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Apra-MN Networker

We at Apra-MN are hoping that this format will provide yet another way of finding additional resources to help our members, those in the field of research and fundraising, and will also provide a place for discussion and member contribution. The blog is open to the public, and only members are able to contribute. Join Apra-MN and join the discussion!

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  • 10 Aug 2015 10:13 AM | Deleted user
    Sarah Johnson, our International Scholarship recipient, shares her experience attending her first APRA International Conference.

    310. 53. Prospect Researchers like numbers, right? In July, thanks to the APRA-Minnesota chapter, I had the chance to join members from around the world for Prospect Development 2015 in New Orleans. More than 1,000 people, including 310 first timers and 53 attendees from countries outside of the United States, descended upon the French Quarter for nearly sixty sessions across seven tracks of prospect research, campaigns, data analytics and more. 

    This was the first time I had attended the national APRA conference, and it began at the opening reception, where I noshed on Cajun fried turkey with cornbread dressing and cranberry sauce while introducing myself to other attendees from the worlds of higher education, nonprofit museums and social service organizations. As our hotel was conveniently located on the edge of the French Quarter, I decided that evening was a good time for a stroll down Bourbon Street and a quick photo in front of Jackson Square. 

    Breakfasts in the exhibit hall provided me with ample opportunity to solicit feedback and gather opinions on various research software available such as Wealth Engine, Lexis Nexis and DonorSearch. (Overheard on my first morning: “Biscuits for breakfast? It’s like we’re in the South or something…”) It was also interesting to learn about the breadth of organizations that employ prospect researchers, from the one-person shop at a small nonprofit to the five that I met from the University of Notre Dame.

    “Don’t ask if a charity has low overhead. Ask if it has big impact.” That was the key takeaway from the keynote address given by Dan Pallotta. He encouraged nonprofits to push back against “the overhead myth” and invest in the fundraising they need to grow and be successful. He suggested that we ask donors if they want the organization’s epitaph they are supporting to read “we kept overhead low.”  (click on the link to see the article)

    Sessions throughout the day provided a plethora of information to increase my knowledge in a certain area, bring back best practices to my organization and, at times, provided a forum for commiseration on some of the bizarre requests prospect researchers receive. A couple of my favorites were “Researching Public Filings with Success,” which explained the goldmine of information available in Form 990s and SEC documents, and “The Heart and Soul of Campaigns,” which walked attendees through the steps of a successful capital campaign.

    Minnesota was well-represented as two local chapter members were highlighted at Friday’s awards ceremony: Beth Campbell won a free registration to next year’s conference and Josh Birkholz was awarded the APRA Visionary Award. About a dozen residents of the north star state noshed on Cajun sausage banh mi sandwiches and sipped colorfully flavored beverages at the APRA-MN happy hour on Thursday night. I also enjoyed volunteering at the registration desk with Bette, a steel magnolia from the local visitors bureau with a thick Southern drawl, and joined a diverse group of attendees for an unforgettable dinner at Galatoire’s, a century old Bourbon Street institution.

    As with most conferences, it is refreshing to be around people who are doing the same type of work. I brought back many ideas to help me advocate in my workplace for the importance of research. To carry on the lessons of this opportunity, I will remember a quote from Hillary Clinton that one of the presenters in a session about researching wealthy women shared: “Data not only measures progress, it also inspires it.”

    ~Sarah Johnson | Hennepin Theatre Trust

  • 31 Jul 2015 10:27 AM | Deleted user

    Throughout the entire 2015 APRA International conference, I felt so fortunate to be there and to be a part of it all as the APRA-MN Fellow. Despite waking up sick as a dog the morning we left for New Orleans, the experience was fantastic!
    There are far too many tales to tell and, for the most part, my words wouldn’t do the city or the experience justice, but here are a few highlights:

