Prospect Development 2022 – A Recap

This summer, I had the privilege to attend Apra International’s Prospect Development (PD) conference in Atlanta.  This was the first in-person PD since Phoenix in summer 2019. If you have ever attended PD, you know it is the biggest annual meeting of the prospect development world.  It was so great to see so many PD professionals, Houston area colleagues, and friends after the two-year hiatus.  Now that I am several weeks removed from the event, I have had a chance to process some of my key takeaways from this year’s PD, and I’d like to share them with you. 

Part of The Hunger Games was filmed in the conference hotel and every hotel staffer was required to mention it

Networking is still king

Though I did not attend as many opportunities to connect with colleagues as I have at previous PDs, I still managed to attend several.  As someone who works in a midsized shop in an industry not highly represented at PD (zoos), connecting with other professionals is invaluable to me. As I said repeatedly throughout the week, PD is the only place we professionals can go where other people know what our jobs are.  Being able to build up my network with other professionals to bounce ideas off, seek advice from, and simply commiserate with makes this conference worth its weight in gold. 

Volunteer, volunteer, volunteer!

Being able to give back to the PD community is something I am immensely proud of.  I have been able to volunteer at the national level for several years on various committees and have developed invaluable relationships across the country because of it.  This year I was able to contribute in two ways: being a mentor to first-time PD attendees (Joe and Grace) and co-facilitating the collaborative sharing session, Making the Most of Apra Volunteering.  Many think that volunteering is a one-way street — you utilize your time and energy to help some sort of person, program, or project — but the benefits of volunteering are a two-way street and tremendously beneficial to both parties.

Nerd Out

While not on the scale of the latest Apple product launch, PD is a perfect storm of people doing the newest, coolest things in the advancement community.  From AI to DEIA prospecting initiatives, there is a session for every aspect of the prospect development world.  For someone at a mid-size organization, it would be easy to be completely overwhelmed by all the things my counterparts are doing across the country.  Instead, I embrace all the cool things folks are doing and pick some of my sessions based on that wow factor.  If there are multiple sessions that pique my interest that are happening at the same time, I chose sessions based on which ones were recorded and could be watched later.  Finally, I planned some debrief time a few weeks after the conference to see if there are at least some small takeaways from the loftiest presentations that I can incorporate into my workflow.  Taking this time afterwards is so critical and has made my last few PD experiences much less stressful than the first.  

The last session of the conference!

Have Fun

Finally, I take the opportunity to catch up with vendors I’ve worked with and peers I’ve served on committees with over the years.  The world of prospect development is unique in that most nonprofits have someone working in this field, but oftentimes we never leave our offices to meet folks in our roles at other organizations, unlike our gift officer counterparts.  Though it can be an exhausting few days, I try to suspend my normal reality and try to have coffee or drinks with as many people as possible during the conference.

A view from the top of Ponce City Market

As I continue to watch recorded sessions and build my post-PD action plan, I can declare this year’s conference a success.  I look forward to continuing to unpack lessons learned during the conference and to Indianapolis next year

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The Genius of Old Adages

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In the last two months, two of my fellow APRA Greater Houston board members have shared reflections on their experience in the field of prospect research. Now it’s my turn, in our third installment of “What I Wish I’d Known”.

Before I got into prospect research I’d spent 12 years in various development roles:  grant writer, corporate and foundation relations manager, volunteer coordinator, and annual fund officer. During that time, I also earned my library science degree and was working a second job as an evening reference librarian, which I loved. One day, a development colleague of mine approached me about an opening as the number 2 on her prospect research team.  She was a business reference librarian who had been recruited into prospect research by yet another librarian. She shared with me that she found the work schedule was better for her, and the work was similar. I said “sure”, and that was that. The work has felt somewhat similar to what I was doing as the reference librarian, and the schedule, as it turns out, really has been better for my family life. It has enabled me to freelance when I’ve needed, as well as transition to a new city and find work. Additionally, this work has suited my personality duality: part introvert, part extrovert.

I’m reaching a point in my life—nearing an unspecified milestone birthday—where many adages are proving themselves to be true. This could be the genius of old adages or could be the resignation of people as we age—turning hopelessly back to embroidery pillows and cottage wisdom for solace, having learned no real lessons.

