Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Gearing Up for the APRA International Conference -- Andillon Hackney

We are hosting Andillon Hackney on the APRA MidSouth blog today.  Andillon is Director of Development Research at University of California-San Diego.  She is also treasurer of CARA’s (California Advancement Researchers Association) board.  Andillon is speaking on Relationship Management at the upcoming APRA International Conference. 

APRA MidSouth:  Please tell us a little bit about yourself and how you came to the field of prospect research.

AH:  Like many prospect researchers I came to this field by chance. I was trying to break in as a screenwriter in Los Angeles and needed a part time job, fell into a job in development and was tasked with writing bios, then research, then database conversion. I remember doing complex stock analysis and thinking wow, this is cool, what kind of crazy jobs is this? Finally, I figured out that maybe prospect research was where I needed to be. It was certainly less tumultuous then the entertainment business. Eleven years later, here I am.  I worked in two small shops, where I wore the hat of researcher, prospect manager, grateful patient screening maven. It was a big surprise to me that I would understand ‘data’ to any degree – given my education and life experience had all screamed “arts”. But the one thing that really sold me on this field was the camaraderie. So many researchers mentored me, encouraged me, and helped me along despite my many dumb questions. I’m so grateful to them, and so happy to be in this field.

APRA MidSouth:  What are some innovative trends taking place in Relationship Management?

AH:  I think infographics and data visualization are having tremendous impact on how we can present the story of a portfolio, for example. We have been recently using infographics for our overall screening analysis and the development officers have been incredibly receptive. Their eyes just light up, so I think we will keep trying to find ways to tell a story with our data in elegant and innovative ways.

APRA MidSouth:  What resources (books, blogs, trendsetters, etc.) are informing your work of late?

AH:  I like Jason’s (McNeil) blog. It’s my once a week inspiration, definitely recommend it to anyone in our field. We also had a class with Beth Bandy on International Research which made me realize how much there is still to learn about finding information abroad. She’s great. She recommended a book by Nicholas Shaxson, called Treasure Islands, about off-shore banking, which to be honest is depressingly, eye opening. If you are doing any international research or just want to understand money and globalization, it would be a good book to check out. We’re also exploring relationship mapping vendors. We haven’t decided on any but we feel that more and more development officers need to know connections and if technology can make that faster for us, all the better.

APRA MidSouth:  What challenges are you facing with/in Relationship Management and how are you overcoming them?

AH:  Relevance. We have great metrics in place, but we are striving to find a way to take the temperature of a portfolio and to visually represent that in a snapshot. You can have a ton of data points, select one here or there to highlight, but really what does the whole picture look like and where does it need to evolve to? That’s the challenge. I think we are almost there, but that’s why datavisualization tools are so critical. We can say it but there’s so much more impact when you see it.

APRA MidSouth:  What are the things that will surprise us in Relationship Management over the next few years?  What are you most looking forward to?

AH:  I’m hoping that technology/database/resources will make it easier for us to pinpoint problems faster and more efficiently and make it possible for development officers to react faster to the ‘climate’ of their portfolio. I know some shops have a good grasp of their pipeline, but I foresee more real time pipeline status checks in our future. After eleven years, I see more and more intersections with research, prospect management/relationship management and analytics than ever before. We’ll find new ways to do things and because we share, we’ll all be the better for it.        

Thanks for being a part of the interviews, Andillon!  To hear more from her, she is presenting, “Dynamic Portfolios:  A Research Perspective” – on Thursday, August 8th at the 26th Annual APRA International Conference. 

Melissa Sridaromont, Secretary, APRA MidSouth

Friday, July 19, 2013

To Expect, or Not to Expect, That is the Question [of attending APRA International Conference]

As we continue gearing up for the Big APRA conference in just a few short weeks, APRA veteran Christy Wineland has signed on to give us some insights into planning for your trip to Baltimore. Christy joins us from the University of Missouri-Kansas City Foundation, where she serves as assistant director of advancement research. Though, today, she's playing dual-roles as Conference Travelling Expert! Thanks for joining us, Christy!
William Shakespeare once wrote "O Lord, I could have stayed here all the night To hear good counsel. Oh, what learning is!" (Romeo and Juliet, III, iii) Shakespeare may agree with me that a conference of such caliber of APRA International is indeed an excuse to stay up all night to hear good counsel as the learning curve is impressive.