    • Keynote speaker, Dan Pallota, started the conference off on a perfect note. It was just what was needed to get everyone in the room inspired and ready to learn. His focus was on the limits that are placed on nonprofits, particularly around fundraising- beliefs about salary, overhead, and what it means to work nonprofit that limit us from dreaming big, taking risks, making significant changes, and (gasp!) spending money to raise money. In sum, he encouraged us to dare to go back to our roots and what got us excited about the work we do in the first place, take risks, and to recruit (and pay for) the best possible talent to make innovative changes that will really make a difference. Truly inspiring.
    • The next day at the Awards Luncheon, our own Josh Birkholz was announced as the 2015 Visionary Award winner. He was clearly honored and gave a very touching speech- it was a proud moment for APRA-MN members in the audience… especially when he proclaimed, “APRA-MN is the best chapter on the planet.”
    • For me, personally, another exciting moment happened during that luncheon when my name was announced as the APRA Volunteer drawing winner and had won free registration for APRA 2016 in Nashville!  Once again, feeling so fortunate.
    • Later that night was the APRA-MN Chapter’s Happy Hour. It was a great turnout and it was fun to chat with so many members- some that I hadn’t seen in a while and some that I had never met before. Krista made it even more fun with Mardi Gras beads and masks!
    • Out of all of the presentations I attended, my favorite was on the last day. The session was “Focusing on the Top Prospects in the Chaos of a Campaign” by Susan Hayes-McQueen and Lee Heck of the University of Washington. As speakers, they were very entertaining (expecially for 8:30AM in the final hours of the conference) and knowledgeable. In sum, they talked about this “Great Wall” activity that they had created during their campaign that was a visual representation using multi-colored post-its to display solicitations for each unit on a timeline. It was an activity that engaged chief development officers in an open and accountable way to accurately determine their unit’s upcoming asks and expected gifts. The activity itself and the reporting thereafter sparked ideas for a few take-a-ways for my work.

    All in all, I was sick with a cold the entire time, but the city, weather, and people at APRA 2015 managed to warm my heart!

    ~Beth Campbell

  • 09 Jul 2015 9:08 AM | Deleted user

    We hope you’re planning to attend the 28th annual APRA International Conference in New Orleans July 22-25! If you are, you won’t have to look hard to find Minnesotans!

        Presentations by Minnesotans:

    Pre-conference workshop by Juli Geske-Peer, Communication as a tool for change - Wednesday, July 22

             Thursday, July 23

    Juli Geske-Peer and Deborah Mueller will present Amplify Prospect Management Amidst Complexity
    Josh Forsyth will discuss Creating Presidential Briefings and Process

             Friday, July 24

    Michelle Heyn will present Corporation and Foundation Giving: Creating Impact
    Deborah Mueller will co-present Building an Integrated, Effective and Efficient Prospect Identification and Management System

              Saturday, July 25

    Krista Gallagher Colt will co-present Say What? Communicating for Results
    Mark Egge discusses Developing and Using Power and Influence Within Your Organization


    Thursday, July 23--APRA-MN chapter gathering at Beachbum Berry's- Latitude 29. We’ll gather at 4:45 in the hotel lobby and head to the restaurant together. Come discuss what you’ve learned with your local colleagues. Dinner and drinks are on your own.

    There are plenty of other opportunities to spend time with your colleagues - the opening reception on Wednesday evening, APRA awards lunch Thursday, and the APRA Talks networking roundtable discussions Friday morning. Don’t forget to complete your schedule with some volunteering. The conference is always in need of round table volunteers, tweeters and hospitality desk attendants, room monitors. Log on to the to find out more.

    If you’re not able to join us in New Orleans, we’ll be hosting a post-conference gathering where attendees can share what they learned at the conference. Stay tuned for details.

    We’re excited to see you at the International conference or at a local event soon!

  • 18 May 2015 3:13 PM | Deleted user

    Are you planning to be in New Orleans for Prospect Development 2015? If you are (and I hope you are!)

    Please visit You’ll have to log in for the link to work.

    Opportunities include greeting attendees at the registration desk, answering questions about the conference and guiding people towards local resources at the hospitality desk, leading discussions as a round table host, and tweeting about the round tables (and conference as a whole).

    There is so much to be gained at the international conference! In addition to learning from some of the smartest people in our industry, networking with people who do the same work as you is so valuable. What better way to meet people than to volunteer with them?

    -Krista Gallagher Colt

  • 17 May 2015 10:27 AM | Deleted user

    Beth Campbell, APRA-MN Board Fellow, gives a snapshot of the first few months of her (and our) new role, and gives a review of our recent workshop.

    This year, APRA-MN created a new Board Fellow position- someone to help out on special projects, serve on a Board committee, and attend and report on APRA events and conferences.  I was honored to be awarded this position and so far have really enjoyed it!  In addition to being a Programming Committee member, I am in the process of creating a Welcome Packet for new members as well as working on improving volunteer management processes.

