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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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  • 24 Sep 2014 8:00 AM | Deleted user

    *Aimee Fisher was the 2014 APRA International Conference Scholarship Winner and, as part of her scholarship, she was asked to be a guest blogger. We are happy to provide these scholarship opportunities and to share her post. 

    As the plane landed in the most luxurious city in the desert, I couldn’t help but think of how exciting it was to be given the opportunity to attend the 2014 APRA professional development conference at The Cosmopolitan. As a new(er) researcher, this was a chance to sit amongst peers with similar professional interests and hone our skills.

    The pre-conference began bright and early Wednesday morning. I had chosen to attend, “Improve your Profile Technique” The first part of the session gave us a chance to discuss what we name our profiles and how to better arrange information to give development officers a simple and efficient report that provides all they need for a prospective donor. From “tear-sheets” to “one-pagers,” each institution may have called their profiles something different; but as a group, the information we needed seemed to be the same. The second half of the session was about how to communicate within our departments to better understand what a development staff does or doesn’t need. Next up, Lisa Howley, from John Hopkins, gave a high level presentation with so many great ways to use data analytics. It was amazing to hear what such a prominent institution can do! A grand reception finished off the night. With good food and the signature APRApolitan drink in hand, I chatted amongst others with a similar passion for research and fundraising. Business cards were exchanged, and as a first time attendee, I gathered that people looked forward to this conference every year.

    Thursday, I was beginning to get the hang of this conference stuff. Using the APRA app on my iPhone, I navigated from the keynote presentation where I learned the new word –‘Philanthro-metrics’ to “Beyond the Basics – Researching other Wealth Indicators.” This session was a great reminder that not all wealth is just cash and stock. But the biggest takeaway was, “Never accept a gift that can eat.” This, of course, was in regards to racehorses and show dogs which can surprisingly indicate wealth. To round out the day, Roslyn Clarke led us through an in-depth process of how to make sense of financial information like partners and directing entities. She had such energy for what she was teaching us, that even static and complicated forms were easier to understand and navigate.

    Friday’s sessions were just as valuable as the rest; it amazed me how each session, though different, brought new light to researching and development. “Seven Habits of Highly Effective Development Researchers” gave more than just seven good habits or tips; but, also reminded us that sometimes a $5,000 gift is just as worthy and valuable as a $5 million dollar gift. It was great to see two presenters, a prospect researcher and development officer, work so well together and stress the importance of each other. That afternoon brought two more sessions. My favorite session of the conference was, “What Happens in Research Doesn’t Stay in Research,” and not just because they handed out Canadian chocolates for participation. I liked this session because it brought to the table the importance of ethics within this field. If we want research to be valued and viewed as professional, we have to be wary of unethical practices. After all, we are the ethics of fundraising.

    Saturday, after a short morning session my plane took off. Amongst the clouds, I realized that I am not alone with my passion for research and higher education. The conference gave me new confidence and new connections in the prospect research world and for that I will always be grateful. I cannot wait for APRA 2015 in New Orleans!

  • 07 Aug 2014 10:08 AM | Deleted user

    Our Guest bloggers share with us content based on their APRA Int'l workshop presentation "Building your Personal Brand"

    Guest Bloggers: Juli Geske-Peer, Senior Director of Prospect Development, University of Minnesota Foundation; and Bond Lammey, Senior Associate, Bentz Whaley Flessner

    Do you know what your personal brand is? Did you even know you have one? Or why it is important? Well, you should know that you do have a brand and it is a critical component in meeting your goals.

    We all have brands that precede us, even in arenas where we haven’t yet ventured. Did you choose to read this post based on some image you had in your mind about one or the other of usundefinedsome experience where we have crossed paths, or something you’ve heard about one of us or about the companies where we work? The expectations you have about us as prospect development professionals, as leaders, as blog authors, and the hope that you may learn something valuable, are components of our personal brands.

    Personal branding is crafting your personal marketing strategy to create an authentic, consistent, and targeted impression that helps you achieve your goals. Your brand includes the overt elements of brand (resume; business communications; social media platforms in which you participate; articles, blogs, or books you’ve written; and presentations you’ve given) and the covert elements of brand (your actions, appearance, communication style, and presence).

