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Apra-IL Blog

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

  • Mon, August 07, 2017 7:18 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 Jo Theodosopoulos, Manager of Prospect Development at The Minneapolis Foundation. 

    Jo Theodosopoulos is the Manager of Prospect Development at The Minneapolis Foundation. She launched the organization’s first prospect research program in May 2014, after successfully doing the same at Sanford Health Foundation/Edith Sanford Breast Cancer Foundation (Sioux Falls, SD) in 2012. She works across the organization with all departments to find and help build potential relationships. Jo was elected to the board of APRA-Minnesota in January 2016. Prior to joining the prospect development field, Jo spent five years in development and donor relations at the Sioux Falls Area Community Foundation. She holds a Master’s degree in Library and Information Science from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and a Bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies from South Dakota State University. She lives in Minneapolis with her husband and Wyatt the Rottweiler.

    Apra-IL: What impact does your work, and the overall field of Prospect Development have? And could you describe who you believe your audience is?

    Jo: Community foundations work to improve the lives of people in a geographic area. They bring together resources to support nonprofits in their communities. So, in a sense, my work impacts a lot of nonprofits and, therefore, the overall community by helping to find and build those resources and partnerships that support the good work that frontline organizations do. I think the same can be said for the overall field of Prospect Development. We’re all trying to help improve our organizations and communities in some form. I believe that my audience is pretty broad. I work with our Philanthropic Advisors, our executive team, our Impact Directors, and other members of the nonprofit community to further our impact.

    Apra-IL: As a leader, can you tell us what motivates you in your current field? And perhaps whether your motivations have ever changed?

    Jo: I’m motivated by the fact that our work at The Minneapolis Foundation helps support so many organizations that work to improve our community. I love working with our staff to strategize the best and most efficient way to make this happen. I also love collaborating with others across the Prospect Development field to share ideas and best practices. We’ve developed a great community among Prospect Development professionals. I definitely think my motivations have changed. I never realized before that I could be a leader, but now I’m happy to take on that challenge.

     Apra-IL: With 3 words, describe the role of a Prospect Development professional, and why?

     Jo: Strategy. I think that one of the most important jobs we have is to help inform the strategy of the organization in regard to fundraising and, in my case, grantmaking and partnerships using the data we provide.

    Information. Sometimes I like to use the word “information” rather than “data”. It seems a little less daunting, but that’s my opinion. At any rate, we provide the data/information used to inform strategy (see above!).

    Partnerships. Whether they are internal partnerships with other staff members or external partnerships with other prospect development professionals, our networks, grantmakers, donors, etc., we should strive to make those partnerships as strong as possible.

    Do you know a leader you want us to profile? Let us know! 

    Email us at info@apraillinois.org

  • Mon, July 10, 2017 7:30 AM | Anonymous member

    One of our favorite times of year is almost upon us! Apra International is only a few weeks away. Many of us from Apra-IL are heading off to Anaheim, CA to learn, socialize, and even present. We are excited to announce that blog feature, Dear Analyst, will have its very own panel! Come with questions for our panelists, Katie Ingrao, Rush University Medical Center, Elisa Shoenberger, Grenzebach Glier and Associates, and Jessica Szadziewicz, Loyola University Chicago to answer!

    We have noted the sessions of other folks from Illinois below. Come and support your colleagues!

    Dear Analyst

    Katie Ingrao, Rush University Medical Center, Elisa Shoenberger, Grenzebach Glier and Associates, Jessica Szadziewicz, Loyola University Chicago

    Thursday, July 27

    2:15pm to 3:00pm

    Frontier or Failure? The Social Impact Bond

    Sarah Brandywine Johnson, University of Chicago

    Friday, July 28

    11:00pm to 12:30pm

    Scaling up Interest-Based Fundraising

    Elizabeth Goodman, John McBride, University of Chicago

    Friday 28, 2017

    3:45pm to 4:30pm

    What’s Your Style? APRA Chapter Board Members on Leadership

    Katie Ingrao, Rush University Medical Center, Amy Begg, Harvard University; Nicholas Sollog III, The Sollog Group; Iberia Zafira, University of California, Berkeley

    Saturday, July 29th

    9:30am to 10:15am

    Natural Partners: Levering Analytic Talent at Your Institution

    John P. Gough, The University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign

    10:15am to 12:00pm

  • Mon, May 08, 2017 7:29 AM | Anonymous member

    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 Sabrina Latham, Director of Prospect Management and Research at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. 