Reflecting on one’s professional career at the late mid-point feels a lot like running through a bunch of such folkish sayings. So, here I go.

It is what it is.  This is probably my favorite (and the worst) saying ever, and now I’m going to ruin it by expounding on it. In research, as in life, it really just is what it is. But it’s important to know what that means. Take a prospect profile for example: it should include what you know and only reference what you don’t know if you’re really sure there is something very important you don’t know. Perfect example: “No visible assets found.” Hey, that is what it is. We are working with public records, and we are missing crucial information. The situation is suitably grave for this adage. There is no need to say anymore. On the flip side, unless you are filling out a form profile, and you have to put something in every slot, don’t write: “No visible hobbies found.” That isn’t what “it is” is.

Perfect is the enemy of done.  Some people need to hear this more than others. Being surrounded by perfectionists and compulsives in many areas of my life, I never thought of myself as someone who needed this. But in research, I do. I might go so far to say, a researcher should need to hear it, because it means one is doing one’s job assiduously—even ardently! Truly knowing when you’re done researching a thing just comes with experience (or necessity). And I think the confidence to stop and accept, not fear, that your role in fundraising is important and limited, also comes with experience. Only so much data can be compiled and verified from published sources. Much of what really matters will (or won’t) be learned in a personal meeting. Finish the profile or the research note so a relationship with your precious prospect can turn from 2D to 3D.  Only human relationships, and not even the best research profile, will ultimately result in gifts.

Drop back ten and punt. This isn’t an adage, as you may have noticed; this is a football reference. This one comes from my dad, and he always knows when to say it to me. If you don’t watch football like me, this means to regroup and try something else a little less intense, maybe even a last-ditch effort. For me as a prospector, this means data mining. As researchers, we can strike out afield for new glitzy prospects on glass walls and in the glossy pages of annual reports. But we can also just go back and do the plodding task of slicing and dicing our existing donor and friends lists to find the shiny stuff. 

You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. This one is kind of obvious—and might even be a proverb. In prospect research, our job is to present the leads and the justification for them. We may even argue for them. In most cases, our job ends there. We can present all the leads, strategy advice, and research we want, but ultimately it is up to a field officer to bring the leads to life. I’ve learned to choose to trust your field staff partners as much as possible. It has made me happier and resulted in more rewarding partnerships. They will be the ones out there in the field (as above), or in this case, the paddock. And remember, the proof is in the pudding. See what I did there?

Neither a conference heckler nor a conference skipper be. (More of a gross misquote of literature than an adage.) Attend the APRA Greater Houston Annual Conference on May 4, 2022!! Click here to register.

Victoria Walsh, Apra Greater Houston Board Member

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Confidence Is King

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Last month’s “What I Wish I’d Known” blog post, by my fellow Apra Greater Houston board member Ashley Estes, had me reflecting on my own time as a researcher over the last eight years. Unlike most in our profession I started out my professional career in research. During this time I have grown not only as a researcher, but also made the transition from student to “real adult”. These are the things I wish I knew – or wish I had taken to heart – earlier in my career:

“Be the holder of institutional knowledge” – I would have never guessed this would be so important to my day-to-day job. We all know that researchers tend to stick around longer than fundraisers, so oftentimes researchers become the de-facto keeper of general knowledge about the institution or the development department. What I didn’t realize is how important this knowledge truly is. I have found diving into institutional archives helpful not only for donor information, but also so that I can provide context for decisions that were made in the past.

“Learn how to say no” – Oftentimes we are asked to research things that we know are hopeless rabbit trails seeking tidbits of information that just aren’t publicly available. Early on, I felt that I knew when I was or was not going to be able to find what was asked for, but my approach informing the requester about the impossibility of their request could have been delivered in a more productive way. Now, I try to figure out why a fundraiser is asking for that specific piece of information. Sometimes it is worth additional research to find the data point or a slightly different piece of information that can be used instead. However, oftentimes more research is being requested because the fundraiser isn’t feeling confident about the ask, and asking more questions about the reason for the research request can lead to a productive discussion about a shift in strategy for the prospect or even just a pep talk for the fundraiser.