    When you want to achieve a promotion, a new job, a new sale, or whatever it is you aim to do, you are asking someone to make a “buying decision” about you. The person is investing in something you have to offer, whether that investment is of time or resources. Most people make these “buying decisions” based on an emotional connection. In some way, the “product” is offering something that will contribute to what the decision-maker aspires to be in terms of lifestyle or success. For instance, if a manager is interviewing candidates for a position, the manager is considering how the candidates will add value to the department, and as the department succeeds, so too does the manager. The wise candidate will have this in mind and help the manager see how the candidate’s brand will help the manager reach his or her goals.

    You can see why devoting time to your own branding can be so critical to reaching your goals.

    So, how is this done?

    During our APRA International Conference 2014 Workshop on Building Your Personal Brand, participants began building their brand by working through a process we outlined. You, too, can follow the process, by considering the items we focused on, including:

    • Map your past and current situations - what are your key career and educational successes and moves, what overt and covert elements created these successes
    • Brainstorm and document the values from which you work (vital in being authentic) and the impressions and accomplishments you would want to create in your targeted arenas
    • Build your brand through visioning, planning your brand elements and message, and determining what is needed to promote yourself
    • Plan your next steps to craft and promote your brand; prioritize these based on urgency and importance by using this Priority Matrix
    • Align both the overt and covert elements of your brand, as when these are out of sync you are at risk for losing credibility
    Some people may read this blog and decide, “Whatever; personal branding isn’t for me.”

    Remember, your brand occurs whether you build and live it consciously or not.  People have perceptions and expectations of you no matter what you do - or don’t do - to build and live your brand.

    We suggest that you craft a brand that you can believe in and live authentically, and one that can help you be successful in reaching your career - or life - goals.

    Happy branding!

    Bond and Juli

  • 10 Jul 2014 5:40 PM | Deleted user

    If you’re planning to attend the 27th annual APRA International Conference in Las Vegas July 30-August 2, here’s where you can catch APRA-MN!

    • Presentations by Minnesotans:
      • Pre-conference workshop by Juli Geske-Peer, Building Your Personal Brand - Wednesday, July 30
      • Pre-conference workshop by Heather Vinge Hanson, Driving Moves Management Forward to Implementation and Beyond- Wednesday, July 30
      • Josh Forsyth will present on Managing Principal Gifts Programs, Services & Pipelines - Friday, August 1

    There are plenty of other opportunities to spend time with your friends - 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 hosts, room monitors and registration desk attendants. Log on to the APRA International website to find out more.

    If you’re not able to join us in Las Vegas, we’ll be hosting a post-conference gathering August 21st where attendees can share what they learned at the conference. What we learn in Las Vegas does not stay there! Stay tuned for details.

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

  • 26 Jun 2014 12:11 PM | Deleted user

    Join us in congratulating Aimee Fischer from The College of St. Scholastica, on being selected to receive our APRA International conference scholarship! Aimee is currently Data Coordinator at her organization, and we are so happy to be able to foster her career path, we are certain she will learn loads of wonderful information at APRA International!

  • 16 Jun 2014 3:31 PM | Deleted user

    Here is an excerpt from Bond Lammey's blog "Research in Motion", Bond was our Keynote speaker at the 2014 Spring Conference, in this post she touches on highlights from her presentation...


    Friends, family, and fellow researchers: conference season continues! In the first three weeks of May, I had the opportunity to speak at not one, not two, but three APRA chapter spring conferences. At each conference, I met a great group of local researchers, presented on some fun topics, and had a fair amount of travel adventures.

    My Tri-APRA tour took me to Columbus, Ohio on May 1-2; St. Paul, Minnesota on May 6; and Lansing, Michigan on May 16. Before I go any further, I’d like to thank OPRN, APRA-MN, and APRA-MI for putting on wonderful conferences, and for inviting me to be a part of each one. It was a crazy three weeks, but I had a great time talking shop with all of you.

    ... For the FULL Post Click here to go to Bond's blog page

    APRA Minnesota

    Date: May 6

    My presentations: Prospect Identification Strategies, Board Prospecting: A Case Study

        Prospect Identification Strategies

    Today’s research shops are being asked to identify prospects for initiatives that exist far outside the scope of your traditional prospect base. I discussed the following: methods and tools for prospecting in new interest areas, factors to consider when capturing new interest areas in your database, and strategies to expedite capacity ratings when conducting initial proactive research.

