Wednesday, September 18, 2013

On the Cutting Edge - An APRA Conference Recap

While we may be a relatively new chapter, we at APRA MidSouth like to think we are “on the cutting edge.” I know in my work life as a Prospect Researcher I hope we can utilize new, exciting and up-to-date technologies and services.
With that thought in mind, at our August meeting, the APRA MidSouth board was discussing our fall member event.  We knew that we wanted Cheryl Kugler, WKU’s Director of Prospect Research, to speak about the sessions and her impressions of ”Prospect Development 2013” the 26th Annual APRA International Conference held in Baltimore, MD in August.  But the big question was, “With the busy fall season that we all seem to have, how can we make it convenient for all members to attend?”
Following much discussion, we finally hit on an innovative idea: how about a video conference?
In our new Augenstein Alumni Center, WKU has recently installed some impressive video and conferencing technologies to help board members who cannot travel to a meeting still be able to attend and participate.  So, why not use this wonderful new technology for the APRA MidSouth Fall Event?
Why not, indeed.
Cheryl would talk and answer questions in WKU’s board room where the equipment is housed.  Questions would come from an off-site host, namely Geoff Little, APRA MidSouth Past President.
Geoff got all things in order from his Vanderbilt University office (including a smart new webcam) and we were ready for a trial run.
With any new venture, it’s good to have a run through, which we were glad we did.  While most of us have attended a webinar, actually running it or being a host brings a whole new perspective to things.  My hat is off to those who do these kinds of webinars and conferences regularly!  It takes a lot of coordination, effort and all things working together “just so.”
And that brings us to our actual “APRA MidSouth Fall Event.”  We held the video conference on Thursday, September 11, 2013.  While not all things were perfect, it was a wonderful way to accomplish our goal: to hear a report from Cheryl about the outstanding 2013 APRA International Conference.
So, if you would like to view the recording of the event, just click on the following link (which will work for both PCs and Macs):
Just a couple of notes on things you will notice/observe about the Video Conference:
1.   Geoff Little is APRA MidSouth Past President (Senior Research Specialist, Research and Prospect Development at Vanderbilt University) and host of the video conference.
2.   The frame marked “Tamela Smith” is the broadcast from WKU where the recording was made. The ladies who appear in the frame (l-r) are: Theresa Clark (APRA MidSouth Vice President and Senior Research Analyst at WKU) who was monitoring questions and comments, and Cheryl Kugler (WKU Prospect Research Director who attended the APRA International Conference).
3.   The frames to the right of the video screens show attendees and questions.
4.   This was a new venture for WKU and APRA MidSouth, so we had a few technical glitches, which include low volume on Cheryl’s end at the beginning of the video conference.  Volume issues were resolved as the conference progressed.  So you need to turn up your speakers in the beginning.  Yes, Geoff will be a bit loud, but in order to hear Cheryl until the technical difficulties are resolved, this is how you can hear every detail.
Thanks for joining us on our adventure to be an APRA chapter that tries new ways to reach its members and provide them avenues to stay on top of the most current information.  And we’re happy to use state of the art, cutting edge tools and technology if we can!
And in case you wondered….yes, we had a whole lot of fun!
Theresa Clark, Senior Research Analyst, Western Kentucky University
Vice President, APRA MidSouth

Wednesday, September 11, 2013


Here’s another acronym for you:  Garbage In, Garbage Out.

Research is both an art and a science.  At its best, it can draw inferences from disparate facts.  But it can’t create facts out of thin air (despite how much a zealously optimistic client may want you to).

The day a dozen years ago was overhung by glorious blue skies over the eastern half of the country.  I got an email from a colleague: “Isn’t it crazy about that plane in New York?”  I summoned my usual go-to news website, USA Today; the story was just breaking, with minimal detail.  The Wall Street Journal posted a brief advisory that a plane had crashed into a skyscraper in lower Manhattan, warning that trading on the NYSE might be affected.

