APRA MARC: Transformational Change Is Necessary to Advance Prospect Research

Now that Brent and I have returned from this year’s APRA MARC conference in Philly, I wanted to quickly share some of the insights we were able to gather from the conference itself and from all the incredible advancement professionals we met while in attendance.

For those of you who don’t know, APRA is one of the “premier organizations for fundraising research, analytics and relationship management. APRA’s mission is to promote the value and impact of its members.” Having spent a lot of time with frontline fundraisers over the past couple of years, the APRA conference exposed me to the relatively new world of prospect and data research and to the people dedicated to providing their advancement office with the data and tools necessary to help build relationships and raise more money for their institutions.

After spending time with researchers from schools like—but definitely not limited to—American University, Washington & Lee, Muhlenberg College, and RPI, it became pretty clear how important research teams are to any organization’s advancement. Researchers truly help build the data foundation essential to the rest of their advancement office’s day-to-day work and strategic planning. Obviously, the better data and prospect research that the organization has access to, the better off that organization will be to efficiently fundraise.

Additionally, one theme that kept arising during our conversations was that, with the emergence of big data companies like LinkedIn and Facebook, researchers are starting to see a huge value in accessing social data from the profiles of their constituents on the aforementioned networks to provide even more value to their teams.

Shelby Radcliffe, Vice President for Institutional Advancement at Occidental College and keynote speaker at the conference, emphasized the opportunity that researchers have to be transformational within their organizations. She highlighted the importance of adopting an open-minded approach to research and data and also advised researchers to not rely solely on traditional processes, which haven’t evolved much in the past 20 years. If advancement teams are focused more on minimizing overhead than driving transformational change, she argued, advancement at organizations will stay the same or decline.

This concept really resonated with me because it reflected what Brent and I had encountered in the attendees we’d met:  an overall interest in exploring new ways to apply the for-profit mindset to the nonprofit process. Building off of this concept, we had an exceptionally engaged group attend Brent’s Social Donor Management session. They’re now starting to explore how data from social networks can make their research transformational.

I want to extend a huge thanks to the APRA team for inviting us to join in with such a great community and to all the attendees we met. We are really excited about the continued opportunity to collaborate with and help researchers explore innovative ways to continue to support their institutions.

If you missed us, we will be at the CASE Summit for Leaders in Advancement in New York City this July. Come say hi!

In the meantime, you can learn how to start applying Social Donor Management today with this post by Jeremiah Stevens, Director of Alumni Relations and Giving at University of Chicago Laboratory Schools.

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