Apra’s New Researchers Symposium



New to prospect development? Have new prospect development professionals joining your team? Take advantage of Apra’s New Researchers Symposium, which combines online learning with an in-person event on February 28 in Chicago.

New Researchers Symposium
February 28, 2019
Harry Caray’s Restaurant
Chicago, IL
With additional online learning leading up to the in-person event

Fast-Track Your Prospect Development Skills at Apra’s New Researchers Symposium!

Apra’s New Researchers Symposium is the only program that teaches the fundamentals of prospect development. This popular program combines weeks of online learning with a one-day, in-person event for additional hands-on learning and networking with your new prospect development peers.

Register early to ensure plenty of time for the online learning leading up to the event!


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Did your New Years Resolutions include your professional development skills?

Did you resolve to grow your professional network? Or share your expertise with other industry professionals?

Did you make a resolution to grow your soft skills?

Then make a commitment to get active with Apra Greater Houston! Here are a few easy steps to take so that you can mark this resolution as DONE.

  • Complete this form if you are interested in presenting for or volunteering with Apra Greater Houston
  • Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter
  • Renew your membership with Apra Greater Houston

And, most importantly, resolve to come out to some of our events and meet like minded professionals.

Our next event is our lunch and learn recapping 2018 on Tuesday, January 15th.  See you there!



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Measuring Affinity

With a variety of internal and external data easily available, prospect researchers and analysts are able to provide greater insight to reach their organization’s goals. In order for data to help grow the prospect pipeline and inform decisions, one must be able to turn this data into valuable measurements.

I learned this first-hand in my initial attempt to create an affinity score to assist with prospect identification. To prepare for the task, I asked myself a series of questions. Some of those questions included:

What is affinity?

How do I define affinity for my organization?

Who would I consider has a high affinity for my organization?

What data is available to me that supports the statement, “a constituent has a high affinity?”

Do all significant donors or volunteers represent their affinity in the same way?

Which data points that are common between “high affinity constituents” and new prospects are, or are not, coincidental?

Which data points have greater ‘weight’ than others?

Which data points should have a maximum capacity in the resulting total score?


All of these and more were critical in my attempt to create a score.

Please note the use of the word ‘attempt’ above. I stress this because there is quite a bit of trial and error in the path to a final product. This is a project where one must continuously validate, adapt and iterate until the results successfully inform the decisions of your team.

Do not be afraid to try this on your own. There are services that can help with the process, but Excel is a great tool to begin the data manipulation required to calculate your score. Whether or not you use Excel or a specialized application for developing a score, it does not eliminate the need to question and understand affinity for your organization.

So I ask you, what is affinity for your organization?

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Giving in 2016 – survey findings from Dini Spheris

Dini Spheris just issued the results of a survey conducted earlier this year among philanthropic leaders in Houston.  The following infographic summarizes their findings.

source: Dini Speris

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Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone

As researchers and prospect managers, we tend to get comfortable sitting in the light of our computer screens. Rarely do we have time or desire to get out of this light and make it into the limelight. We aren’t front and center asking donors for money and we aren’t presenting information to the CEO or VPs of our organizations. (At least not very often, if we do.)

If we aren’t used to these opportunities and one is presented, how do we make sure we make the best of that moment? How do we make an impact that won’t be forgotten? Basically…how do we not mess up or how do we try our hardest in order to get eyed for a promotion?

For the last two years, I’ve been a member of a Toastmasters club. You may be scratching your head and asking, “What is Toastmasters?” If  you know what it is, it’s generally due to one of three reasons. 1) Your dad was in it. 2) You saw some flyer about it. 3) You were advised/asked to join due to your lack of speaking skills or shy speaking behaviors, yet didn’t join due to your lack of speaking skills or shy speaking behaviors.

The last reason above hopefully gives a clue as to what Toastmasters is – an international club of people just like you and me who want to better their public speaking skills and improve leadership skills.

Why would we, the people who live our lives in the light of the computer, need to better our speaking skills and leadership skills? Because we need to know how to share what we’re doing and why we’re doing – it in a professional way. It’s worthwhile to have your peers and supervisors understand exactly what you do and why you do it. Toastmasters teaches members to speak without using filler words like “Um” and “Uh,” and helps members learn how to formulate speeches that make sense and have a natural flow. It also allows opportunities to practice speaking, because, after all, practice makes perfect.

Like APRA Greater Houston, Toastmasters dues are minimal. Check out the directory of Toastmasters meetings around Houston. There are many locations and times of day to choose from. You’re welcome to visit a club and check out the group of people who are in it. Find one that fits for you. You’ll learn how to speak professionally and gain valuable skills to help you improve your communication and increase your opportunities for successful leadership roles at work. You won’t regret joining.

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Growing Nonprofit Knowledge

Professional researchers and prospect managers seem to have a knack for curiosity and a desire to learn more…about anything that gets us to that next donor and gift. And let’s be honest – that’s what makes us good at what we do!

We have all come to this big world of prospecting in different ways and we’ve all learned different things that have lead us to the roles we have. Have you considered growing your knowledge base? Continuing education can give new insight into old ways of doing things. It can also open our eyes to different ways we can manage our daily tasks in a much more efficient and effective way.

One of my favorite local educational resources is the Center for Philanthropy & Nonprofit Leadership at Rice University. I took the “Prospect Research and Analysis” class as soon as I could and soon I will be taking “Fundraising Analytics: Leveraging the Power of Data.” They have so many options and also have a few certificate programs to choose from.

Another tool is APRA. They have year-round opportunities through podcasts, webinars and their Body of Knowledge. Also, in February, they have the APRA Week of Knowledge which has actually turned into a two-week event. During this time, they feature prospect researchers throughout the country who speak on a topic that they’re experts in. It’s a great way to get your eyes opened to new ideas.

One last resource I will mention is AFP. Sure, it’s an organization more for gift officers. But, I’ve found that what they share and the events they host give me insight into a gift officer’s mind and the way they think. This allows me to adapt my approach with GOs when necessary.

If you have some favorite educational opportunities you’ve used, let us know and we’ll feature them in an upcoming blog post. And be sure to always use your local resource, APRA Greater Houston! We’ll have some educational and social events coming up, so keep an eye on your calendar and like our Facebook page to stay up-to-date!

Tracy Williams

Treasurer, APRA Greater Houston


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Case study – relationship mapping

If you were with us a few weeks ago for our summer workshop, you might have participated in a very lively discussion about Relationship Mapping tools and methods.  The idea for today’s post came to me from Maria Mutmansky, who was the moderator of that group discussion.  This case study appeared in the Chronicle of Philanthropy last fall and highlights the way that the Henry Ford Museum has capitalized on their relationship mapping product.


Of course these tools cannot replace the kind of individual research and verification that a staff member can perform.  But they can help to dramatically increase the amount of work one staff member can accomplish.  And if you are one person working with a data base of 500,000 constituent records, that’s a huge benefit!

Click on the image above to read the original article.


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