        Board Prospecting: A Case Study

    I co-presented this session with Matt Hewitt from Concordia St. Paul. Some of you may recall Matt Hewitt from my third blog post, Minnesota Nice. Matt and I walked through a project we worked on last fall, when Matt was asked to look for some suitable board candidates to present for nomination to the board. Matt created an affinity score to prospect within his database for these names, then he and I walked through some research tools to verify information on them. We blended small-shop and large-shop examples in this presentation (I used examples on board prospecting from when I worked at University of Chicago), and had a great conversation with attendees. Also, this was my first presentation experience using Prezi, which made me feel hip and cool.

    Conference highlight:

    You may recall that I attended APRA Minnesota’s fall conference featuring Chris Pipkins and Lisa Howley (I covered this conference in Minnesota Nice). Being asked to speak at the conference this time was like coming home. I got to see my good friend Debbie Mueller, who is a past president of APRA. If you’re keeping track, I’m now 2 for 2 on catching up with APRA presidents at these spring conferences. What talented and amazing people work in our industry! Another highlight, thanks to my co-presenter and a number of other conference attendees, I learned a lot about Lutherans in Minnesota.

    Non-conference highlight:

    I experienced my first suitcase casualty as my trusty suitcase (from several years before I started this job) lost a wheel once I landed in Minneapolis. Since I wasn’t in the mood to lug a one-wheel suitcase around, I headed straight to (where else?) Target and got a new one. Meet Zippy!


    Thank you to Bond for speaking with our APRA-MN Chapter this past spring, and for sharing her blog post with us!
  • 16 Jun 2014 3:29 PM | Deleted user

    As a fairly new prospect researcher, I was glad to see APRA-MN not only offered a spring conference this year, but included on its agenda a continuation, so to speak, of the foundation of a research profile that was offered at the February Boot Camp for us prospect research “newbies.”
        The majority of my time each day is spent creating new or updating existing research profiles. Since I began working in prospect research in mid-October, I knew attending the research profile breakout session at the May conference would be a helpful benchmark for the work I have done the past six months. Not only to ensure the content I was including in my work mirrored the framework of a thorough research profile, but also to assure me that I have been on the right track in my approach to researching potential and established prospects.
    I believe taking advantage of attending these types of conferences whenever possible is essential to broadening one’s scope of work. The opportunity to meet with colleagues to exchange ideas for resources, inquire about their work and learn from one another is priceless. We can listen, commiserate and improve on our work all the while supporting each other as peers.
        I am also grateful to APRA-MN for awarding me one of their scholarships to attend the spring conference. It seems far too often that resources for professional development opportunities do not always survive budget constraints. Budgets become tight, particularly as the end of the fiscal year draws near, which does not always align with when the best or most beneficial conferences and workshops are offered. Thankfully, APRA-MN generously offers scholarships as one of their membership benefits. I was lucky to be chosen as a recipient for the spring conference and deeply appreciate APRA-MN’s support. Offering the scholarships as a member benefit truly speaks to the character of the organization, whose mission is to provide for its members relevant and resourceful information to enable us to be professional, thorough and dynamic researchers. I look forward to future conferences to enhance my knowledge of prospect research, learn new resources to enable me to work smarter and broaden my network of prospect research colleagues. Hats off to APRA-MN!

    Connie Matz
    Prospect Researcher
    College of Saint Benedict, St. Joseph, MN

    *Thank YOU, Connie, for taking advantage of one of the things we pride ourselves most on, the ability to provide learning opportunities to our members! We always encourage our members, new and not-so-new, to apply for these opportunities. And, thank you for participating in our APRA blog.* ~APRA-MN

    Look for new a new post from our other scholarship winner, soon!

  • 01 May 2014 8:15 AM | Deleted user
    Now that we have this new format, should we change the name of the Networker? Or, is the Networker still a great name and fits the new format?
    Chime in by adding a comment!!
  • 01 May 2014 8:05 AM | Deleted user

    Every once in a while I hear Prospect Research managers and directors wondering about what interview questions they should ask when hiring a prospect researcher. It’s a fairly specific query. Probably too specific, and it’s tough to answer it well without lots and lots of details.