But attending this Conference, no matter how many times I come back, can feel like sitting smack in the middle of a theatre pit with four plays performing all at once. Flashing lights of knowledge will cause whiplash as you attempt to catch and compute with your brain. While there is no way to slow down the flashing lights, I can share a few tidbits of advice to help attending the show be more comfortable.

  • First of all, while standing in line at the airport (or bus, train, or carrier pigeon), take a picture of your luggage with your cell phone and any distinguishing marks. That way when you need to describe it to lost-and-found desk, your answer is not “it’s blue, it’s new and it’s yee-high.”
  • Bring something easy to write on to take your notes on. Not all session rooms will have tables for a laptop / tablet nor even have an outlet plug within easy reach. Nor do not expect wifi. The Wi-Fi is either not available or too weak from everyone updating their Twitter status to be useful. APRA had a computer cafĂ© area for your internet needs, but lines can get long during breaks and sneaking in to use it during sessions will only result in the door guard heckling you to leave. Tears were not so successful with said guard. 
  • Review and reflect on the sessions you wish to attend. Write down questions you wish to ask. Do this both prior to and during the session. Memory recall can be tricky toward the end of a session during Q&A. “How are those metrics applied once obtained?” “How are foundations tracking incoming proposals?” “Where did the presenter get her cute shoes?” 
  • Bring a ton of business cards. If you do not have any, you can have them designed make them yourself for pretty cheap. When you receive a card, make a quick note on the card to help you keep track of who is who. Quips such as “expert in mapping” or “knows awesome recipe for sushi rolls” or “cute shoes!” will help you send the appropriate email later.  
  • Join social activities. Check the board, add your name, and meet new people. Conferences are not only a great way to build your knowledge base, but also your social network. Expect the unexpected. Last year, on a spur of moment, I joined several researchers to jump in a cab and found myself gazing at the Guthrie Theatre. The quiet moment as we all stood motionless staring at the river from the Endless Bridge was magical in itself. I swore I could see my luggage still sitting at the airport in Kansas City.  
  • Employ a buddy-system. While it is fun to attend sessions with friends, consider splitting up to attend different sessions. Later, come together and drop new knowledge on each other over tea and biscuits. That’s a Baltimore thing, right? From their English roots? Far too often great conference material dazzles you but once you get back to the office, the new dazzle takes a backseat to the daily grind of catch-up you will need to play. If you hear it, write it, and share it verbally, it will likely have an even greater impact upon you. 
  • Attend Saturday sessions. Saturday’s are a tough day for everyone. By now you are likely facing burn-out and information overload. You may also be dealing with the stress of checking out from the hotel room, trying to haul around your luggage, and planning your escape route returning flight plan. And yes, some of you will be also dealing with a hangover. But Saturday speakers often have placed a lot of time and effort into preparing their sessions only to have about half of the original signees to come. Don’t shortchange yourself by skipping them. Also, present them with presents or caffeine. They might be dealing with the list above also. 
  • Connect with speakers who have impacted you later in the year. Did a session change how you report metrics, save you significant time in researching real estate, or inspire you to find a new prospect pool? If nothing else, share your appreciation for the conference session. The speakers will love to hear from you. 
  • And finally, simply expect nothing and expect everything. There were sessions where my expectations and excitement for the learning high was beyond Mars and honestly, it would have been impossible for the session to meet that expectation. There were sessions where I had zero expectations and they blew me away. One time last year I found myself sitting in the wrong room (darn roman numerals on the doors!) but it wounded up being my true favorite and one that I find myself referring to the most during my daily work. Simply by expecting nothing, the speakers will give you everything!!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Interview with Upcoming APRA Presenter Tracey Church

Today, we are pleased to host Canadian firecracker Tracey Church on the blog!  Tracey joins us from Ketchum Canada, a recognized thought leader and consultant to the Canadian philanthropic sector.  She is also a long-time friend to APRA and the current president of APRA-Canada.  You can find Tracey representing the Healthcare/Member and Cause-Related Organizations track  at the upcoming APRA International Conference.