“Confidence is king” – I have a firm belief, which some made call jaded, that the research we gather is fundamentally to build the fundraiser’s confidence in picking up the phone to call a donor. I don’t believe that as a single-person prospect research/prospect management/duties-as-assigned shop it is worth my time to put together a bio more than a few sentences long for my fundraisers. For larger campaign asks I would never want to leave anything unturned, but for our day-to-day fundraising prospects, I try to focus research and conversations on a prospect’s giving potential, where we think their interests lie, and where their best fit is at our institution. After these strategy conversations I find my fundraisers to be more confident when soliciting someone, more interested in picking up the phone, and that they make asks more quickly after establishing a relationship. I’m not saying research isn’t important. Data analytics, wealth screenings, and predictive modeling live and die by the information we have procured on our donors; however, for one-off research requests, 99% of the time a fundraiser will learn more about a prospect over their first coffee than they ever will from a bio that took days to put together. I will take a 15-minute strategy conversation over a minimum four-hour research dive any day.

“People think differently, and that’s a good thing” – I should have probably figured this out earlier in life, but working at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston was a big eye-opener for me in this realm. I work with a lot of development colleagues that come from an arts background, and I’ve realized that people with that sort of background think in a completely different way than I do. I have learned that communicating via story format works better for some people than using data points, numbers, and Excel. What I wish I had realized earlier was how my colleagues excel at their jobs because they think differently than I do. Sure, they are almost universally more outgoing, like most fundraisers, but also their creativity enables them to produce stewardship reports so beautiful they could be in any mainstream magazine. They can pull off beautiful programs and bring truly creative solutions to the team strategizing, largely because they do not think in Excel rows and columns or database records. While their non-linear thinking often means they struggle with databases, I wish I had seen how valuable their creativity was to the institution quicker than I did, as it could have saved me some frustration. For those of you also struggling with staff who aren’t comfortable with the database, I highly recommend creating database quizzes and providing practice data entry circumstances (example contact reports, proposals, etc.) after each training session! Doing this has allowed me to gauge whether the training is sticking before I move on to the next training segment. We separate our development-specific training into 3‒4 segments, depending on how comfortable the employee is with databases.

I hope that these thoughts will be helpful for anyone else out there early on in their career!

Amanda Whiteside, Apra Greater Houston Board Treasurer

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What I Wish I’d Known

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Living through something like a pandemic can make a person reflect on past choices made. For me, that meant thinking about my choice to leave corporate and foundation fundraising behind to enter the world of prospect research. It seems like a lifetime ago, not just short three years (pandemic time warp!). Despite the relatively short time I’ve spent in this field, I feel like I’ve learned a lot and wish I could jump back in time and share some of that wisdom with my younger self. After giving it some thought, I think I would tell her the following:

“This move into research will be the right one for you.” — At that time in my life, I was looking to get out of a fairly toxic work environment, so I had some reservations about whether I was making this move for my professional growth or just because it got me out. After three years, I can confirm that this was the right choice.

“A surprising amount of your time will be spent helping fundraisers understand how to use the database correctly.” — At times I’ve felt like Sisyphus pushing a boulder up the hill when it comes to trying to get fundraisers to enter their activity in the database, update records, and view the database as resource for donor information. Alas, it’s a bigger component of this job than I expected, but it’s important work that makes the job easier overall. I just didn’t realize how much time I’d be spending on this in particular.

“Be judicious with your time.” — For as valuable as I thought the donor information discovered in my research would be for the fundraising team, sometimes it might as well go directly into the trash for how often it is actually referred to. Regardless of how much time I spend or the number of amazing nuggets of information I find, ultimately, my research is a resource for the fundraiser to use as they choose. With that in mind, it’s important to consider the state of the donor relationship, the expected use of your research, and what else your current job duties demand when determined how much time to spend researching a prospect.

“It’s not uncommon for leadership fundraisers to fall behind.” — I think I could have avoided a fair amount of stress had I reached out to some of my prospect research colleagues. It was oddly comforting to realize that I am not the only prospect manager struggling with a leadership-level fundraiser who… (pauses to think of the right word) …struggles to stay on top of their portfolio assignments. Seemingly, a lot of organizations have one (or more) of these top-level fundraisers who veer off track. Just be patient and stay on them. Things will progress, however slowly.