    Sabrina Latham has been employed at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) for more than 25 years and is currently the Director of Prospect Management and Research - a position she has held since October 2012. She is a member of Apra International and most recently served as a member of the planning committee for ARC 2017 Conference in Atlanta. Sabrina is also president of the Apra MidSouth chapter that represents Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee. She has one daughter, Anissa Simone, who graduates from UAB this month.

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

    Sabrina: It is so easy to burn out from doing the same job repeatedly. However, one comment I heard recently put things into perspective for me. Schoolchildren today are going to be working in careers that have not been created yet. I had to stop and really think about that in comparison to prospect research’s evolution to prospect development. Looking back to the eight or nine years that I’ve worked in the field there have been substantial changes in the various techniques and tools that were not available several years ago. I guess you can say that really keeps me engaged and excited about coming to work.

    Also, the outstanding work my colleagues from near and far are doing to promote our profession via the various professional development offerings and through Apra’s Connections newsletter motivate me to do better every day. I don’t know what I would do without their contributions.

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

    Sabrina: My journey started sometime in 2000 when I was working as web communications specialist in the vice president and dean’s office of our medical school. The senior associate dean and I had a long discussion about what it would take to move up in the rankings of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) federal funding. You can say we were a couple of nerds excited about all of the information that we able to find on our peer institutions as we traded random, yet interesting, statistics back and forth. Additional faculty and staff joined in on the fact finding and the project eventually grew into a school-wide strategic plan that drew over 150 team members, affectionately known as N.E.R.D.s (Network for the Evaluation of Research Data). During this time, I was also writer and editor for the dean’s faculty newsletter, inforMED.

    A few years later, a position on the school’s annual giving team opened up and the associate dean recommended me since I had a knack for persuasive writing. That opportunity led to philanthropic grant writing and ultimately my present role in prospect research and management. It wasn’t your typical foray into the field, but it really helped me develop the persistence for finding and analyzing information that is needed for this type of position.

    APRA-IL: Can you share three takeaways from your time as an APRA chapter leader? 

    Sabrina: Never be afraid to ask for guidance from your colleagues that are serving in similar roles because starting out can be a bit intimidating and overwhelming. Everyone is willing to provide advice. When I first started, I reached out to leaders as far as Colorado and picked up wonderful tips with every call or e-mail.

    Along those same lines, take advantage of the national networking opportunities offered by headquarters. For example, Apra hosts a Chapter Leaders’ Summit in Chicago every February to distribute important information (i.e. new branding, new web platform, etc.), develop leadership skills and allow us to get to know one another, so we can eventually…

    Collaborate, collaborate and collaborate again as much as possible. Just because you volunteer with one chapter does not mean that another chapter is off limits. At the last leadership summit Katie Ingrao (Apra-IL), Jo Theodosopoulos (Apra-MN) and I discussed merging our webinar calendars. Instead of one chapter hosting multiple webinars in a year, Apra-IL will host one and make it available to Apra-MN and Apra-MS members and so on each quarter.  More details on the webinars are forthcoming.

    Do you know a leader you want us to profile? Let us know! 

    Email us at info@apraillinois.org

  • Mon, May 01, 2017 8:55 AM | Deleted user

    By Katie Ingrao, Associate Director of Prospect Management, Rush University Medical Center

    Dear Analyst,

    I’ve really been struggling with my portfolio review meetings with my gift officers. In particular their tendency to “hoard” prospects in portfolios when there are no planned activities or strategy to move them. My job is to assist them in controlling the number and quality of prospects in their portfolio but the more months and meetings that pass they continue to hesitate when I make suggestions for removal. Is there any way that I can communicate with them better that it’s ok to “let go”?