    Trying to find out what “the questions” are to ask when interviewing a potential new-hire prospect researcher is kind of like asking someone “What kind of car should I buy?” and expecting a decent answer. If you’re trying to help someone who poses this question, surely there are scads of questions that come to mind in response: “Well, what do you need it for? Do you have to haul stuff? Are you commuting a lot? Do you have to take lots of people with you? Do you need good gas mileage? Do you want something more stylish?” and on and on.

    These questions are the kinds of things I’d ask myself when I was trying to decide what kind of car to buy, and when I’m hiring a prospect researcher, I have a similarly expansive set of questions. But in this case, my questions follow a sort of hierarchy, starting waaaay up at the organizational level, and working my way down to the individual/personal level. Additionally, they address organizational/departmental needs, the distinction between the things we can train a person on vs. how they “are,” and how exactly I can assess the candidate on those things. The questions go something like this:

    • What organizational needs does the Research department meet?
    • How well do the existing Research staff cover those needs? What “gaps” in the department does this new hire need to fill?
    • What specific skills are required to be able to fill those gaps?
    • Which of these skills are actually trainable, and which are difficult/impossible to develop?
    • How will I assess these attributes? (Via the application materials? Through a phone interview? In my in-person interview? Via the in-person interviews they will have with my colleagues?)

    Let me walk through each of these questions, using the last hire I made to demonstrate them. In 2011 I was Director of Prospect Research in a small, high-performing Research shop that was part of a mature, sophisticated development operation at a small, private, liberal arts College. I was hiring a Prospect Research Officer, who would be the only other Research staff member. Here’s how I worked through my questions to determine how I would evaluate candidates.

    What organizational needs does the Research department meet?

    In my shop, we were responsible for traditional biographical research (profiles, new prospect identification and research qualification, etc.), prospect management, and analytics. In addition to handling these specific work areas, one of my priorities was for my shop to have strong relationships with our “clients,” the front-line fundraisers. So these were the areas where I and my new researcher would need to be able to cover all of the bases.

    How well do the existing Research staff cover those needs? What “gaps” in the department does this new hire need to fill?

    At the time, my biggest need was capacity. I was able to DO all of the different types of things in our department, but I couldn’t handle the volume all by myself. This was especially true with our traditional research and with running the prospect management system. (The analytics piece, on the other hand, was something I could keep up with if needed, though it would be a nice bonus if my new hire could take some of this on as well.)

    What specific skills and traits are required to be able to fill those gaps?

    Because my needs were in the areas of traditional Research and Prospect Management System facilitation, I basically needed to determine what the specific critical skills and traits are for someone to be able to do that kind of work. This is one area where I’m certain there are varying opinions among Researchers regarding what exactly those are, but for me they include the following:

    Traditional Research
    Clarifying/identifying the question(s) to be answered
    Finding information
    Evaluating information
    Summarizing/synthesizing/tailoring information
    Appropriately packaging/delivering information

    Prospect Management System Facilitation:
    Getting information from gift officers
    Building rapport with gift officers
    Attention to detail
    Understanding reporting, basic data relationships
    Translating between gift officers and the tracking system

    This is by no means a comprehensive list, but it helps lay out many of the things I needed to be looking for and evaluating in candidates.

    Which of these skills are actually trainable, and which are difficult/impossible to develop?

    Some of the skills and traits listed above are easily trainable. Others are more of a stretch (and some might say they are impossible to train). Among the former are things like finding information; evaluating information; summarizing/synthesizing/tailoring information; packaging/delivering information; understanding reporting and basic data relationships; translating between gift officers and the tracking systems. Others are the kinds of things that one might consider “how a person is wired.” These are the kinds of things that can be a lot more difficult to train someone on (in my experience, anyway), and include tenacity/curiosity; building rapport with gift officers; attention to detail. This is all debatable, of course, but I found that I always had a really difficult time training people on these sorts of things. So I would rather hire someone with those traits, and train on the other qualities.

    How will I assess these attributes?

    Once I know what exactly I’m looking for in my candidate, it’s really helpful to decide ahead of time how I can assess those traits and skills. The hiring process is really challenging in that I don’t have a lot of information to go on in order to make my decisions about a candidate: their application materials are likely no more than a couple of pages, and I probably won’t have more than a few hours of total interview time with them. So it’s critical that I use the time and information I do have as efficiently as possible.

