*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!