As the saga unfolded, it became clear that the day—indeed, the week—would be like none other.  As everyone in the office tried to press on with their routines, I got a tasking from administration: Account for any alums who worked either in the World Trade Center or the Pentagon.  This ad hoc request was reliant on a database where employment information routinely played second fiddle to home info.  I know; shocker.  The process took a long time, but it needed to—to be right.  It was not meant to be, however.  Out of the thousands of graduates, I found only two with employment addresses at the Pentagon, both evidently long out of date.  And tragically enough, two of our graduates perished at the World Trade Center—neither one with business info current in the system.

There are so many bigger things to consider in this context than whether an institution has up-to-date workplace data on its constituents.  But this, for me, typified the helplessness a research professional may encounter relying on a feckless system that purports to capture useful information.  Much of the problem is, as with the blind men and the elephant, differing perspectives and incongruent agendas with respect to constituent data.

How to fix it?  Know specifically what your data needs might be, first off.  If you foresee ever needing work info, email addresses, cell numbers—don’t wait around passively for the Data Fairy to drop that down your chimney.

No prophet is accepted in his own country.  Administrators too often believe that their own researchers are fallible, while vendors?  They are wizards.  Some are, to be fair, but c’mon—how many times has an administrator said to you, “Can you buy a list of X for me—cell numbers, email addresses, employment data?”  Nothing against vendors (some are my best friends), but again—c’mon!  What’s the best approach to making sure that the info in your database is current?  Build it directly from the source.

That’s never as easy as it sounds.  But first—you have to make sure you have a place at the table when any outreach to constituents is discussed—if not direct involvement, make sure you have a proxy there to speak for you.  If a questionnaire is going to be distributed—to alums, to parents, to the community—what questions do you need to be asked?  Be a part of that planning.

And how do you obtain “buy in” from the constituent, to get them to freely (and accurately) provide their valued information?  It goes without saying that you never do anything to betray that trust.  But you may first have to provide some sort of quid pro quo.

For instance, one of my past employers encouraged its alums to enter a giveaway for an iPod –in exchange for their email addresses.  About thirty percent of the sample responded, which was a big improvement on what we had.  Value was added on both sides.

LinkedIn pages provide incredible self-reported info, but be wary—there’s no requirement for those pages to be kept current, and I’ve seen forgetful business moguls (or those Unclear on the Concept) create as many as three separate LinkedIn pages, all with divergent data.

Also, vendors such as LexisNexis who bundle information can be of paramount help in locating people (including cell, email, and employment info), but be aware of how to interpret a lapse in a person’s most recent address, which may indicate any of the following: 1) it is a duplicate record—search again to find the one most current, 2) the person is living out of the country, 3) they are in a residential medical facility, 4) they’re incarcerated, 5) they’re serving in the armed forces, or even 6) they’re taking the challenge seriously to “live off the grid.”  Also check any available spouse’s record (or that of any other cohabitant) for possibly more up-to-date info.

The best research operation is one supported by a database with the utmost integrity, both for the blue-sky days and for those when things go cataclysmically sideways.

Tim Dempsey, Director-at-Large, APRA MidSouth

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Prospect Research Job Posting - Tennessee State University

Tennessee State University
Job Title:  Prospect Researcher
Department: Institutional Advancement/ TSU Foundation

Location:  Nashville, TN
Job Type:  Full Time
Number of Hours Per Week:  37.5  
Days to be Worked:  Monday – Friday

Job Description

Independently and proactively identifies/qualifies prospective individual, corporate, and foundation major donors consistent with the University's priorities and insures that fundraising initiatives have a continuous supply of major donor prospects to support and meet ongoing fundraising goals. Responsible for facilitating all aspects of prospect management including maintaining accurate information on prospects in Banner database, strategizing with top-level advancement staff and collaborating on prospect assignments and classifications, monitoring the cultivation cycle of major gift prospects, and designing and preparing standard reports for development staff.  

