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

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