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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. 

We also enjoy reading other blogs and may contact you to share a guest post. 

Current 2019 Blog Series:

Apra-IL Presents 20 Questions with ...

Motivations of Leaders

Completed in 2018/2019: 

Love Letters to PD

Match Makers 2.0

Tales of Terror: The Prospect Development Edition

True Life: A Day in Prospect Development

50 Shades of Prospect Development

  • Wed, October 17, 2018 9:49 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Apra-IL presents Tales of Terror: The Prospect Development Edition. Inspired by series such as Are You Afraid of the Dark? and Goosebumps, this series will present stories that thrill, excite, and chill you to the bone ... just in time for Halloween!

    The first in the series was written by Katie Ingrao, Associate Director of Prospect Management at the National Audubon Society. Katie's story follows a Researcher desperately trying to find their way out of a tangled web of data while being foiled at every turn by inefficient and malicious management practices. Turn your lights on and sit with your back to the wall for this one, folks!

    Moans from Policy Purgatory

    On all Hollow’s Eve, in a quiet little development office, there dwelled a dedicated prospect management professional (PM). The leaves outside her window were bursting with autumnal colors and were beginning to flutter down to carpet the ground in soft mounds. This seasonal symphony of color and tempest winds could only mean one thing. Its portfolio review time! Our PM was feeling the buzz in the air and was becoming giddy with excitement to unveil her new dashboards developed over the summer. “These dashboards are the best I’ve done yet! My Development Officers will find them so helpful and convenient for quickly accessing their metric progress!” PM exclaimed. This excitement was contagious among her team and review meetings were hastily scheduled.

    On the day of the big dashboard unveiling, PM anxiously watched the seconds tick down on the clock until she could begin setting up the conference room. The tap tap tap tapping of her cubicle neighbors’ keys and the slurp slurp slurping of her coworker’s PSL grated on her nerves; tightened her shoulders, until the clock struck 10 and she sprang into action! She strode down the hall towards the conference room with confidence and vigor.

    PM’s co-workers slowly filtered into the conference room as the excitement and nervous jitters began to settle into PM’s stomach. “Just take a deep breath and clearly express the advantage of these new dashboards and you’ll be fine,” PM thinks to herself as she walks to the front of the room. As the presentation begins, PM unveils the first dashboard that displays each team’s progress to goal. The reaction is hushed but PM notices a growing murmur from the audience. PM’s eyes dart around the room in an ever-increasing speed as the rise of side conversations and remarks reach a crescendo and PM’s Director exclaims, “Ok everyone! Let’s let PM finish explaining the new dashboards and why we are transitioning our perspective on reporting metrics. We developed these to directly address your repeated requests for transparency and access to data.” This interruption allows PM to exhale and get her bearings and prepare for the onslaught of Development Officer’s dissection and interrogation of her reports. “I think maybe we pause and answer some initial questions before I continue on.” PM shakily states to the room.

    PM looks out into the audience and calls on the most vocal and divisive Development Officer thinking to herself “Let’s just start with the most difficult objections first”. This Development Officer, PM knew is a talented fundraiser and definitely appreciates their skill and gumption when dealing with prospects but she really found her public questioning terrifying! “How did you determine the calculation of the qualification rate? I don’t think that a prospect can be truly disqualified until I’ve spoken with them and I think it’s unrealistic to give us only 3 months to qualify” the Development Officer declares. The Leadership Annual Giving Officer next to the Development Officer vigorously nods her head in agreement and adds, “Forcing us to give up good prospects just because of an arbitrary time period has passed rushes our process and lets good people slip through the cracks!” And then the Principal Gift Officer pipes in with his own grievance “And how come we can’t hold onto important VIP prospects even if they haven’t given in the last 3 years? They are HNWI and I’m still thinking of a strategy to get in front of them.” Following this comment, the room breaks out into further buzzing of agreements and the opinions of everyone in the room “Well, I don’t want my loyal annual givers to be taken away from me because you all need prospects because of this!” “I think we need to think more strategically about how we divide up our portfolios” “Maybe we just scrap this whole thing” causing a cacophony of noise.