    Prospect Hostage Negotiator


    Dear Prospect Hostage Negotiator,

    I feel your pain and you’re definitely not alone in this struggle. We as prospect management professionals are placed in a tough position when meeting with our gift officers to help them make educated decisions about prospect movement. We can be both the angel and the devil on their shoulders in these meetings but it’s important that you have established a shared understanding of what a “healthy” portfolio means in your office for effective change to happen. In addition, your organization should have set policies on how to maintain an ideal portfolio to help prospect management execute clear consequences for any portfolio that is not being maintained. If your office has not done this ground work you have nothing to support your cause to reach a common goal of managing optimal portfolios.

    Shops that are starting to implement such standards usually start with basic goals of agreeing on an ideal portfolio size, amount of time allowed to attempt to qualify, and reinforcing a capacity rating minimum for portfolio additions. It’s key to include leadership in these discussions. They will most likely be charged with addressing noncompliance of said standards and so their feedback on changes will determine the ultimate success of enforcement. Not all shops will prioritize the standards that I have suggested but with whatever your shop decides, you must also be prepared to track your data. I’m assuming that your frustration is caused by seeing no change over and over in meetings; your shop is already tracking some prospect data that enables you to notice this lack of movement. You’ll need to review these reports and determine if they help illustrate whether or not a portfolio is meeting your current standards and then identify any potential standards you’d like to implement. Ensuring that you are tracking your data and creating meaningful reports will go a long way in identifying areas that portfolios need to improve.

    While addressing the way you track your prospect data currently, you should also consider how to put tracking policies into place that will help alleviate some of the anxiety of your gift officers about moving prospects out of their portfolios. The main fear, I believe, of gift officers is that they will be unaware of a future event with the prospect after they are removed from their portfolio i.e. gift, significant contact, or cultivation opportunity. We can’t completely alleviate all their fears but we can take actionable steps to create what I like to call “safety nets”. Examples of these safety nets would be segment coding with your database for stewardship and or annual appeal activity, an ear marking system with your database to track clear chain of command when it comes to communicating with a donor, and a regular review of recent transactions by the research or management teams to identify donors who should be managed in a portfolio. I pitch these safety nets to gift officers as reassurances about systems put into place for their benefit so that they can trust to let prospects go and keep their portfolios uncluttered. Finding the right number and variety of safety nets rests with each office and how they operate but being open and transparent on what happens to prospects once they are removed from a portfolio can build a strong sense of trust with a system for many overloaded gift officers.

    So you’re probably thinking, “Yea, self-analysis and overhauling policies are great steps but what should I do if they still just won’t let go?” This is probably where the majority of us live. Going 10 rounds of “Why are you holding on to a low rated prospect when I have much better options?” It’s critical at this point to know if you have the support and buy-in from the gift officer’s manager. If you’re positioned well, you only need to reiterate the shared agreement on what a “healthy” portfolio is and what the consequences are when that isn’t the case. Move forward with said consequences while always being clear that your responsibility is to the efficiency of the portfolio. If you are not in a good position or lack the support of their managers, you will need to reevaluate your office’s policies and goals. It is impossible to reinforce rules that everyone doesn’t follow and seriously jeopardizes your ability to be effective in helping gift officers reach dollar goals.  I find that consistent communication of the goals and the steps that need to be taken work well in the fight against prospect hoarding.

    Have a question for Dear Analyst? Email us at apraillinois@gmail.com or tweet at us @APRAIllinois

  • Mon, April 17, 2017 10:09 AM | Deleted user

    By Jessica Szadziewicz, Prospect Management and Research Analyst, Loyola University, Bill Farr, Director of Prospect Research, Rush University Medical Center, Angie Herrington, Development Associate, The Helen Brown Group

    Dear Analyst,

    I am writing to seek you advice/recommendations on best sources of information on tracking/handling children of wealth before they themselves attain major gift capacity. We have been working towards identifying the MG prospects among the parents of incoming freshmen as early in their 4 years at our institution as we possibly can. We try to find ways to “touch” these families early and often so we can turn the parents into donors while their children are still students. Once the children graduate, most parents (although not all) redirect their philanthropy to other causes. There is nothing more frustrating to me as the lone researcher here to uncover a family with capacity during the child/student’s final semester. What a squandered opportunity!

