webinar to be extremely helpful to prospect development professionals in making connections to positions in the corporate world. It’s always smart to be aware of what you are qualified to do and who values your skills beyond your current situation.  The competitive intelligence field is our corporate sibling and has great potential for prospect researchers looking to break out of the nonprofit bubble.

    The second lesson that I took away from the webinar and entire experience of collaborating with outside professionals was there are big rewards when I think outside of my little prospect development box. Talking to a professional from a related field can be great for your critical thinking skills. Competitive intelligence professionals approach their job from a corporate mentality but share technics and a common purpose with prospect researchers. Their ultimate goal is to gather, analyze, and advise on data for their organization’s leadership. Listening to CIs talk shop helped me think about how I approach my work and can use different tools or technics to improve my results.

    I thoroughly enjoyed collaborating with APRA_MN and C.A.L.L. on this webinar and look forward to more like it! Be sure to register for our next webinar by Namrata Padhi on Researching Start Up Companies on April 26th at 12 p.m. https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/5553718267221333249

  • Tue, March 15, 2016 10:48 AM | Anonymous

    Elisa Shoenberger, Senior Prospect Management and Research Analyst, Loyola University Chicago and Katherine Ingrao, Assistant Director of Prospect Management at Rush University Medical Center

    Dear Analyst,

    When I’m meeting with gift officers and leadership, I’m often told just to go google information for them. People at work seem to think that I just use Google all day and cut and paste information. Sometimes I get really weird requests about finding information on movie stars and stuff. People don’t seem to realize that prospect research isn’t a research desk! How do I explain to them that there is so much more that I do and could be doing for them?


    Not a Professional Googler

    Dear NPG,

    Prospect Research is more than putting someone’s name in Google. It’s a common misconception of the field. It’s true that part of the role is finding information. But it’s more than just a Google search. We find a lot of our wealth information on specialized websites and reports like county assessor’s offices, real estate websites, and much more. Information on those sites aren’t easily found via Google. It requires knowledge of what resources to use. We spend a lot of time at conferences, etc. exchanging ideas for new place to find information and that’s just a small part of the story. We have to take our training and expertise, and our intuition to understand the information that we find. Is it accurate? What does it really mean about the prospect? And then we unite that knowledge with the information we know as an institution by looking at old research, contact reports and even giving. It’s so much more complicated than a Google search. We assist in determining strategy for the gift officers. We help them figure out what motivates the prospect. We can even help with ask amounts!

    But there’s even more that Prospect Research can do! We have to find leads for the organization, to build the prospect pool. That takes a lot of discernment and cleverness to find people who may be interested in your mission. Schools have the natural pool of their alumni as possible prospects but researchers still have to find them out. We spend hours looking at SEC documents, news articles, reviewing top business lists, LinkedIn, and so much more. Again, new prospects aren’t something you can just Google.

    And finally, we can help overall strategy for a school or program. We can look at the entire data set and help gift officers make decisions about their donors. Where events should be held? How should we split up the US between gift officers? There’s so much that prospect research can do since we are in the data all the time.

    Now, you are probably thinking: That’s great, Dear Analyst. I know we do so much. How do I communicate that to my colleagues and leadership? That’s the tricky part. Often times, we as researchers have to continually make the case about what prospect research can do. In many shops, it has been helpful for a research team to hold Prospect Research 101 trainings for all staff to start the education process and to reinforce it. It also helps if you have a good advocate at the leadership level who understands what your department can do. They can appeal to other members in the leadership team about what research can do for your institution.

    Regular meetings with gift officers can also be a strategy. Maintaining a regular rapport helps gift officers and researchers stay connected and working together to find ways to collaborate. These conversations and meetings allow for the opportunity of researchers to offer gift officers different ways in which they can help them in their fundraising goals. Do they need assistance prioritizing their suspects? Do they want to know where their alumni live? These meetings demonstrate the depth and breadth of what a prospect researcher can do. Of course, it’s also important to remember that you don’t want to overpromise and get overwhelmed with side projects. Your main objective is to educate and inform the gift officers who you work with not entertain every demand. A good balance is always key.

    And finally, you can advocate for research by identifying opportunities your gift officers may be missing. We are the hunters, gatherers, and disseminators of our organization’s information and many times are in the best position to point out a strategy, prospect, or opportunity being overlooked. Does the person seem to like giving to health organizations and scholarships? Maybe they might be interested in supporting scholarships at a medical school?

    These are just a few ways that prospect researchers can make a case for their department. Dear Analyst would love to hear the different ways you and your department have helped make the case too. We’ll post responses in the next Dear Analyst column!

    Author Unknown
  • Fri, March 04, 2016 9:43 AM | Anonymous

    By Elisa Shoenberger, Senior Prospect Management and Research Analyst, Loyola University Chicago

    When I first started as a prospect researcher and attended my first APRA conference, a few people I met described their work as “professional stalker.” That description felt very wrong to me from the beginning. I like to avoid using the word “stalker” in any context, especially professional one. I was determined to come up with a better short description of the field that had a more positive ring to it. Or make people laugh without all the self-deprecation. I settled on “Treasure Hunter” since everyone loves pirates, right? It felt a lot better to say.