    These dissents were causing PM’s heartbeat to jump in her chest and a prickling sweat to break out across her body. “This was supposed to be a fun and exciting presentation to show my thoughtful work based on their issues and desires for prospect management reporting. How could it have devolved into chaos so quickly?!” PM thinks to herself. To the building dissenters in the room PM states, “I understand your concerns about ensuring that you have truly disqualified someone but in order to reach our fundraising goals, we need to churn and qualify at a higher rate. That means we need to limit the time we devote to qualifying and cultivating someone so we don’t waste time on people who aren’t going to be major givers to our organization.” The pounding of her heart rate continued to resound in PM’s ear following this statement as she stared out at their blinking faces. At this point, PM’s Director stands up and attempts to regain control of the meeting “I know you all have concerns and we will try to address them. I’m going to meet with the VP of Development and reaffirm that we all agree on the shared understanding of how and when to disqualify a prospect and the agreed upon metric for qualification. Thank you all for your time.” With that final statement, the meeting concludes and PM is taken aback and thinks to herself, “That’s it? I thought we had all decided this was the new format and was approved by leadership? Why are we backing down now in the face of only the slightest of resistance?” Her Director pulls her aside and says “That didn’t really go over as well as I had hoped, I’ll need to circle back with leadership on this. We may need to reassess our plan and redo the reporting.”

    PM’s vision narrows, her blood pressure skyrockets and rakes her hands down her face as a low guttural groan of frustration radiates out of her. “Okay."

    The End.

    The Office Rage GIF

  • Wed, October 10, 2018 7:49 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Apra-IL presents Tales of Terror: The Prospect Development Edition. Inspired by series such as Are You Afraid of the Dark? and Goosebumps, this series will present stories that thrill, excite, and chill you to the bone ... just in time for Halloween!

    The first in the series was written by Joan Ogwumike, Principle Gifts, Prospect Research Analyst at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Founding Principal at Jstrategies. Joan's haunting tale of disorganization and database permissions gone awry will have you looking over your shoulder all day. Enjoy!


    Wednesday, as unique as her name, was not your typical Prospect Researcher. She always felt connected to her prospects while researching them and creating in-depth profiles. She felt like she knew them. And in a way she did; she knew them better than the fundraisers who met them. Wednesday also lived an organized life – everything organized by routine. She did everything the same way, every day. But on one Wednesday in October, things changed. She had come into the office feeling tired and slightly sick, despite getting her usual eight hours of sleep. Heading into the office kitchenette to make some coffee, she found her mug in pieces, clearly broken by a clumsy co-worker. Horrified, she swallowed her anger, and drank her coffee in a paper cup.

    What a morning, she thought, feeling anxious but a bit more alert.

    And what a morning it was. The weather was gloomy, overcast with dark clouds, and it was slightly chilly so you needed a scarf or knit sweater for warmth.

    Her office mates were buzzing with excitement for the coming of fall and full of the Halloween spirit, but Wednesday scoffed at them. She didn’t believe or participate in the festivities. She believed ghosts, witches, monsters, and magic were for children and fairy tales as she only believed in what she could see.

    Sitting down at her desk to being her morning routine, Wednesday received an email from an unfamiliar Fundraiser:

    Good Morning Wednesday,

    My name is Luke Knight and I am the new Regional Development Officer for the Midwest. I would like to request some updated research on Melissa King. You researched her years ago and it seems like she either owns a new foundation or is a member of one. I’m not 100 percent sure because I just became her new Prospect Manager and our first conversation consisted of her mentioning this foundation really quickly. Would you be able to get me more information on the foundation?



    Wednesday, screwing her eyes shut and rubbing her temples, tried to remember Melissa King. After a few minutes, nothing came to mind so she started digging into the CRM and her old prospect profiles. Finding nothing, she began to wonder whether Luke was mistaken. Perhaps someone else had conducted the research and forgotten to include all their data in the CRM. Or maybe Luke had looked at someone else’s record.

    Good Morning Luke,

    I would love to help you but it seems like I have no record of Melissa King or a completed profile for her. There are also multiple people named Melissa or Melissa King in the CRM. Could you give me additional information? What year did she graduate? I don’t doubt you, but are you sure that I was the one that conducted research on Melissa?

    Best, Wednesday

    Email sent, Wednesday frantically searched for Melissa King. She began to perspire and grow increasingly nervous, as she still couldn’t find a “Melissa King” in the database. Something was truly wrong. When she googled “Melissa King,” she found an Edward and Melissa King Family Foundation, but it was clear Luke’s Melissa King was not associated with it as the foundation owner’s Melissa passed away many years ago.  