    We are also trying to expose the students of these families to the meaning and impact that philanthropy (including their parents’ giving) has on the institution. Most importantly, and most germane to my original purpose in reaching out to fellow professionals, we are looking for effective ways to identify, track, and stay connected to these the students after they have graduated. We would like to closely follow these individuals through their careers so that we are on their radar screens as one of their top philanthropic causes BEFORE they acquire Major/Leadership capacity.


    Wealth Tracker


    For this special Dear Analyst, we’ve asked three researchers for their input:

    Dear Tracker,

    To expose the students and families of the impact of philanthropy, you can do a few things. In their freshmen year, encourage a day of community service to some other organization, no monetary donation mentioned. This introduces the idea of giving back. DePaul did this a day before classes started, so it was easier for everyone to participate. Reach out to sophomores for a donation of $5 to the school and tell them why it matters to the university. Ask juniors for $10. Then the senior gift ($20.17, $20.18, etc.). I think this is a good introduction to giving and is manageable.

    Loyola also does a special day in March (it was this past Wednesday) when they go to busy buildings and have giveaways to entice students to write brief thank you notes to donors. This day is done in March since that is when tuition payments run out, donor money is needed to keep the university functional. I love this idea and the students line up to write letters (they get a stuffed wolf and kettle corn).

    In terms of tracking in the future, news alerts can be set up. A better strategy might be to keep an ongoing spreadsheet with their names. In five years, do a quick LinkedIn or Google search. If nothing comes up, keep the name on the list to check again in a year or so. This can be made manageable by checking on about 5 everyday; checking on 100 at once isn’t sustainable. If they have a fancy job now is the time to reach out. Build a relationship with emails/ letters early so a larger gift can be solicited in the future. (Jessica Szadziewicz, Prospect Management and Research Analyst, Loyola University)


    Dear Tracker,

    I worked at two colleges that kept pretty strong FERPA boundaries, which meant we didn’t have access to student records. Both tried parent giving clubs. We often knew when alumni and non-alumni donors were sending their kids, so we’d mark the parents’ records accordingly, and then cross-reference the kids and the parents as soon as the kids became alumni and were added to our databases. Parent giving clubs were modestly successful – anecdotally, I’d guess they had better success if the kids were active in athletics or performing arts or some such – if there was a reason for parents to visit and be proud of their kid, that kept them giving throughout the four years and perhaps beyond; otherwise, it was often one-and-done or two-and-through.

    For the second part of your question, my undergrad school’s alumni department started beating the drum during freshman orientation that tuition only covered 75% of an Elite University education with alumni giving making up the difference. That drum kept beating gently but persistently throughout the four years. Class gifts were pushed, and then both online directories and blurbs for the class notes in the alumni magazine were pushed. Donor circles had reduced rates for newer alumni; there would be class challenges, etc. Reunions are pushed hard every five years; local alumni clubs exist, mostly through the efforts of volunteer alumni with serious spirit and love for alma mater…  Now with LinkedIn and other forms of social media, it’s even easier for colleges to keep tabs on new alumni – if they join your school’s groups, you then have instant updates every time they change their page. (Bill Farr, Director of Prospect Research, Rush University Medical Center)


    Dear Tracker,

    This is a unique group for your pipeline and it’s important to maintain your list within your database and not a separate spreadsheet. Give this group a code or flag to track in the database for reports. Plus, a special indicator on their record will remind anyone coming across their name they may not look like a prospect now, but there’s future potential. Have one person in the research or prospect management department take ownership and maintain this group. That person can set up news alerts and add the names into periodic screening batches. This ensures one person is always keeping them on the radar when there’s inevitable turnover. 