“You actually like being around your colleagues.” — This was something I learned recently — thanks to the pandemic and working from home — and I have to say, this was a bit of a shock to me. Working from home is absolutely the dream I always thought it would be, but in an interesting twist, I missed regularly seeing my colleagues (well, some of them).  I now know to be more proactive in scheduling periodic in-person meetings, coffee breaks, or after work get-togethers with my colleagues to stay connected.

“The grass is rarely greener on the other side—it’s just a different shade of brown you don’t recognize yet.” — An important lesson I’ve learned only by experience. Each shop has their own special set of issues. Whether it’s a lack of leadership investment in resources, disorganized structure, absence of strategy, toxic work culture, or toxic personalities, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a perfect place to work. Approaching a potential job with this more realistic expectation has made the transition process much smoother over the years. It’s all about identifying my personal deal-breakers and being assertive to ask questions when getting to know a potential employer.

“Get involved with the Apra Greater Houston Board as soon as you can!” – This really was one of the best choices I’ve made for my professional development, and I only wish I’d gotten involved sooner. In general, I’m not a joiner and not a social butterfly, but being on the Apra Greater Houston Board has given me a small yet intimate network of knowledgeable peers that have supported and accelerated my professional development. Plus, I’ve had a ton of fun.

I know I still have a lot more to learn as I continue on this career path, but I wanted to share some of the lessons I’ve learned. Have you had similar experiences? I’d love to hear what realizations you have had in your career that you wish you had known from the start. Leave your thoughts in the comments!

Ashley Estes, Apra Greater Houston Board Vice President

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As I sat down to write this blog, I kept thinking about the movie 2022 (starring Nicolas Cage).  The premise is standard end-of-the-world fare — man realizes the world is ending RIGHT NOW, and all his indecision and inaction of the past (which led to him getting divorced and losing a good relationship with his kids) immediately disappears and off he rushes to literally save his family from the earth crumbling apart. 

My goal for this blog was to basically highlight the fact that, despite the last few years of unrest and uncertainty, THIS is the year the world is supposed to end and thus — the world ending or not — we should make the most of it. To me, that means introducing a few plans that the Apra board has been working on for 2022. However, as I kept trying to find a summary online about the movie to check what I remembered, I couldn’t find it.  I went down a twenty-minute rabbit-hole of searching –

2022 movie.  Nothing.

Nick Cage.  That’s a wide enough net. Nope.

End of the world movie. Come on.            

Nicolas Cage + IMDB. Tried and true resource – don’t fail me.

2022 End of the world movie. I know I’ve seen this movie.             

Nicolas cage apocalypse movie limo driver. Seriously…

Finally, that last search got me to what I was looking for.  In a story titled Five terrible apocalyptic movies to celebrate ‘This Is the End’s’ release from 2013, I found the movie.  It’s called 2012.  And it stars John Cusack, not Nicolas Cage.  So much for the outline I had, but my mis-remembered narrative of the movie 2012 made me think of another impactful human trait.  The ability to pivot.

One of the more crucial moments of this movie was John/Nicolas recognizing an insurmountable challenge and, in that instant, anything that had paralyzed his decision making in the past no longer mattered.  How we pivot from a crucial moment and determine what is important and what is not has driven most of our choices over the last couple of years.  In 2022, we are seeing this play out in The Great Resignation. As COVID-19 moves from pandemic to endemic, many people are making life-changing decisions based on what they truly value in their career and personal lives.  People are no longer waiting on the stars to align for the next promotion or opportunity to get their dream role. Instead, we’re seeing people decide what is and is not important to them, and then consider if their current role aligns with these values. 

Amid all of this, Apra Greater Houston has seen a need for and we are recommitting to be a professional resource as we all navigate through these choices in our lives.  This year we are planning to bring back our in-person conference, tentatively scheduled for late spring/early summer.  The board has also outlined a myriad of programming that we want to roll out this year.  As we are recommitting to you, please consider recommitting to us. 