APRA MidSouth:  Tracey, we’re so glad to have you!  Please tell us a little bit about yourself and how you came to prospect research.

KC:  I’m beginning to think all roads lead to the charitable sector!  I have been a researcher in various fields since I graduated with my Master of Library & Information Science from Western University in 1989 – yes, many years ago. I have worked in academic, health-care and multi-cultural libraries, been a research assistant on hospital clinical trials, and worked in research services and institutional research at Western before setting up a custom research company “on the side”. It was about 10 years ago I discovered research within the fund development sector (at London Health Sciences Foundation and then with CNIB until about 4 months ago when I joined KCI as a research consultant) and I have never looked back. The educational and support system from APRA has been a big part of my enjoyment of the profession.

APRA MidSouth:  What are some innovative trends taking place in prospect research within Healthcare/Member/Cause-Related Organizations?

KC:  The explosive social media network in regard to having information pushed to you has to be an obvious change in the last several years and makes scanning for relevant (and sometimes not-so-relevant) news easier on a day-to-day basis. I think that crosses the sectors and applies to researchers in any field.  You can’t help but wonder what life altering tool is coming next to make our lives “easier”. Researchers are not only interested in new things but are also more tech-savvy than most so it’s important to keep up with the innovations and pass what’s relevant onto our fund development teams while at the same time fitting this activity with our traditional duties of keeping the pipelines filled. It makes for a busy research day!

APRA MidSouth:  What resources (books, blogs, trendsetters, etc.) are informing your work of late?

KC:  Continuing with the push-technology topic, I would be lost without my RSS reader. I’m using Feedly now since Google Reader closed its doors. I am also a user of Twitter and LinkedIN for tracking news sources and professional groups in the industry. The blogs and sources feeding my reader are those from Imagine Canada, KCI, Charity Village, the Globe and Mail, Market Newswire, Fortune Magazine, Forbes, Canadian Business magazine, Global Philanthropy, the National Post and many, many more.

While KCI is a consulting firm, we consult the charitable sector, so like anyone else we have a tight research budget so have limited subscription resources. Our “free” resources consisted of Canada Revenue Agency (for foundation and charitable information), MLS & ZooCasa (for real estate), and SEDAR and SEDI (for public company insider information) among others. Subscription resources I use on a daily basis are Grant Connect from Imagine Canada, iWave PRO, Canadian Who’s Who and Canadian Business Resource. I also have several online subscriptions for newspaper and magazine sites in order to get full-text articles to supplement the ones I can access through the good old public library (as we don’t have access to the university system).  Infomart rounds out most of our needs for full-text news resources.
APRA MidSouth:  With regards to Healthcare/Member/Cause-Related Organizations, what challenges in prospect research are you facing and how are you overcoming them?

KC:  Time management and being under-resourced (for subscription and human resources) both seem to be a challenge regardless of organization. Researchers embrace being part of the larger picture and part of the strategic process but at the same time the increase in demand does not come with an increase in time or resources. The smaller healthcare and cause-related organizations are often limited to one-researcher “teams” or even those with researchers who have other fund development responsibilities. When organizations have to “ramp up” for a campaign, often more major giving officers come into the shop making for an increase in workload but it doesn’t necessarily follow that the research team is increased. Setting research queue priorities and communicating these priorities to the team becomes paramount in completion of work and good team dynamics.

APRA MidSouth:  What are the things that will surprise us in this area over the next few years?  What are you most looking forward to?

KC:  Oh, I like the fact the prospect researchers and research managers are more and more becoming part of the strategic planning process within organizations. Not only are researchers “coming to the table”, they are more often leading the discussions of prospect potential and strategic roll-out of the prospect pipeline  for multi-year, multi-programmed campaigns. As more tools come into our market, I think that many within the fundraising world are aware that the researchers are those with the most expertise navigating and gleaning information efficiently and subsequently strategically using that information for what’s important for the organization.