    The ideal scenario is to outright rate and assign them to a major or annual gift officer’s portfolio with the relationship now focused on them and not their parents. Unfortunately, metrics will be a common reason given as to why they’re not contacting them annually or dropping them from portfolios. This group of alums is likely not going to meet major giving thresholds or be immediate dollars raised for annual goals. This is another good case to create a metric for cultivation and pipeline building. 

    If you’re unable to assign them directly to a portfolio, send the names to your class reunion or other alumni relations colleagues. Keep them in your mind for all types of participation. Is a development officer traveling to their area? How about a quick coffee? Hosting a party in their city for incoming freshmen? Invite them to attend or participate in some way. Ultimately, building a relationship when they’re not giving and keeping them invested in their alma mater is key to cultivation and keeping you as one of their top philanthropic choices. (Angie Herrington, Development Associate, The Helen Brown Group)

    Have a question for Dear Analyst? Email us at apraillinois@gmail.com or tweet at us @APRAIllinois

  • Mon, April 10, 2017 8:06 AM | Anonymous member

    The working relationship between researchers and gift officers can make or break a shop’s morale, efficiency, and ability to reach its goals! Wouldn’t it be awesome to be able to match yourself with major gift officers based on strengths and working style capability instead of random assignments? In this month of love, APRA-IL is having some fun and imagining a world where we could pick our perfect research and gift officer match. In an ode to all the popular reality match making shows, we present to you- a new series, Match Makers: The Prospect Development Edition. 

    Match Makers: The Prospect Development Edition

    Host: Welcome back everyone to Match Makers: The Prospect Development Edition. We are so happy to be back with our competitors at Ordinary University! Let’s reintroduce our researchers- Xavier, Veronica, and Melissa, and our major gift officer is Jared. Welcome back guys, I hope you’re all ready for our first challenge.

    Audience, our first challenge is called “Building Blocks- Can you build a portfolio?” The objective is for our researchers to compile prospects for Jared’s new portfolio which would aid OU’s School of Nursing. A portfolio must consist of top major gift prospects the researchers believe Jared would want to meet.

    To make things a little more interesting, the researchers have one week to put this together- 60 total prospects, so it is a very small portfolio, and 30 must be found through proactive research- we are trying to expand the Nursing School’s prospect pool.

    Once the portfolios are in, Jared will decide who the winner of this challenge is.


    Great! May the force of Lexis Nexis be with you all!

    And we are back with our researchers and major gift officer. Let’s take some time now to get to know our researchers and how their week has been.

    Xavier: Hello my name is Xavier, I’m originally from Virginia and I’ve been a researcher at OU for one year and have been in the research profession a total of 2 years. I’ve worked in other small shops before besides OU so I have some experience fulfilling research requests for portfolios of this size. I feel like this was a good challenge for me, because I think as a researcher my strengths lie in my tenacity to find necessary information. But I still feel overwhelmed at times due to the amount of information one can find about a prospect. I mean, let’s be honest, these are very high capacity givers- their careers didn’t start yesterday, so putting together the portfolio was not the easiest under this kind of pressure. It felt like I was picking long needles out of a haystack. Looking at my portfolio, it’s strong- I made a list of the best 30 proactive and 30 reactive prospect’s names, and included their companies and giving capacity.

    Host: Wow Xavier, I feel the pressure just hearing your feedback. Let’s hear from Veronica.

    Veronica: Hello my name is Veronica, I’m originally from Texas and I’ve been a researcher at OU for 3 years and started as a Development assistant. I enjoyed this research request despite the pressure, and I felt like there were too many options when it came to searching for the 30 proactive prospects, so that took majority of my time to gather the 60 total. I decided to include a map of my prospects as a visual aid for Jared’s travel plans. I then listed the prospects based on funding priority, and added a very small blurb for each of them. For me, choosing priority was based on the prospect’s philanthropic behavior, and career history.  

    Host: Impressive Veronica! Next, let’s meet Melissa.