    How is this possible? Wednesday thought. Alarmed and needing some space to think, she headed to the office kitchen for more coffee. But the change of venue didn’t help with the onslaught of questions: who did Luke talk to if Melissa King passed away in 1999? Who is Melissa King? Why does Luke believe that I wrote this profile if I have no record of it? Who on earth is Luke Knight?!

    Trembling, Wednesday returned to her desk to find six new research requests from Fundraiser Luke Knight that he needed done by the end of the week. Wednesday sat back in her chair, numb and frozen. In all her years in her position, she’d never received requests at this volume with such a quick turnaround.  Gathering her composure, Wednesday began to look up all the people Fundraiser Luke was requesting and found them all marked deceased in the CRM. “How! Why! What is going on!?” said Wednesday out loud.

    In that moment Prospect Manager Gina walked by her office, and Wednesday got up to inquire about Luke.

    “Hi, Gina. So, Luke Knight is really building up his portfolio. How many people is he working with? I might have to sit down with him and learn more about his prospect pool and how he is trying to add to his portfolio.”

    “Wednesday, who is Luke?” said Prospect Manager Gina.

    “The new Regional Development Officer for the Midwest” said Wednesday.

    Prospect Manager Gina thought for a moment, “there was a Luke Knight who used to work here years ago, but he sadly passed away. He was so dedicated to his job that he basically lived in this building and worked here even past his retirement age. Funny enough, he actually worked in your office. Are you feeling OK? You’re shaking!”

    Wednesday replied in a slow whisper “But … I’ve been receiving emails from him. Luke Knight is the new Regional … Development Officer … for … the Midwest.”

    “No Wednesday. He’s no longer here,” Gina said. Worried and shaking her head, she walked away slowly.

    Wednesday turned around and stared blankly into her office. On her computer screen, she could see her inbox gradually filling with emails from Fundraiser Luke Knight.

    The end.

    Animated GIF

  • Thu, October 04, 2018 7:17 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Apra-IL introduces a spooky new series: Tales of Terror: The Prospect Development Edition. Inspired by series such as Are You Afraid of the Dark? and Goosebumps, this series will present stories that thrill, excite, and chill you to the bone ... just in time for Halloween!

    The first in the series was written by Apra-IL Director of Membership & Marketing, Kathryn Thomas. She presents to us the harrowing journey of a researcher on a Monday morning in an open office; complete with an early meeting, noisy co-workers, and a surprise ending. 

    The Opprobrious Open Office Opus

    Dear reader, our story takes place on a dark and stormy morning. The first sign it would be a challenging day came with the invitation to an eight am meeting. On a Monday. The Pernicious Planner claimed it was the only hour when all participants were available, but everyone knows only sadists schedule meetings first thing Monday morning.

    The second sign the day would not proceed smoothly came as the coffee maker slowly, but determinedly, began to bounce across the kitchenette counter. As it slid off the edge and crashed to the floor, its muffled demise echoed across the top of the hundreds of desks filling the fourteenth floor’s open-office-concept cubeless cube farm.

    As our Protagonist made their way back to their desk, the sound of gift processing’s dot matrix printer hummed in a far corner. Near the back, IT’s Typhoid Tyler coughed and hacked his way through his morning routine. In our Protagonist’s neighboring work space, Ned the Nail Clipper went to town. Ned’s fingernails seemed to grow at an inhuman pace as nearly every day, new real estate sprouted up, needing pruning. Rounding out the Open Office Opus, the marketing manager, Misty the Masticator, rhythmically opened, poured, spooned, and chewed her third snack of the day.

    Our Protagonist bravely tackled the first few hours of the day; staying awake through the meeting, performing research on prospects for Development Officers, and simultaneously completing the mandatory office safety training through their headphones. As mid-morning approached with the speed of an e-mail response from a Development Officer on the Friday before a holiday, the unthinkable happened: Chatty Charlie, head of constituent data management, approached, cellphone in hand. From several desks away, he began loudly hailing our Protagonist, “Hey! Happy Monday! I’ve got new pictures of my adorab…” Our protagonist, having lived through previous interactions with Charlie in the past, abruptly made the harrowing decision to unplug their headphones and speed walk to a nearby meeting room.