Is this your year to double down on your professional growth? Would you want to write a blog post or lead a presentation? Do you want a more sustained leadership development opportunity and are interested in joining a committee or the board?  Email me at, and I will follow up with you directly. Do you want to take a smaller leap and simply renew your membership? We’d love for you to do that as well (click here to join or renew your membership).

In short, if this year is the year for you to challenge yourself professionally, we hope to be a part of it.  After all, we are 10 years removed from the world ending. 

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A Leader’s Library

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“The most dangerous leadership myth is that leaders are born – that there is a genetic factor to leadership. That’s nonsense; in fact, the opposite is true. Leaders are made rather than born.”

– Warren Bennis

It’s official! We have our first book club meeting of 2022 set for February where we will discuss Daring to Lead by Brené Brown. In the spirit of Dr. Bennis’s quote above, we chose Daring as an opportunity to reflect and develop a much needed skill set. We have all experienced poor leadership in some aspect, and we would hope that you have experienced examples of good leadership as well. Perhaps, you were that good leader who stepped forward. Maybe you passed up an opportunity for leadership because you felt unprepared. Whether you are an experienced leader or new to leadership, it is important to remember there is always room for growth. Additionally, leadership is not synonymous with the title on your business card. Whatever your position in your organization, you have an opportunity to show leadership. As you begin reading our February selection, we wanted to share some additional leadership resources with you for your career toolkit:

Brittani Williams:

My favorite leadership resource is a list of books and journals complied by my favorite strategic management professor during my time as an MBA student at UH, Dr. Laura Cardinal.  But since Dr. Cardinal has moved on to the University of South Carolina and her list is no longer online (I have a paper copy at home!), my second favorite resource is the Harvard Business Review series of podcasts.  I listen to topics on the Coaching Real Leaders and Dear HBR: podcasts the most, but I also dabble in listening to HBR IdeaCast, Women at Work and The Anxious Achiever from time to time. I find them all helpful! 

Ashley Estes:

A couple of books I’ve found to be helpful in developing my leadership skills are Turn the Ship Around by Capt. L. David Marquet, USN (Ret.), Radical Candor by Kim Scott, and Measure What Matters by John Doerr. I have also found the SURJ online resources to be helpful when recognizing embedded racism in my organization and how to be a leader for change.

Amanda Whiteside:

I love Ask A Manager: I think it is helpful for all levels of employees, not only to remind readers of the legal ramifications of management decisions, but also for sanity checks of what is and is not okay in the workplace. Ranging from the funny and outrageous to everyday situations, Alison Green manages to capture what it is like to lead and be led in modern America.

Victoria Walsh:

I have not read many books specifically about leadership; however I studied history and a few books that I read in school and since are important to me for looking at leadership and power from all sides, including looking in the mirror. I think the work and partnership of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony is a very interesting study of leadership styles—in terms of how and why they made the decisions they did as leaders of the Women’s Suffrage Movement in the United States, and as abolitionists. A link here provides a short overview of their collaboration and references for further reading:

Natasha Jesudason:

For my fellow introverts out there, a recent recommendation that came my way is Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. A #1 New York Times Best Seller – it has continued to makes its way onto leadership reading lists. An interesting read that challenges the picture of a traditional leader and explores how to harness skills developed by the quietest voice in the room. Here is a link to a review of the book: Additionally, while not strictly a leadership book, Stephen Klineberg’s Prophetic City (a previous Apra GH Book Club selection) does a wonderful job of telling the story of how good and bad leadership along with other influences shaped the city of Houston.

If you have any recommendations for future Apra Book Club meetings or are an Apra Greater Houston member and would like to write for the blog, please contact us.

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Can we pick your brain?

It’s member survey time! Each year, the APRA-GH board puts out a membership survey to solicit feedback from our members on the previous year’s activities and content. The board works to create new, interesting, and relevant material for our members, and the more members that complete the survey, the better equipped we are to do so. We recognize that there’s a ton of knowledge, connections, and experience among our members, and the survey provides an opportunity for us to diversify our idea-sourcing with suggestions from our membership for lunch & learn topics and speakers. Additionally, we want to know what topics are important to you. What areas of development and research are you interested in learning more about? We try to tailor our topic selection to the most popular areas of interest, and this survey gives you the opportunity to influence future programming. Specific to this year’s survey, we also want to hear your preferences related to attending in-person events versus continuing with virtual events. These are all important questions on which we’d like to hear your thoughts to help us fill out the latter half of 2021 and develop content for 2022 keeping an eye on what is of interest to our members. It’ll only take a couple of minutes to fill out, so please click the link below and share your thoughts with us.