    Melissa: Hello, I’m Melissa and I am an OU alumna and small town native. My career started in the finance department and somehow, I maneuvered my way into prospect research, and have been here for 3 months. I feel like my portfolio is strong because I gave Jared the ammunition he truly needed- along with my 60 prospects I gave short blurbs on each prospect and focused on capacity ratings. I believe the time span allotted for this challenge was THE challenge- I think with a portfolio of this size you still need a lot more time, so I am grateful for the days and evenings we were given to work on it.

    Host: Well, thanks everyone for participating! Sounds like Jared has a hard decision to make. So what do you think Jared?

    Jared: All three portfolios were great and honestly made this decision difficult. There were similarities across the board, but I must say that one stood out to me and that was Veronica’s. Veronica, you won this challenge mainly because you included a document flagging an order of priority. Which you stated would help me in setting up my meetings and travel plans. You also included a document that geographically mapped out the prospects in this portfolio. I really feel like these add-ons made your portfolio stand out and were just more helpful.

    Host: What?! Whoa Veronica, you really grabbed the bull by the horns for this challenge!

    Now let me say, we never made restrictions on what could NOT be in the portfolios- Just so we’re all clear on the rules.

    Jared: Exactly. So, Veronica wins based on the bonus features which I found extremely helpful. Xavier’s portfolio was good because his prospects worked at notable companies and hospitals, and held interesting titles. But he didn’t give me much else to work with. And Melissa’s portfolio was impressive, but with the capacity ratings and no additional information, I lacked conversation pieces. It’s important that I connect with these prospects on an organic level.

    Host: Well folks I think we’ve all learned a great lesson here: make sure your portfolio is original, helpful, and presents an array of information that can help your officer with the conversation and of course his ask.

    So now that we have completed our first challenge, Veronica is leading and has set the bar high. I want our competitors to know that these challenges are only going to get harder. Remember to push yourselves and think creatively with your presentation and relevant material.

    Join us next time on Match Makers: The Prospect Development Edition. At the end there will only be one match. 

  • Thu, March 30, 2017 8:58 AM | Deleted user

    To celebrate Research Pride month, we reached out to our fellow members to ask them why they are proud to be prospect researchers. (Read about the origin here: https://www.helenbrowngroup.com/this-is-pride/)

    See their responses below. 

    Amelia Aldred, Senior Research Analyst, University of Chicago

    As a prospect researcher, I am proud to perform due diligence, uphold data confidentiality, and bring a holistic viewpoint to fundraising strategy.  I try hard to perform research in a way that balances my organization’s needs and mission with the needs and wishes of our supporters and I am proud to be part of a research community that supports these goals.


    Kate Ingrao, Associate Director of Prospect Management, Rush University Medical Center

    I am a proud Apra-IL member because we are a welcoming, engaging, and innovative community that is driven to further the missions of amazing institutions and to better our world.


    Erin Gernon, Prospect Research Specialist, Chicago Symphony Orchestra

    My job as a researcher is fulfilling because I get to specialize in a certain skill in order to advance an organization I care about. It feels good to an important contributing member of team that can really make a difference. Additionally, I appreciate that working at a small shop allows me to juggle a lot of different duties, from capacity ratings to prospecting to industry analysis to board nominations.


    Joan Ogwumike, Founding Principle, Jstrategies

    I am proud to be a researcher because over the years I have learned the worth of a researcher, not just in fundraising efforts but for overall productivity. We hold so much power and creativity as we search, analyze and master the functionality of research in our respective positions. So I say with pride- Always keep the search going for whatever your purpose is.  


    Sabine Schuller, Senior Research Specialist, Rotary International

    As the senior research specialist for Rotary, I’ve been called a golden retriever, a stealth reference librarian, and a rock star. However, when people ask me what I do, I usually say I’m a treasure hunter. I point my front-line fundraising co-workers toward those who are most ready, willing, and able to support my organization's programs.


    Elisa Shoenberger, Benchmarking Analyst, Grenzebach Glier and Associates

    It gives me immense joy to be able to use my skills to help organizations advance their mission. Funding is important for every nonprofit so they can go out and do the amazing work that they do. I love that I have this skill set that can make the difference for organizations.