    As our Protagonist neared the doorway, they found the room occupied. Turning to the next, our Protagonist encountered a second closed door. With the blood pumping in their ears adding a strong bass beat to the Open Office Opus, our Protagonist headed towards the bathroom in a last desperate attempt to outrun Charlie. As he turned the corner, he ran directly into Plodding Pete from payroll. Pete smiled a slow hello and took the next 60 seconds to get his “good morning” out. In that time, Chatty Charlie caught up and exclaimed (over the second half of Pete’s greeting), “Whoa there, partner! Is someone having a bad case of the Mondays?”

    Our Protagonist made a fatal mistake when they took off their headphones and opened themselves up to chit chat. As such, they suffered through the torture of Chatty Charlie’s “adorable chinchilla pictures” and the slow and laborious comments provided by Pete, “How … just simply … well … I can just see … yes, indeed … can they … hmm … do you know … I’ve forgotten now …” Our Protagonist felt the walls closing in. The Open Office Opus had turned into the Wailing Workplace’s Weeping Wound with the additions of Loud Larry’s telephone call disputing his podiatry bill (on speaker phone as he’d never figured out how to send his calls to his handset), Sandy Squeaker’s flipping and flopping flip flops as she made her tenth trip to the (still out of order) coffee machine, and Muttering Manny’s mumbling about something or other.

    Above the Weeping soundtrack and Pete’s occasional nondescript throat-noises, a loud and insistent beeping began. Our Protagonist looked around, but their colleagues didn’t appear to hear the noise. As our Protagonist prepared to interrupt Charlie’s excited swiping and Pete’s incessant droning, everything went black.

    Our Protagonist opens her eyes and reaches over to quiet her alarm. It is 7:45am and she will likely be late to her Monday morning meeting.

    The end.

  • Mon, September 10, 2018 7:48 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Apra-IL presents True Life: A Day in Prospect Development. Inspired by the MTV show True Life, this series exposes the everyday experiences of Prospect Development professionals. In addition to learning from the unique perspectives of our participants, we hope that you join us by sharing pictures from your day. Use #DayinPD to contribute and follow as we dive into the lives of our colleagues over the next few weeks.

    Jillian Schuessler, Associate Director, Data Integrity & Analytics, Foundation and Corporate Relations at The University of Chicago and Apra-IL Treasurer, walks us through a day in her life. 

    True Life: I Work in Foundation & Corporate Relations

    At the Elmwood Park Metra station heading towards downtown Chicago. Once at Union Station, I rush to catch the express bus to Hyde Park and the University of Chicago!

    Our offices are located at Harper Court on 53rd St in Hyde Park. Everyone is very busy right now as we just entered the final year of our University of Chicago Campaign: Inquiry and Impact. 

    Today, I’m working on updating our progress to goals dashboard and also putting together data tables for the front-line fundraisers on our team to bring to meetings. Our team provides support to faculty and administrators who are seeking grant funding from foundations or corporations. We also provide prospect lists and profiles on foundations as well as proposal materials for our campus partners.

    This is a rare scene! Our FCR fundraisers are usually on campus meeting with faculty members. I often touch base with them on the status of proposals that have been submitted to see if we should update them in our development system. Keeping data updated is half the battle for an analyst!

    Thanks for visiting our office!

  • Fri, August 24, 2018 8:06 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Apra-IL presents True Life: A Day in Prospect Development. Inspired by the MTV show True Life, this series exposes the everyday experiences of Prospect Development professionals. In addition to learning from the unique perspectives of our participants, we hope that you join us by sharing pictures from your day. Use #DayinPD to contribute and follow as we dive into the lives of our colleagues over the next few weeks.

    Jessica Szadziewicz, Apra-IL Board Advisor and past Vice President, shares a day in her life working as Assistant Director, Prospect Management and Research at Loyola University Chicago.

    True Life: Lu Wolf is My Sidekick

    Heading to Loyola's Water Tower campus via the CTA Red Line. Thankfully, no delays today!

    Settling into my desk, complete with our wolf mascot.

    Current Apra-IL Vice President, Peter Kotowski, hard at work in our sixteenth-floor office that looks like a basement. We are both lucky to have fancy standing desks. 

    I'm going over portfolios, gift officer metrics, and Crain's. Finishing off my day, I complete a few research requests, and then head home to walk the dog!