Click here to take our survey!

And don’t forget to mark your calendars for our August Lunch & Learn! We’ve invited Anna Pruitt, Ph.D, Managing Editor of Giving USA with the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy to go over the highlights and takeaways of the Giving USA 2021 report. Mark your calendars for August 26th at noon (CT) and register for the event here.

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I read Decolonizing Wealth, now what?

“The basis of traditional philanthropy is to preserve wealth, and that wealth is fundamentally money that’s been twice stolen, once through the exploitation of natural resources and cheap labor, and the second time, through tax evasion.”

As a part of our Apra Houston book club, we recently read Decolonizing Wealth: Indigenous Wisdom to Heal Divides and Restore Balance by Edgar Villanueva.  This book has been among the most recommended reads for nonprofit professionals since it was published in 2018, but it took on a renewed of importance after the 2020 racial justice protests as the world of philanthropy began to focus more attention to diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives.

For those who have not read Decolonizing Wealth, I highly recommend doing so.  At its core, the book focuses on Villanueva’s career in philanthropy and his self-awakening to the darker side of it.  He began his journey as a program officer for a large foundation and gained a newfound power to effortlessly direct large sums of money to organizations he personally believed in.  The role is prestigious, gives him access to power brokers and gives him the good feelings of working at a nonprofit.  I will not spoil the rest of the book entirely, but that feeling is short-lived.

The book touches on several hard truths that those within the philanthropy world would rather not acknowledge or talk about.  One of these is how wealthy individuals have used foundations for decades to shelter their wealth that would otherwise be taxed and utilized by the government for the public good.  Under the guise of charity, some of today’s biggest foundations allowed their founders to simultaneously avoid taxes and rehabilitate their image in perpetuity. This is not a new phenomenon, given that the Gateses and Bloombergs of today traveled the well-worn path began by the Rockefellers and Carnegies of the past.

Villaneuva couples his professional awakening with his personal experience as a member of the Lumbee tribe. As most indigenous peoples, the Lumbee were oppressed and exploited for generations by the American government, only officially being recognized in 1956. Villanueva uses his unique perspective on oppression and inequity to discuss how the structure of philanthropy in America is working to keep the status quo and what we can do to disrupt the system. To learn more about the Lumbee, visit their official website.

Not to detract too much from Decolonizing Wealth but a great companion article to this topic is the recently published expose on the wealthy and their taxes at ProPublica.

The Secret IRS Files: Trove of Never-Before-Seen Records Reveal How the Wealthiest Avoid Income Tax

Given the problematic history Decolonizing Wealth uncovers, the book introduces the concept and need for community-centered fundraising (CCF).  For me, this book was a great introduction to the concept. At the very least, the main takeaway for the average reader is to learn more about CCF and the differences between that and donor centric fundraising (DCF), the de facto norm.  Several great resources to learn more about this include:

The donor-centered baby and the community centric bathwater: Is an accord between the two philosophies possible?

Community Centric Fundraising

There are numerous pieces about this, so anywhere else your research background takes you

So now what do we do? I think the similarities between exploring community-centered fundraising and being actively anti-racist are striking.  It is fitting that the emphasis on CCF is so aligned with the racial justice issues of 2020.  At the heart of being an anti-racist ally is a checklist centered in educating yourself, acknowledging past wrongs, using privilege to benefit those who do not have it and amplifying the voices of diverse communities to enact substantive change.

That same checklist can easily be used by those of us who work in the philanthropy industry to be a catalyst for change in our industry.  DCF has made a lot of great work possible, but that does not mean it is without fault and should continue to be the standard in our ever-changing world. Alternatively, we can consider a new pathway forward, but that doesn’t necessarily mean CCF is the solution. Possibly instead, having conversations about the merits of the two different approaches can lead to a hybrid model that is more authentic and impactful.  Either way, as we continue to work toward greater equity in the world of philanthropy, we need to acknowledge the need for significant education, strategic planning, and a considerable effort to get diverse representation to the decision-makers’ table, with equal power to champion or veto ideas. The road forward will probably be difficult and messy, but that is why each of us work in the nonprofit industry—to change the world; not to simply uplift the status quo.