Minimum Qualification/Experience

At least three years of experience in prospect research, development, library research or related field preferably in an academic environment.
Bachelor's degree or an equivalent combination of education and experience.
Banner database experience.
Demonstrated ability to conceptualize and develop proactive prospecting methodologies to support organization goals; identify prospects (through constituent list segmentation, push technology, electronic database screening, and peer/constituency screening and rating); and understand wealth indicators, including income (estimated or public) and assets.
Exceptional writing and oral communication skills. Demonstrated skill in writing and editing logical, detailed, and analytical reports that support planning and decision making.
Demonstrated ability to work independently, prioritize work and independently manage multiple, diverse and competing priorities while meeting deadlines; plan and develop meaningful objectives; and integrate the work of prospect research into overall advancement office goals.  

Job Open Date:  August 28, 2013
Job Close Date:  September  28, 2013

To Apply, go to

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Start Spreadin' the News -- Finer Points of NYC Real Estate

As a former New Yorker (is one ever a “former” New Yorker?), I had to take a crash course in NYC real estate when I arrived there a few years back.  It’s a whole world unto itself.  Since New York City is such a popular destination for development officers and home to so many prospects, I wanted to offer a couple of tidbits and some information that might help you put a more accurate value on NYC real estate holdings.

First, the tidbits.  If you see an apartment number like 16PH, the “PH” means penthouse.  For apartment numbers like 3BC, the “BC” means apartments 3B and 3C have been combined into one.  The owners have to pay the fees for both apartments.  There are even special numbers for apartments that take up half of a floor (or more), but those escape me.

If you think NYC real estate is expensive, there are a few things that make it even more expensive than it appears.  For renters, apartment brokers often charge a 15% fee – that’s 15% of an entire year’s rent.  If the rent is $3,000 per month, the fee would be $5,400 and it is due when you move in, along with first and last month’s rent.  So just to walk in the door, you need $11,400 in cash.  Craigslist has changed the rental market quite a bit, but brokerages are still around, especially for high-end apartments.

When it comes to apartment ownership, there are two main types:  condos and co-ops, with co-ops being more prevalent.  Without going too far into the weeds, it’s safe to say that co-ops tend to be less expensive than condos, but they have a more stringent approval process (tax returns, bank statements, pay stubs, personal references, business references, dog references, etc.) and more rules about things like sub-rentals and remodeling.  Co-ops also require a down payment of at least 20 percent and sometimes up to 50 percent (with some exclusive buildings not accepting any financing).  Condos have minimal financing requirements, no board approval, and low down payments.  There are more permutations, such as cond-ops and sponsor units, but that’s for another time.

The thing to know for research purposes is that if a prospect owns a co-op apartment, he or she had to pay 20-50 percent as a down payment and had to have enough liquid assets in the bank to cover mortgage and maintenance for at least one year (sometimes multiple years).

Speaking of maintenance,  apartment owners have to pay a monthly fee to cover the upkeep of the building and amenities such as doormen, exercise facilities, pools, roof decks, etc.  I saw a listing recently for a $1,000,000 apartment with a $2,200 monthly maintenance fee (half of which is tax-deductible).  That $2,200 fee is in addition to the monthly mortgage payment and can’t be financed.  With 20 percent down, the owner would have a mortgage payment of $3,819 per month for 30 years at 4%.  Add maintenance and the total monthly payment is $6,019.  And he or she would have to have $72,228 liquid in the bank (a year's worth of mortgage and maintenance).  If you were to treat the maintenance fee as if it were part of the mortgage, your prospect in that $1,000,000 apartment would actually be paying for an apartment worth $1,450,000. (For super-high-end apartments ($25,000,000+), buildings often require the owner to have 300 percent of the sale price liquid in the bank.)  Maintenance fees vary, but it is safe to add 25 percent to the property value just to have a better idea of what the apartment costs.  To sum up, knowing what a prospect can afford and having an idea of the minimum he or she is required to have in the bank are telling when it comes to wealth capacity.

New Yorkers (current or former), please share your insights into the NYC real estate scene!

Mitch Roberson, Communications Director, APRA MidSouth