    Some of the traits I am looking for will be readily apparent in their application materials. Any typos or errors show they may not be so great with details. Additionally, their cover letter and resume are a perfect sample for how they summarize, synthesize, tailor, package, and deliver biographical information. (This assumes, of course, that they are responding to a well-written job description. Job descriptions could be another blog post entirely in and of itself!) If they write a rambling, off-point cover letter and include extraneous information in their resume that doesn’t help show me how they are a good candidate for the job, they’re probably not so great at making decisions around what should be included in a profile on a prospective donor. So these pieces of the puzzle can be found through the applicant’s materials, and I don’t need to waste any time in the interviews trying to assess them.

    Some of the skills will require some questioning to evaluate. For example, I like to find candidates who are naturally curious and are persistent in their efforts. I might ask them about their hobbies and see if anything like genealogical research or puzzles (e.g., crosswords or sudokus) come up. These kinds of interests tend to go along with curiosity and tenacity. I can ask things like this in a phone interview.

    The in-person interviews, with myself as well as with some of my colleagues, are great for evaluating the “soft skills.” A candidate’s demeanor and how well they interact with others can help indicate how they’ll do with rapport building. Additionally, the in-person interviews are a great setting for asking behavioral questions and asking them to work through a role-playing exercise with you. (An example of such an exercise is to have them pretend to be the researcher, gathering information from them for the prospect management system, and you play the role of the gift officer who gives really vague answers to questions that require specificity. How does the candidate go about trying to tease out the necessary information from the gift officer?)

    In a lot of cases, we’re hoping to find the “right” questions to ask a candidate. But there really are no “right” questions. Just as in Prospect Research the questions depend on the situation at hand, so too do the questions change in a hiring situation, all depending on the nature of the organization, the Research shop, the staff involved, and the skills and characteristics required. By considering all of these components, we set ourselves on a path to find the best questions and hopefully to hire the best prospect researcher!

    Note: This blog post is a joint cross-post, appearing simultaneously on and the newly unveiled APRA-MN blog at

  • 01 May 2014 8:00 AM | Deleted user
    Welcome to the brand-new APRA-MN blog! We hope you find this new format of sharing information helpful, user-friendly and invigorating. We invite you to share your own insights into prospect research, prospect management, data analytics, reporting, or any other development-related topic that you think your APRA-MN colleagues will find interesting. We want this to include lots of member-driven content. You are the experts, after all!

    2014 has been off to a busy start for the chapter. Bootcamp was held at University of Northwestern in early February with 50 attendees - including  three from out of state! It’s so inspiring to see the next wave of researchers (and some veterans who want to brush-up on skills) learn from some of the reigning experts in the field. I know I learned a thing or two! We’ve also had two virtual seminars, made even more dynamic and interesting with a group discussion afterwards. There is so much knowledge in this group and there is power in sharing it with each other.

    Your APRA-MN board has been hard at work as well. We held a day-long planning retreat in March and laid out some really exciting goals for the year - including the blog you are reading right now! I’m so impressed by the ambition, passion and intelligence of this group. The interest of the members is at the heart of every discussion we have - as it should be. Let me reassure you that you are being represented very well. We’re always looking for feedback, however. If you have questions, comments, ideas, concerns, whatever - send them our way. I think I speak for the board when I say that we truly want to make sure the chapter responds to what is most important to you, the members.

    Personally, I’d like to thank Immediate Past President Mark Egge for his leadership, wisdom and foresight over the past two years. He and the rest of the board helped steer the chapter in exciting new directions, including forging partnerships with other development associations. These connections help expand the reputation of prospect research in the greater development community, and let researchers learn more about how development officers and leadership work and think.

    Finally, I’d like to thank all of you. Members are the best resource APRA-MN has. The chapter is, as Mark often put it, the “best chapter on the planet” because of you. Your willingness to answer a colleague’s question, mentor new researchers, help plan the outstanding conferences, read the blog, attend virtual seminars (and on and on) is what makes all of this work. I hope you feel that APRA-MN really is a chapter that represents your needs.  
    I look forward to seeing you at an event soon!

    Krista Gallagher-Colt
    APRA-MN Chapter President
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