    Happy Research Pride Month!

  • Mon, March 20, 2017 7:34 AM | Anonymous member

    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.

    Do you know a leader you want us to profile? Let us know! Email us at info@apraillinois.org 

  • Mon, March 06, 2017 9:18 AM | Deleted user

    By Elisa Shoenberger, Benchmarking Analyst, Grenzebach Glier and Associates

    Dear Analyst,

    We’ve recently started working with the Corporate and Foundation Relations (CFR) office. However, up until this point my focus has been researching individuals, not organizations. I want to be helpful for this office but I’m not even sure where to start doing research or what to provide to my CFR development officers. They mention that they could use some profiles and leads for some projects. Another gift officer mentioned looking into contacts at a local big corporation.  How do you suggest I begin tackling this shift in my work?


    CFR Confounded


    Dear Confounded,

    Corporate and foundation research can be very tricky. It’s often a topic not talked about as much as other areas of prospect research. But there’s a lot of potential work that you can do in this area. Plus it’s one of my favorite areas about prospect research that I talk about!

    Corporations and foundations are often handled within the same development officer department but the prospect research strategies can be very different based on the information available. A common place to start exploring foundations is with their 990 forms. The 990 form is a required filing with the IRS for all foundations. Helpful information that can be found in these forms are things like board of directors, foundation assets, and a list of that year’s dispersed gifts including the amount and the receiving organization. 

    There are some great paid websites out there that have searchable information and 990 forms like Foundation Search and Foundation Center. If you’re constrained by your budget and don’t work at a higher education institution, your local library may have a subscription you can use. Luckily, we aren’t limited to subscription services or the hope of access through local libraries. Free options include Guidestar, which provides 3 years of 990 forms and the Charitable Bureau of Statistics which also provides some 990 forms. It is important to note across all of these services that there are lag times in the availability of current 990s forms from the IRS. It is typical to have the most current filing be two years old.  

    Researching for corporations is a bit more complicated since they do not have 990 filings unless they also have a foundation. In most cases, they won’t have a foundation and so you’ll have to rely on other financial filings to analyze their potential. If the company is publically trade, they will have financial statements that they are legally required to make available. However, if the corporation is held privately, it gets trickier. You’ll have to rely more on personal connections through your fundraisers or donors to glean information on the corporation’s interest and capacity as well as researching the latest news regarding the company’s recent business dealings. If you’re trying to maximize your time, look into websites that help aggregate information like Dun & Bradstreet, Crain’s, etc. to provide you with a summary of relevant news.

    Now that you know where you’ll begin to look for information to provide to your CFR development officers, it’s important to consider what information is important to present it to them in a profile. A few key areas that you will want to include are giving (to your organization or to a similar organization), mission statement, and financial position if possible, and key players in the organization.  For foundations these critical elements can be found on the 990 forms. Play close attention to the mission statement if they have one. This may help you determine if the foundation would be interested in your work. Spend some time reviewing the gifts over the last three years to get a sense of what nonprofits they support, is the giving consistent, and is their giving geographically specific? For corporations, you will be interested in answering similar questions such as what their funding interests are, their geographic preferences, and the eligibility of your organization for their funding opportunities. Present the information as you would with an individual profile and provide a rating. Ultimately, your assessment should be an integral part of your report to development officers and should help drive their strategy.

    So that rating…how do you rate an organization? Like individual ratings, each nonprofit has their own way of handling it. Some nonprofits handle CFR ratings by basing them on the yearly giving to a similar organization while others may base their rating on past giving. If your institution hasn’t come up with a rating for organizations, you may want to work with the CFR team to come up with one that works with your nonprofit’s needs and makes sense to the CFR team.

