Friday, November 30, 2012

The Year in Review

Have you ever taken the time at the end of each year to go over the events that have brought you from “Happy New Year” to “Auld Lang Syne?” I do it personally – so if I send you a Christmas letter be ready for a lot of bragging on my new grandson this year.

But professionally? Nope. Never. Some of these things are taken care of for me. In our office we keep a running tally of the projects we are asked to do, how many prospect ratings we supply, how long every project takes to complete, etc. So the measurable stuff is covered. But other accomplishments, goals and events that aren’t measured analytically? I do it for my annual performance review, but I have really viewed it as a necessary pain.

However, I’ve adjusted my viewpoint on this after attending the APRA Research Management Symposium in Nashville in early November. Instead of viewing this kind of exercise as a necessary evil, I now see how tracking and recording the intangibles is beneficial for the division of development and alumni relations as a whole. Many of the examples that the Symposium’s speakers provided did not only focus on the data and what it provided, but also what the process to get the data accomplished. Intangibles, measured the only way it can be, by human reflection.

For example, the Prospect Research and Management may be tasked with creating a new report for management of principal gift donors. Okay, that’s the data. Then the PR&M team may also be asked to lead the meeting to discuss the report, what it shows, PR&M conclusions, how it will be used to move fundraising forward and any report revisions needed for the future. This is the intangible benefit and process that data does not measure. While the data can be displayed and measured (in the report) the accomplishments of creating the report, leading the meeting and stepping out from behind what is often viewed as a support team member task or role, is equally important to note.

We as prospect researchers and managers have seen our profession and our organizational evolve quickly the past few years. Because we have to be experts on both data and the people behind that data, at times our behind the scenes work needs to be moved out front. We need continually work at changing the perception of PR&M as an afterthought to a first thought.

With the examples of this working so successfully for the presenters at the APRA Relationship Management Symposium, I am now looking forward to tracking the intangible part of what I am tasked to do. Sure, keeping track of the intangible value PR&M brings to the fundraising process and team may be a bit of a time consuming task. But now as I have taken that time to engage in this exercise, I’m convinced it’s a necessary and extremely valuable one.

Besides, reflection is always good. And it feels great to be able to recount the contributions we have made for our team.

I encourage you to invest some time in this exercise and to make it one of your habits for the new year. I am putting it at the top of my to-do List for 2013.

Theresa Clark, Director-at-Large, APRA MidSouth

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Big Picture: Takeaways from APRA Advanced Relationship Management Symposium

The symposium was a success! The speakers did a great job of providing a variety of topics within relationship management. Some of the topics included evaluating prospect management policies, using data analytics to evaluate prospect management, and partnering strategically with fundraisers for prospect management to be a part of the process. Here are some observations that are fresh in my mind:
  • If the current prospect management policy is not working, then it’s time to revisit and update the current policy. Updating the policy can be tedious and time consuming, but a more efficient process will make an impact on the organization.
  • Let the needs of leadership drive what is reported from prospect management. Keep fundraisers in the know of what is being measured and reported.
  • Use data analytics to determine moves management requirements. Look at how many visits it takes before a prospect makes a major gift or look at the average length of time between assignment and solicitation.
  • Let your database and technology work for you v. you working around the technology.
  • The big picture: Regardless of your role in prospect research, prospect management, or both; success comes from working well together. Remind development officers that the role of prospect management is to keep them on track with their metrics and fundraising for the organization. Prospect management is an ally.
  • Use your network. There are many other organizations asking the same questions and trying to improve the role of prospect management. Ask your peers to see what their challenges and successes are. We can learn from one another.

Melissa Sridaromont, Secretary, APRA MidSouth

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Gearing Up for the APRA Relationship Management Symposium: A Conversation with the Planners

Here in the land of APRA MidSouth, we are getting very excited for the upcoming APRA International Advanced Relationship Management Symposium! Two days packed full of information on managing relationships in our ever-changing, hyper-competitive environment?! Right here in our own backyard?! Um, sign me up!

To get the inside scoop (and/or satisfy our nosey-Nellie genes…), we sat down with planners-extraordinaire Susan Hayes-McQueen, Director of Development Research and Relationship Management at University of Washington, and Emily Walsh, Senior Director of Prospect Development and Analytics, The University of Arizona Foundation. This is what they had to say…

APRA MidSouth: Can you give us a little background on the symposium? For example, how did you come up with the theme “Advanced Relationship Management” and why did you choose to host it in Music City?