  • Tue, August 14, 2018 9:44 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Apra-IL presents True Life: A Day in Prospect Development. Inspired by the MTV show True Life, this series exposes the everyday experiences of Prospect Development professionals. In addition to learning from the unique perspectives of our participants, we hope that you join us by sharing pictures from your day. Use #DayinPD to contribute and follow as we dive into the lives of our colleagues over the next few weeks.

    Marissa Todd, Prospect Research Analyst at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, presents our third entry with a collection of her Tweets from #ApraPD2018. She is the current President of Apra Missouri/Kansas. 

    Follow her @rissatodd

    True Life: Prospect Development Goodness and Nerdy Things

    Tweeting about my #DayinPD for @APRAIllinois today. Super pumped to share a day of #ApraPD2018 fun with everyone!

    Excited about @Apra_MoKan breakfast! Great way to kick off the day. 

    Look at all these @Apra_MoKan faces! 

    Kicking off #ApraTalks2018

    When you share all the cool connections you need more marshmallows. 

    The amazing Amy Turbes imparting wisdom to us at #ApraTalks2018

    As an introvert, taking time daily to recharge and hydrate is important. Got to get prepped for speaking this afternoon!

    Time for some learning!

    Final prep for my session on managing prospects during staff transition. Come see me in 319 at 1:45!

    Ending the #DayinPD with fellow chapter leaders Caitlin, Stephanie, and @KatieIngrao! Cheers to a successful conference!

  • Thu, July 26, 2018 10:49 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Apra-IL presents True Life: A Day in Prospect Development. Inspired by the MTV show True Life, this series exposes the everyday experiences of Prospect Development professionals. In addition to learning from the unique perspectives of our participants, we hope that you join us by sharing pictures from your day. Use #DayinPD to contribute and follow as we dive into the lives of our colleagues over the next few weeks.

    Katie Ingrao, Associate Director of Prospect Management for the National Audubon Society, presents our second entry. She is current President of Apra-IL.

    Follow her @KatieIngrao

    True Life: I'm Not Really a Birder

    Who is better to tweet about the True Life day of a Prospect Management professional than me at the National Audubon Society?!


    Jumping on the Train to Chicago: heading into the office on the early train. The EL is always an adventure.


    Clocking in! Desk/office: fun Fact! The Audubon Great Lakes office frequently receives birds who have collided with buildings in downtown Chicago. Those birds that don’t make it are held in cold storage (our freezer! Eeek!) before they are picked up by The Field Museum for bird data collection.

    Portfolio Reviews- Building a strong foundation!

    Getting down to business! National Audubon Society is currently under a massive restructuring of our Development team and I’m helping lead the way! I’m the first Prospect Management position for Audubon and there is a lot to do to establish a cohesive moves management system. Currently I’m hard at work with fundraisers reviewing and breaking down current portfolios to the right size and composition. Not an easy task for a 100+ year old national organization!

    Refine Refine Refine- crafting policies in real time!

    After spending some time working with MGOs on their portfolios, its back to crafting essential prospect management documents. I’m currently working on a prospect assignment flowchart to explain the logic behind assignment decisions. Since we have donors who give to programs outside of their state/region, we must find a straight forward way to decide who gets who. Assign by where they live or where they give? Decisions, Decisions! Anybody else struggle with making assignments because of the live vs. give dilemma?

    Shutting down: I’m an early bird ;) so after getting into the office early, I’m heading home before the normal rush. Its been a productive day at Audubon!

  • Mon, July 16, 2018 7:18 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Apra-IL presents True Life: A Day in Prospect Development. Inspired by the MTV show True Life, this series exposes the everyday experiences of Prospect Development professionals. In addition to learning from the unique perspectives of our participants, we hope that you join us by sharing pictures from your day. Use #DayinPD to contribute and follow as we dive into the lives of our colleagues over the next few weeks.

    This first entry is presented by Kathryn Thomas, Senior Prospect Identification Analyst at the Wisconsin Foundation & Alumni Association. She serves as Director, Membership & Marketing for Apra-IL. 

    True Life: I'm an Honorary Badger

    I work as Senior Prospect Identification Analyst (PIA) at the Wisconsin Foundation & Alumni Association (WFAA). My days follow a fairly familiar pattern as my work is structured in yearly and quarterly projects. What follows is a look at an average day in my role at WFAA.