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What’s normal?: Taking care of yourself and getting back to work during challenging times

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Well, 2021 seems to be challenging 2020 at every turn for the title of “Year We’d Most Like To Forget.” The last two months have been full of violence, new Covid variants, and—for Houstonians—Winter Storm Uri. Winter. Storm. Uri. On the list of things that could have derailed us this year, we’re pretty sure the state of Texas freezing over was not on there. Amidst all these challenges, how do you stay resilient? How do you take care of yourself and your loved ones?

Self-care and resiliency take time and it’s a process that doesn’t always come to us naturally. Needless to say, it is not as easy as flipping a switch. In the Harvard Business Review article, “The Secret to Building Resilience,” authors Rob Cross, Karen Dillon, and Danna Greenberg suggest that resilience comes from a strong network.

<p id="apragh-march2021-blog" value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80">According to Cross, Dillon, and Greenberg, the benefits of maintaining a network of strong relationships as cited in their January 2021 article include:According to Cross, Dillon, and Greenberg, the benefits of maintaining a network of strong relationships as cited in their January 2021 article include:

  • Helping us shift work or manage surges
  • Helping us to make sense of people or politics in a given situation
  • Helping us find the confidence to push back and self advocate
  • Helping us see a path forward
  • Providing empathic support so we can release negative emotions
  • Helping us to laugh at ourselves and the situation
  • Reminding us of the purpose or meaning in our work
  • Broadening us as individuals so that we maintain perspective when setbacks happen

*Click here to continue reading the January 2021 HBR article.

In addition to reaching out to your network, here are a few things your board members have done to keep us grounded and help improve our ability to bounce back:

Brittani Williams, President

“2021 has held both personal and professional challenges that I couldn’t have foreseen despite all the trials 2020 threw at us all. For me being authentic has been my key to resilience.  In the professional sense, it is having the self-awareness to not raise my hand to help with projects not aligned with my goals and truly committing to taking something off of my plate before agreeing to new things.  I still struggle with this, but being aware of my personal levels of burnout helps to make me pause and truthfully think through my commitments before adding more to my plate. Personally, reconnecting with hobbies that I had pushed aside for several years because of graduate school, work or any number of excuses has helped me unwind.  From exploring new places such as Houston Botanical Gardens to reconnecting with old favorites like Terry Hershey Park, being outdoors has always helped me find my balance.  Additionally, reconnecting with one of my oldest hobbies and reading about wizarding worlds (yes I’m late to the party) or the incredibly moving wisdom of Oprah also helps me refresh, refocus and persist.”

Ashley Estes, Vice President:

“When I start to feel overwhelmed—either at work or in my personal life—I always try to find some time in the coming days or weeks to set aside for myself. Depending on the flavor of overwhelmed that I’m experiencing, I will either use that time to strategically prioritize the many tasks on my plate for work, find a friend or colleague to vent about the thing(s) that is bothering me and get their perspective, or sometimes it’s just treating myself to baked treats and giving myself an at-home facial. I find that I allow myself to be pulled in a lot of different directions and I give a lot of myself to my friends, family, husband, and colleagues. With age comes wisdom, and I’ve definitely learned that if I don’t block off time for myself, it will not come. People will not stop asking things of me, and unless I prioritize myself every-once-in-a-while, I will crumble. One of my favorite adages is “you can’t pour from an empty cup.” Prioritizing self-care It doesn’t mean always putting yourself first. It just means staying in tune with yourself and your mental state and committing some time for just you when it’s needed.”