SHM: This is the third time APRA is doing a Relationship Management (“RM”) Symposium. They did one once in 2005 and again in 2008; both were well received. I think APRA sees that this is a good group of like-minded people who struggle with the same questions at their institutions. I, for one, am always thrilled when APRA has such in-depth opportunities, and spending two days with other professionals will be a highlight of my year. APRA chose Guitar City for us. I couldn't be more excited with the venue. What could be more wonderful than a whole city devoted to the arts! Plus, I've always wanted to see Vanderbilt. My only regret: I won't be able to spend a week exploring Nashville!

APRA MidSouth: What are you hoping attendees will take away from the conference?

SHM: I’ve got a few hopes for the attendees: (1) Renewed energy to pursue excellence in relationship management at your organization; (2) Some ideas to take your RM program to the next-level; (3) A great network of individuals who think about the same things you do! and (4) Examples of reports, analysis and other industry standards.

EW: Like Susan, I think that there are a few main things that I hope attendees can take away from the conference: (1) A handful of immediate take-aways that can be brought back to your organization that will (hopefully!) help take your program to the next level, and (2) The opportunity to further build your network with like-minded individuals who do similar work and likely face a lot of similar challenges.

On a more personal note, when I think about past conferences and symposia I’ve been to (regardless of the specific topic), the people I’ve met and connected with have always been one of the most powerful take-aways for me. When you connect with people that do the same kind of work as you, you have a resource for life. I can’t tell you how often I pick up the phone or shoot an email off to folks that I met at various conferences over the years. Having people that you can benchmark against or who will be patient enough to do some crazy brainstorming with you is invaluable. I hope that during this conference we’re successful in not only sharing some of our knowledge about Relationship Management, but that we enable and encourage the participants to spend some time talking and connecting with each other around these topics.

APRA MidSouth: Are there any presentations you personally are out-of-your-mind excited about attending?

SHM: Well, all of them! Okay, I'm really eager to learn from my co-presenters, Emily Walsh and Brock Silvey, who both have great experiences with RM in various organizations. I personally like to present on Fundraiser Accountability.

EW: I agree with Susan – I’m excited about all of them! Working with Susan and Brock has been great because we each bring a unique perspective and set of experiences to the table. I’ve learned a ton from them just in the process of working together to prepare materials! One of the sessions I’m most excited about is on developing prospect/relationship management policies and processes. I’ve always been kind of obsessed with aligning processes with policies (even before I started working in development), so I totally geek out when it comes to that.

APRA MidSouth: Any quick tips to the attendees on how to get the most out of the symposium?

SHM: Come ready with energy to help shape the symposium. Your examples of best practices and challenges will be a highlight for others.

EW: Symposia like these are often what you make of them. Come ready with energy and enthusiasm. We’re going to be covering a lot of material over the course of two days. Don’t be shy! The sessions will likely be pretty casual, so come prepared with questions and don’t hesitate to jump in and share your experience with the group as well.

APRA MidSouth: Outside of the conference, what are you most looking forward to doing while visiting Music City?

EW: I love, love, love Nashville! I’ve only been there once before (oddly enough, I think it was for APRA’s first ever Data Analytics Symposium – before it was aligned with the International Conference). Nashville’s great! I love live music, so I’m hopeful that Friday night I can go out on the town before I have to fly out early Saturday morning.

SHM: Wow. There's a lot I wish I could do, but I'm zipping in and out. Any recommendations for us?

APRA MidSouth: Of course! First, make sure to visit the Symposium’s Travel Details page on the APRA International website. It has links to the top 10 things to do when visiting Nashville as well as a list of great restaurants in the area. For music listings (you are coming to Music City, afterall!), visit the Nashville Scene for a list of upcoming shows. And, please don’t hesitate at all to reach out to one of the APRA MidSouth board members (emails on the right side bar); we would love to help you plan your trip and make sure you get the Nashville experience!

Many, many thanks to Susan and Emily for taking some time to share with us! Sounds like it’s going to be a great event, and like Susan and Emily, we look forward to meeting many of you in person in the upcoming days! The countdown begins…

Angie Stapleton, Vice President, APRA MidSouth