    Another new and exciting thing that APRA-MN is trying out this year is Workshops.  Unlike a traditional APRA conference, an APRA Workshop features one topic, one presenter, and gets you back to the office by 11AM! APRA-MN came up with the idea for workshops to allow for some audience interaction with a live presenter- at a minimal cost and time commitment.
    I recently attended APRA-MN’s inaugural workshop- my first event as the Board Fellow. This particular workshop, Introduction to Advanced Wealth Management Techniques, was held at Gilda’s Club in Minnetonka, which is a cancer support center and was a fantastic space. The speaker, Darren Cooper, is a Rochester-based Prospect Research & Strategy Consultant and is clearly a skilled speaker and expert on wealth management. He provided insight into a variety of money management techniques commonly utilized by the wealthy (and why this often makes them the most difficult to research!). 

    In short, I would definitely attend another APRA-MN workshop in the future and thought it was well worth my time.  I highly recommend others to attend future workshops as well!


  • 14 May 2015 8:50 AM | Deleted user

    Today's Spotlight: Pat Thompson, Manager of Prospect Research, Carleton College

    Length of time in Prospect research: 4 years
    Length of time in APRA-MN: 4 years
    # yrs on the board: 2nd year
    Current Board role: Co-Programming Director
    1.)How did you first become involved with APRA-MN?
    When I arrived at Carleton in the middle of 2011, becoming a member of APRA-MN and signing up for the APRA International conference in Austin, TX was near the top of my task list. I was lucky to have a ton of support from my boss, Mark Egge, to seek out professional development opportunities and to meet other people in our field.
    It wasn't until a year or so later that Jodi Kohrs pulled me aside at an APRA-MN event and encouraged me to volunteer. She connected me to the programming committee and I've been hooked ever since.

    2.)How did you discover Prospect Research?
    Like a lot of people, I fell into Prospect Research. My friend Janna Holm, who has since gone to work in Prospect Management at Johns Hopkins, knew some researchers and thought the role would suit my skill set. I had been looking at jobs in the non-profit sector and hadn't discovered Research until she offered to set up an informational interview with a contact she had at Carleton. Not long after, I was lucky enough to land an interview and somehow convinced Mark to take a gamble on someone new to the field.
    (Janna will also take credit for introducing me to my wife, but that's a story for another day.)

    3.)Do you have a favorite Speaker or Session from an APRA conference?
    One of my first APRA-MN memories was a session with Christina Pulawski who really amazed me at her depth of knowledge and her sense of humor. I also enjoyed our conference with Chris Pipkins and Lisa Howley, especially the panel at the end of the day where Chris proved to be a particularly gifted moderator.
    For APRA International, I remember being in awe at a panel I attended with Josh Birkholz, Peter Wylie and Marianne Pelletier which was a lot of fun, but the memory that sticks with me the most was a session with Karen Greene who struck me as incredibly wise. Her sense that we almost automatically try to improve a system or a process whenever we encounter a problem, rather than asking if the problem requires a change in our management style or in how we train people, is something that I still think about today.

    4.)What would we be surprised to learn about you?
    If I had a nickel for every time I've read a Harry Potter book... then my Alma mater would be asking me for a lot more money.

    5.)My most proud Prospect Research moment is...
    Not too long ago, I had a gift officer approach me about a prospect who had raised their hand by making a significant increase to their annual gift. Given their age and career, it seemed out of place to make a gift of that size. So after hours of following breadcrumbs through real estate records, an old CV, and even Wikipedia, I was able to string together enough facts to indicate she had married into a very wealthy family on the Forbes list. It was a little scary to go out on a limb and suggest that her extended family would be considered one of the wealthiest families we have a connection to, but having my suspicions confirmed after seeing holiday pictures with our alum and the family patriarch together was particularly gratifying.

    6.)How would you encourage someone to become a part of the APRA-MN board?
    Serving on the board for any group will help you grow professionally. Not only will you meet other smart, motivated people in your field, but you'll gain experience making high level decisions that you wouldn't necessarily get at your job. Applying those experiences to APRA-MN, will only intensify the value you gain as a researcher through added perspective into our field.