    Our work day on the Research & Prospect Management team at WFAA begins with a stand-up in our work space. During this fifteen minute period, each team member shares their triumphs and trials from yesterday and outlines their plan for the coming day. Pictured, you see members of our Prospect Management and Prospect Research sub-groups as well as an array of Bucky Badgers colored during a team-building meeting earlier this summer.

    My PIA teammate, Emily, and I pull the best prospects for the University using a Tableau dashboard. Pictured above, the dashboard shows assigned and unassigned prospects as well as constituents with no active plans. The top left quadrant has the highest capacity/highest likelihood (based on a major gift likelihood score) and the lower right quadrant shows those with low capacity/low likelihood. When we are ready to pull constituents for Research review, we click on the boxes we wish to export and download an Excel spreadsheet which details the constituent’s capacity/likelihood as well as their giving to UW and other pertinent details. To learn more about our team’s proactive prospecting process, see me at Apra PD this year!

    When a constituent is reviewed by Research, they are either qualified (receive a plan for a pertinent unit(s)) or disqualified (receive a disqualification note on the constituent record). After lunch, a colleague and I met in this Bucky bower in the Work Café to discuss our evolving policies regarding constituents marked Not a Prospect.

    Here at my desk, you can see the one-page report created by the PIA's to take to meetings with Development. In it, we highlight their unit's progress with Research Identified Prospects (RIDPs) and call out specific RIDPs that have yet to be contacted by Development. During these quarterly meetings, we have the opportunity to discuss our qualification methodology and get clarification from Development on specific prospects. 

    After a long day at work, it’s time to head out. As I leave the office, I get this great view of our building and the 1848 and Bucky statue. The University of Wisconsin was founded when Wisconsin achieved statehood in 1848 which is why the Foundation address is 1848 University Avenue. Our beautiful flower-covered Bucky comes from a public art event featuring 85 life-sized Bucky Badger statues throughout Madison, WI and Dane County. Our Bucky is called Flamingo Bucky and was inspired by the UW tradition which covers Bascom Hill with plastic flamingos each year.

    Thanks for walking through a day at WFAA! I can't wait to see everyone else's posts in the coming months!

  • Thu, July 05, 2018 9:13 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    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 Michael Pawlus, Data Scientist at the University of Southern California. 

    Michael Pawlus is currently a Data Scientist at University of Southern California. Prior to this he was Director of Prospect Development at The Trust for Public Land and before this Assistant Director, Prospect Research and Development at Grand Valley State University.

    Michael is chair of the 2018 Data Analytics Symposium planning committee. He has volunteered with Apra in a number of other capacities throughout his time in this profession, most recently as one of the faculty members for the 2017 Apra OverDRIVE/ conference. He also served as programming chair on the Apra-Michigan Board and as a member of the first ARC planning committee. Michael has presented on his work at: Apra-International, Apra-Canada, overDRIVE/, DRIVE/, as well as at regional and online Apra conferences. In addition, Michael assisted with the creation of two online training courses, contributed a section to Prospect Research in Canada: An Essential Guide for Researchers and Fundraisers and was featured in an article in the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

    Michael has a Master’s degree in Librarianship from the University of Sheffield and a Bachelor’s degree from Grand Valley State University.

    He lives in Greater Los Angeles with his wife, two kids and an orange tabby cat from Korea.

    Apra-IL: Describe your journey into your current position.

    Pawlus: My journey all started when I learned about R. I wish I could remember how I first heard about R but I do remember going to the library and getting my first R book. I can recollect so clearly sitting on the #4 Bus traveling north up Eastern Ave in Grand Rapids, Michigan and trying to wrap my brain around the syntax and R basics like vectors and data frames.

    Even before then I was just extremely fortunate to work at really amazing organizations with really supportive and encouraging supervisors which is luckily still the case. I had the freedom to learn and try out new ideas. This actually started with learning Crystal Reports and then SQL but when I finally started learning R then I felt I suddenly had super powers and I needed to find a place where I could best apply this new skill set which brings us up to the present day.

    Apra-IL: What does your role as a Data Scientist mean to the fundraising field?

    Pawlus: It is really encouraging that an increasing number of development offices are hiring Data Scientists. As with so many other sectors, all of us working in nonprofits have access to more and more data but this only has value if we can convert this into actionable information which can best be accomplished through the scientific process.