Thanks for joining us, Tracey!  It’s always a pleasure!  To hear more from Tracey, be sure to check out her presentation – “Developing a Prospect Research Strategic Plan for a Cause-Related Organization” – on Friday, August 9th at the 26th Annual APRA International Conference!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Countdown to Conference!

Who would believe that in just one month, prospect researchers from around the US and Canada will be meeting up in Baltimore, Maryland, for the 26th Annual APRA International Conference? Weren’t we just ringing in the New Year? As surely as time flies, the folks at greater APRA have been hard at work ensuring that the event will be every bit as delightful and educational as we have come to expect.

In anticipation of the big event, APRA MidSouth will spend the next few weeks interviewing a speaker from each of the conference tracks, gaining insight into the biggest trends and resources in their respective areas. Today, we’re kicking off with Elizabeth Dollhopf-Brown, APRA Board President, who has graciously agreed to let us peek into the conference itself!

APRA MidSouth:  Elizabeth, thanks so much for joining us!  The conference looks amazing this year! Great speakers, topics, and other events. Can you tell us a little about the planning that went into it and how you determined this year’s theme of Prospect Development 2013?

EDB:  I am really excited about this year’s conference too! The conference is planned by the superhero efforts of the curriculum planning committee, led by conference chair Lauren Dixson. The committee works to ensure high-quality education, including developing key content ideas for each track and recruiting speakers. The conference seeks to provide critical learning and networking opportunities for everyone in prospect research, relationship management, and fundraising analytics, hence the inclusive theme of Prospect Development 2013.

APRA MidSouth:  What will we see at this year’s conference that is new and exciting?

EDB:  I’m so excited to listen to and discuss the brand-new APRA-style TED talks with several remarkable leaders in our field. Their topics are thought provoking-like redesigning the donor experience, where research, prospect management and analytics should report-and will generate a lot of discussion in the roundtables.

APRA MidSouth:  Other than the fabulous speaker sessions and the awesome TED-style talks, what are some of the other “can’t miss” events this year?

EDB:  I always look forward to talking with vendors in the exhibit hall. It’s a chance to see new products and connect in person with vendors we work with year-round. I’m also interested to hear the keynote presenter, Jon Duschinsky, with his vision for the future of non-profits.

APRA MidSouth:  For those of us who aren’t able to make the conference this year, will you have any unique social media applications going on (i.e., live blogging/tweeting, etc.?) Also, what specific hashtags should we be following to see everyone’s posts?

EDB:  Even if you’re not at the conference, you can participate by following social media. The hashtag that we’re using for the conference is as follows:  #APRAProspect13. We’re already using these for conversation before the conference, if you want to check it out. There will be volunteers live Tweeting during the Networking Roundtable Event on Friday (about the TED-style Talks). We’ll also share photos and updates via the APRA Facebook fan page. I don’t tweet much, but I think I’ll try to share as much as I can from the conference on Twitter (@dollhopfbrown)!

APRA MidSouth:  We were excited to see Baltimore as the city host this year. Outside of the conference, what are some attractions/restaurants/etc., you and other conference attendees can look forward to exploring?

EDB:  It’s been a long time since I have been in Baltimore, so I can’t wait to check it out again! I’m excited to see what’s going on in the Inner Harbor. I’ve also been checking out the great list the hospitality co-chairs have put together of restaurants and things to do.

APRA MidSouth:  Any other thoughts and/or advice on how attendees can get the most out of the conference?

EOB:  The best part of the conference is the chance to connect in person with a huge number of our APRA colleagues. It’s great to put faces with names from the L and develop connections that continue throughout the year. I’d encourage everyone to take advantage of the chance to connect with old friends, meet new ones and take away three things you’ve learned you can apply right away when you’re back in the office.

That’s great advice! Thanks so much to Elizabeth for taking time to share a little preview of the conference. Sounds like it’s going to be a great event!