Friday, April 26, 2013

APRA MidSouth Conference Recap

On Friday, April 19, 2013, a group of about 30 from the APRA MidSouth Chapter gathered at One Conference Center in Nashville, Tennessee, for a day focused on prospect research, management, and ideas to help us better develop our data.

We began the day with Mark DeFilippis, Director of Advancement Research for The Nature Conservancy.  Mark led us on a journey to “New Horizons in Prospect Research.”  With a quick review of prospect research “old school” he reminded us how the deluge of data caused by the internet (an ever increasing daily challenge) can be used by prospect researchers as partners and consultants for the fundraisers we work with.  We are no longer “hunters and gatherers” and need to see our role as one where we offer information that is interactive, strategic, adaptive and solutions-oriented.
Mark charged us with the question of why we should consider ramping up our involvement and engagement as prospect researchers.  Of course, he gave the answers (you always share with your friends): We bring a different perspective, we offer strategic value, we can offer a full picture where the internal and external meet; if we engage, they (fundraisers) engage, being involved feels good, and it’s our responsibility (as a team member and employee).
In addition, he provided us with great illustrations and examples from his organization that highlight how he has implemented what he shared with us.
As Mark also serves as moderator of the PRSPCT-L listserv – that wonderful networking tool for us prospect researchers – we also spent a few minutes learning about his role with it.

Next on the agenda, we shifted our focus from research to thinking more like the one person shop while engaging with Susan Black of Allene Professional Fundraising.  Susan works with non-profits of all shapes and sizes, challenges and missions.  She lead us in a workshop on creating constituencies that encompassed all kinds of creative thought, problem solving and research skills and ideas.
In the afternoon, Lora Cowan from Tennessee Tech University shared the adventure of developing a new approach as Assistant Direct of Advancement Services and Director of Prospect Research.  She presented her department’s journey from being seen as unwanted/unneeded to a strategic partner providing valuable and credible insight and information for the fundraising team.  Lora provided us with interesting illustrations of “where they were” to “where they are now” and the tools they have incorporated to get there and how research has played an important and accountable role in fundraising success.

Finally, the three presenters, along with Ryan Woroniecki – DonorSearch representative (our conference sponsor – a thousand thank yous to them!) participated in a panel discussion that was both informative and entertaining (thanks to the excellent hosting skills of APRA MidSouth Past President, Geoff Little).
Anytime you leave your regular routine to attend a conference you hope the investment of your time will provide you with some “aha” moments.  I did and I hope that all who attended – old friends and new – took away some valuable information they can immediately implement or put on their “to do/consider” lists.
Thanks to all who attended and for those who could not make it, we hope to see you at our next event!
Theresa Clark, Vice President, APRA MidSouth

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