    In addition to creating ratings, the CFR team may also need assistance is developing new prospect leads to support a certain project, institute, or program. This, like finding new major gift donors, is very time consuming but is simple and straight forward. You will need to begin building a list using the same strategies outlined above but on a larger scale. This is where the paid websites are useful. Not only do they have a wealth of data on the giving of foundations and some corporations, but they also provide search functions that help focus and refine your search. Guidestar for example has filters like geography or name searches that can help narrow down the number of organizations to review from their 990 forms. While this is a project that will be have a broad focus it is still important to remember to limit how deep you go into any given foundation or company at this stage since you have a lot of ground to cover. As a way to manage and track your findings, one suggestion would be to keep a spreadsheet containing information about giving guidelines, application requirements and dates, and why they are included on the list for each new foundation/corporation you research. This will help track those you have identified and a potential program or initiative that they could fund.

    A key strategy for identifying new leads for CFR is finding connections to an organization through your current board members or donors. As we know, personal connections can be a critical part of fundraising. You are looking for a champion of your cause so start with your current champions and work outwards! The first place I would look is in your own database for business information. This may not be the most up-to-date information but it’s a good starting place. Also review your current board and see if anyone might be at the target company or an affiliated one. There are some services that do the linking between board members and other affiliated person with organizations like Rel Sci or Prospect Visual that makes it easier and saves time but you can still do this without these paid services. Reviewing LinkedIn and company websites for higher education organizations has an advantage since they can filter or search on degree from their institution. Non-higher education organizations may have to be more creative in how to use these search functions to determine who to reach out to.

    The challenges for prospect researchers in the corporate and foundation world are significant but hopefully you have been given a starting point to begin tackling them!

  • Mon, February 13, 2017 7:18 AM | Anonymous member

    The working relationship between researchers and gift officers can make or break a shop’s morale, efficiency, and ability to reach its goals! Wouldn’t it be awesome to be able to match yourself with major gift officers based on strengths and working style capability instead of random assignments? In this month of love, APRA-IL is having some fun and imagining a world where we could pick our perfect research and gift officer match. In an ode to all the popular reality match making shows, we present to you- a new series, Match Makers: The Prospect Development Edition. 

    Match Makers: The Prospect Development Edition

    Narrator: Welcome to Ordinary University, small town USA! Today we have a unique challenge and frontier to explore! Today we begin the challenge of making the perfect research match for a new major gifts officer for OU’s advancement office. This shop is a bold pioneer in attempting to match the skills and strengths of researchers to their gift officers. With the addition of a new officer, the need to find his perfect match is imperative to the success of building a new portfolio and garnering large new gifts.

    Let’s welcome our three competitors Veronica, Xavier, and Melissa to Match Makers: The Prospect Development Edition!

    Our three researchers have different levels of experience in prospect development, and have proven track records of cultivating great relationships with their previous gift officers. No one could honestly want better researchers than these three. When we asked why they would allow us to follow them on this match journey, they unanimously agreed that this would be their chance to show the world “Believe it or not, we know potential donors more than they know themselves!”

    Over the coming weeks we will be introduced to each competitor and be able to witness the strengths that they would bring to their partnership with our gift officer. Each researcher will be tested by a series of research request challenges to analyze their skills and compatibility with our new major gift officer. Their approach and the final result given to our gift officer will be analyzed for its usability, relevancy, and other preferred skills deemed by our gift officer as optimal for his perfect researcher match.

    Now that we have identified our three competitors, let’s switch gears and introduce Jared, our new major gifts officer. Jared what brought you to this position?

    “Well, I actually used to oversee grants and the cultivation of relationships with foundations in my previous position. Doing that work made me realize that all those times I sat at the table and pitched a program, or “schmoozed” a program officer- I was a fundraiser capable of going on visits and asking for major gifts.”

    We are so glad you have allowed us to accompany you on this unique journey. Now that we know you are well versed in the art of “schmoozing”. Let’s see how well you can schmooze into the hearts of our readers and the three researchers competing to be your perfect research match!

    We will follow Jared and the researchers over the course of five research challenges and at the end Jared will decide who will be his perfect researcher match. We hope you will join us next week on Match Markers: The Prospect Development Edition when Jared meets his potential matches for the first time and they begin their first challenge!

    To be continued…..

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