    7.)I would like the members to know APRA-MN is...
    a great place to learn from each other. This might be the most under appreciated benefit of coming to APRA-MN events. I'm always amazed when I meet another researcher and learn that their department tackles a development problem completely differently than I do. Meeting other researchers at APRA-MN events expands how I think about research and my department is stronger because of my involvement.
  • 15 Mar 2015 10:02 AM | Deleted user

    Our friends at the Great Plains chapter are having their spring conference April 10th in Coralville, IA!

    Featuring sessions by: Bill Schmarzo, EMC; David Lamb, Target Analytics, Blackbaud; Hilary Bassett, Iowa State University Foundation; Ron Giddings, University of Northern Iowa Foundation; Mark Palmberg, University of Iowa Foundation.

    Topics on: Data analytics, Visualization, and a Data analytics panel

    Full event information, schedule, and registration can be found here:

  • 01 Dec 2014 12:53 PM | Deleted user

    The following members have been elected for two-year terms beginning in January 2015:
    Kristen Cooper - HealthEast Foundation
    Sarah Soucek - St Olaf College
    Rika Young - University of Minnesota Foundation
    We thank all of them for their commitment to serve and all of you who voted. We look forward to a great year ahead!
    Also, Congratulations to our inaugural APRA-MN Fellow - Beth Campbell! Beth is a Senior Development Researcher at University of Minnesota Foundation. She is a great addition to the team and will be an excellent volunteer for APRA-MN!

  • 28 Oct 2014 9:10 AM | Shanna Ames

    Receiving the 2014 Fall APRA conference scholarship was a great opportunity to pause during the year-end fundraising push to reflect, focus and recalibrate my professional efforts.

    Hammer Residences is a small non-profit with limited resources. I am one of two full time staff on our development team with a fundraising goal of $930,000 for 2014 – double our 2009 goal. Like many providers of services, Hammer is experiencing major changes in rate settings. These changes, combined with shrinking government budgets, are creating a funding gap unlike any that Hammer has seen in our 91-year history of serving individuals with developmental disabilities. Fundraised dollars are is more important now than ever before.

    I have the role of doing my own prospect research for my major donor visits, as well as preparing reports for our CEO and our Chief Development Officer. Thanks to the Fall 2014 APRA session, I will strive to include a “zippy bit” in each report I prepare, a fun fact that will make the person memorable, in addition to including a photo of the individual and perhaps even a photo of their home.

    There was discussion about what the Good Buildings (GB) in New York City are, how organizations are segmenting based on zip codes, and using this information as potential wealth indicators. This got me thinking…. What are the “good” zip codes in the Twin Cities? According to Forbes the wealthiest zip codes in the Twin Cities are: 55391, 55403, and 55424. Although I’m not sure how I will use this information yet, it’s a good potential tool and I’ve already queried our RE database.

    Another session, Living in the Gray Area: Understanding Wealth That Isn’t Black and White discussed using regular research tools differently. For example, the 990 report is something that I look at regularly, mainly to find out the balance in the foundation and what nonprofits they support and at what levels. I’ve never thought to focus on “Line 1” and how much the individual is contributing to their foundation and compare that for the past three years to see how they were doing, and feeling, financially. As we prepare for year-end major donor meetings, having a new glimpse into a donor’s psyche will be useful.

    As always, my favorite part of any APRA conference is the opportunity to meet others. I was honored to hear a farewell speech from Fran Corcoran and to sit with a group of interesting and engaging researchers. Thank you APRA-MN!

    Angela Bernhardt


  • 30 Sep 2014 12:00 PM | Deleted user

    Want to join our commitment to offering outstanding educational and networking opportunities to prospect development professionals? If you would like to serve on the board, or to nominate another APRA-MN member, please return this form. If you’re nominating someone else, please make sure they are aware of your nomination, and that their manager supports their service.


    Candidates for the board of directors must have the following qualifications:

    • Be a current APRA-MN member
    • Have been an APRA-MN member in good standing for the 12-month period preceding the nomination
    • Have worked at least one year in advancement research, analytics or relationship management

    Board members serve 2 years, and time commitments include attendance at approximately 10 meetings per year at various locations and via teleconferencing. Preparation for meetings and chapter conferences is required, along with associated responsibilities for individual board positions.


    After reviewing the nominations, a slate of candidates will be prepared. Voting will kick off online following the Fall Conference on October 21st.


    For this election cycle, there will be THREE open positions, so please consider a nomination and email the form by October 13, 2014 to:


    Shanna Ames

    Vice President, APRA-MN

    Questions?  Please call Shanna at 651.696.6694


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