    When I used to just do prospect research, the main value that I felt I was adding was verifying data. Knowing that data is accurate is, of course, important however there is a critical next step that was always missing; how much value do these accurate facts have? It always felt like we had these formulas and heuristics that could be applied once we knew some data point however it never felt like these were tested or provable at all. This is when predictive modeling started to become more popular and started to answer these questions.

    There is so much more to investigate as Data Scientists though and it is such an exciting and fast-moving profession generally and everything happening in this more general space can be applied to fundraising. In addition to discovering the most valuable pieces of data that we have, we can start thinking about how to then use this data and push it to front-line fundraisers. Integrating external data, extracting value from free form text using natural language processing tools and building recommender systems are all ways that we can provide more information to our colleagues and by extension provide a higher level of service to our donors which means our organizations can provide even more to those we serve.

    Apra-IL: Could you tell us one perception people have about professionals in Prospect Development? What's the truth?

    Pawlus: I remember being asked why I would want to leave prospect research to start doing data analytics or data science. I was always a little confused by the question because I think I am still essentially accomplishing the same aims as I was when I was in prospect research except now I can I can complete tasks at scale and provide a wider assortment of services but I am still providing fundraisers with actionable insights.

    In theory, analytics is one of the three main branches of prospect development along with prospect research and prospect management. However, in practice, it always feels like analytics is off on its own island. It has a separate email list and separate conferences. I am not saying that everyone needs to become a data scientist however I think we should all know a little about what we all do.

    Since the World Cup is right around the corner, I feel it is safe to use a soccer metaphor. In soccer, there are ten outfield players and some specialize in defense and some specialize in scoring but those that play in defense can still score and forwards need to be able to get back and help defend at times. The best teams are well-rounded and versatile in this way and I feel this would also be true for prospect development teams.

    Apra-IL: What is something interesting you learned within your role this month?

    Pawlus: I just learned about graph databases which are a different way of storing data that allows you to travel from node to node along relationships to find objects that are several degrees removed. This is similar to relationship mapping but imagine applying that to everything. You can also use these graphs to do something like this: let's say there are a group of foundations that give to your organization and these foundations also give to other organizations of course but then let's say there are foundations that give to those same common organizations that you discovered but they don't give to you; well these foundations might be good prospects for your organization and using graphs you can find these.

    Also, I can't say I completely understand this yet but I have been learning more about this model called GloVe (Global Vectors for Word Representation) which essentially creates this matrix that quantifies the similarity between terms which is really helpful when you are topic modeling on survey data or contact reports. Using the example from the authors of the model, GloVe shows that Litoria and Leptodactylidae are related to frog and it can do this with other word and term groupings which wasn't really possible before. For those working in health, it is possible to find terms that all reference a similar medical condition without having expert subject matter knowledge using pre-trained word embeddings that have been done on the entire Wikipedia corpus for example.

    I am sure I will look back at this in a month or two and realize I could have explained both of these concepts much better but then I will be on to learning new concepts and techniques. That is the way that it is right now there is just so much out there to learn and tons being developed constantly. It’s a great time to be a data scientist!

  • Fri, June 22, 2018 8:27 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Created by: Joan Ogwumike, Principle Gifts, Prospect Research Analyst, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Founding Principal, Jstrategies

    Apra-IL presents 50 Shades of Prospect Development; a series of illustrations that seek to provide a visual depiction of the complexities in all aspects of the Prospect Development field. Each colorful image will represent the emotional ups and downs, moments of pride, successful projects and relationships, conflicts with our co-workers/technology/work-life balance, and/or opportunities for growth we find in our careers.

    Apra-IL dedicates this final illustration to those who are new or desire to join Prospect Development. We welcome you to a field that is quietly growing and establishing its roots in fundraising for decades. The different roles in prospect development intertwine at times, allowing one to dabble in prospect research, prospect management, and analytics. You could even do all three if you’re in a one-person shop. And once you join the field, it takes time to learn about and recognize the three main roles in prospect development. In this illustration we are giving you an idea of who is who, and their purpose using a magnifying glass for our prospect researchers, a graph for those in data analytics, and a spreadsheet for our prospect management professionals.

    To our seasoned colleagues, which role do you play in your organization? And what advice would you give a new colleague?

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