    When I talk to people who don’t know about fundraising, I have to explain that prospect research and management is its own niche field. I try to explain that fundraising is its own industry as well with its big competitors and startups.  I try to emphasize how much prospect research and management is a field. An impressive one at that.  I’ve been fortunate to have gone to several local and international APRA conferences and seen the beauty and organization of our industry. I think it is incredible that researchers present their work to us all, write articles about the profession on many blogs, and even advise newcomers and fellow researchers in the field. At my first APRA conference, so many people were willing to lend a hand to one another. Even as a newcomer, I was able to help other people I’ve met who were even newer to the field. That commitment to sharing and helping each other succeed is amazing. What a passionate, thoughtful industry we are in!

    And in the past few years, it’s been incredible to see the rise of analytics within our field. We’ve been attending lectures and workshops about how we could use Big Data for several years. And then it seems that everyone (outside of research) was talking about it! It’s been incredible to see how our field continues to grow and keeps up with the changes in the world.

    But the biggest point of pride for me has been the work itself. We help drive the strategy of fundraising at our institutions. I love that my research takes me to new and interesting places each day. One day, I’ll be working on evaluating the value of an art collection and the next day, I’ll be researching a foundation’s work in fostering democracy. I get to be a mini-expert on lots of little areas. Moreover, I’m extremely proud that research I’ve done has helped align donors with a particular field of interest for them! And even better, I’ve been able to help to increase the size of the gifts. Those moments are precious to me. Helping my organization grow is what it is all about. So I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m more than a treasure hunter. I don’t just find the treasure, I help give gift officers with the shovel? Okay, that metaphor is getting a bit tortured.

    So what am I? I’m a researcher. #researchpride

    Now it’s your turn! Tell us why you are proud to be a researcher! Email us at apraillinois@gmail.com or tweet at us at @APRAIllinois

    Photo Credit Erin Gernon

  • Fri, February 26, 2016 9:07 AM | Anonymous

    By Elisa Shoenberger, Senior Prospect Management and Research Analyst, Loyola University Chicago

    The issue of social media is paramount in our field. Pew Research Studies reported that 74% of online adults use social networking. People use social media for both professional and social purposes. Online people reveal so much about their lives, their preferences, and sometimes even their philanthropic inclination. Social media provides prospect researchers with new opportunities and new challenges! In 2013, I had the opportunity to attend a lecture on LinkedIn at APRA International in Baltimore, MD. The session was really critical in talking about the ethics of using LinkedIn in a professional capacity and also to understand how other shops were using the tool. The issue arose again back in May 2015 over the ethics of using LinkedIn for prospect research on PROSPECT_L – a listhost for prospect research, management and analytics--and resulted in APRA International issuing a formal statement on LinkedIn. Read about APRA’s LinkedIn guidelines here: http://www.aprahome.org/d/do/3217  Last summer, one of our vendors offered social media as a new option for research with our prospects.

    Earlier this month I was asked to review Jennifer Filla and Sarah Bernstein’s Prospect Research Perspectives on Social Media and I have found it be essential reading about social media and the prospect research/management field. The book explores how do prospect researchers and managers handle the wealth of information and deal with the ethics of using that information. Aimed at prospect researchers, prospect managers, and data analysts (and maybe even gift officers), this publication provides thoughtful and sometimes provocative analysis about social media in our field. It tackles social media from a lot of diverse angles from an effective Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) analysis for using social media in fundraising and research to analyzing the ALS Ice Bucket challenge.

    The publication helped me think about social media in a broad sense from the ethics of using social media to how to use the information as a researcher. The publication includes a series of articles by Filla and Bernstein who have interviewed several people throughout the field. Their articles contain information from people at three Milwaukee based charities and Justin Ware, Vice President of Digital Fundraising Strategy at ScaleFunder. I really appreciated the article of the three Wisconsin based charities that explored how these three charities with different structures and missions each used social media to aid in their fundraising.  For instance, Lawrence University “Lawrence has been tracking every social media comment for several years now, tallying the comments by fiscal year in their database (Banner). As Ziegler describes it, Lawrence was then able to “use this existing data to identify volunteers, and send them a private Facebook message with a link to the social media toolkit for Giving Day” (p18). Justin Ware of ScaleFunder pointed out, “enthusiastic online advocates often include at least a few of your major donors” (p11).

    One of the surprising suggestions was for prospect researchers to look for social media influencers. In our field, the focus has long been major gift prospects. And there’s definitely potential with social media to aid in that mission. Jen Filla and Sarah Bernstein talk about how social media can help researchers understand the interests and affinity of major gift prospects…or even find new major gift donors, like young tech millionaires, that traditional wealth screenings don’t find. But they added this idea of identifying folks who are influencers. They can help champion your organization’s message, maybe even with a gift attached! They write: “Social media influencers offer us this same opportunity. If we can identify who among our large group of annual appeal donors has influence, we can ask them to give more of their influence to our organization and its mission” (p33). This is something I’ve never thought about doing. I’m already dreaming up schemes to capture that information! But in addition to this incredible insight, there’s some really important suggestions to how to make use of it, like the data collection and other partnerships needed to be able to affectively accomplish this. I also valued their comments about the importance of data tracking and possibilities with analytics.

    I also appreciated that their publication talked about how we can use social media in the advancement of our careers as well.  One provocative thought was the idea of mastering one or two social networks. How many social networks have you looked at today? How many do you actively use? Filla also states the importance of being active and not overexerting yourself. Work it into your daily routine.

    So I highly recommend this publication for those of you who contemplate the ramifications of this plethora of social media in the prospect research and prospect management field.  

    Picture credit- Jason Howe

    Photo link: Jason Howe. http://tinyurl.com/jaa3n2z

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