Amanda Whiteside, Treasurer

“A huge part of what has kept me grounded and ready to handle the world at large this year has been therapy. I have off and on gone to therapy for a variety of reasons, but this past year especially it was helpful with navigating all of the changes my, and everyone else’s, world went through. I am not the best at taking time for myself and making time for self-care, but having someone point out where I could be making healthier choices for myself is invaluable in reminding me to take time out of the day to check in with myself. Additionally, I find that having an appointment on the books forces me to figure out what my concerns and priorities are in a more proactive manner instead of dealing with issues as they arise. Also, as one of the very few good things about COVID, most therapists now have virtual options making it even more accessible than ever before. “

Brian Lacy, Member-at-Large:

“I’ve been married to my wife for more than 15 years.  Lisa and I have experienced more hardships than one might wish on a rival.  Perhaps it comes as no surprise then, that my self-care plan features my wonderful spouse.  As a pulmonary critical care doctor, Lisa treats COVID-positive patients daily.  For almost 15 years, Lisa has only taken two weekends off each month.  To this grueling seventy-five hours per week schedule, Lisa has added dozens of additional night shifts so that other critical care doctors can have time off.  It’s a lot.  Too much for her some weeks.  It makes my sixty hours per week schedule pale in comparison, and yet the pandemic has worn me down at times.  So, what have we done?  We have added a consistent weekly Wednesday date night to our schedules.  Rain, shine, and even in 50-degree temperatures, you will find us on the patio outside On The Kirb enjoying their brilliant steak night.  It’s been more than a year since we’ve eaten inside any restaurant.  We are thankful Houston is blessed with so many patios, but we are practically like Norm and Cliff from Cheers where this one patio is concerned.  We’ve also purchased PAPR devices making us more comfortable about air travel and sneaking away for weekend trips and one longer trip.  I’m lucky to have someone in my life and that we enjoy each other’s exclusive company.”

Victoria Walsh, Member-at-large:          

“Something my parents tried to teach us is to “watch out for the shoulda coulda wouldas.” In other words, steer clear of the Monday morning quarterbacking we can do to ourselves.  Especially this last year when it seems like we’ve been faced with a lot of confusing judgement calls, I’ve been invoking that advice.  I really try to make the best choice with what information I’ve got, and move on. Second-guessing is very draining. It is better to put that energy into making your next decision.”

Natasha Jesudason, Communications and Marketing Director:

“For both my professional and personal life, maintaining good communication has been vital. This means staying in touch with my teammates and working together to prioritize projects and manage expectations. This allows me to use my bandwidth for the “must do” projects. On a personal level, staying connected with friends and family has also been important. I have regularly scheduled Zoom meetings or FaceTime calls, including a weekly Zoom Bible study with friends that live out of town and I would not normally see. It’s been a positive experience, not just the study itself as I find faith to be an anchor in these chaotic times, but also the opportunity to get to be a part of each other’s lives as if hundreds of miles did not separate us. Additionally, allowing myself time to decompress has been important. This means setting a shutdown time and shutdown process for myself. This does not always happen, but I try to stick to setting a time that I am putting work away for the evening. The last thing I do before shutting down is tier my project list and create a to-do list for the next day. Once I’ve shutdown, you will find me taking a walk, watching Netflix or playing video games. Anyone else, furiously building an island refuge via Nintendo Switch’s Animal Crossing New Horizons?”

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The Year We’ve Had

Your 2020 Apra Greater Houston Board. Top Row (left to right): Ashley Estes, Natasha Jesudason, and Amanda Whiteside. Bottom row (left to right): Brittani Williams, Victoria Walsh, and Brian Lacy.

November means many things to many people. Thanksgiving. Fall. A continued pass for all things pumpkin spice. If Hallmark Christmas movies are your thing, you have probably skipped ahead to lights, trees, and gingerbread houses. In an election year, November is a time to make your voice heard. With the election and leadership fresh on our minds and the end of year so close, November has the Apra Greater Houston board in a reflective mood. We wanted to share with all of you what it has meant to us to serve you in 2020:

“Serving on the Apra Greater Houston board has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my professional career.  Being in a leadership role with Apra GH, I’ve been able to personally grow my leadership skills and shape programing that is relevant to the Houston community.  Being able to connect with others within the Houston area who do what I do has been invaluable for me as I’ve moved from working on a prospect development team to being a team of one. In a profession where there is a limited amount of general knowledge (most of us ‘fell’ into prospect development) it is helpful to have that core group of people to bounce ideas off of.  And last but certainly not least, I’ve personally made a whole host of lifelong friends.”  – Brittani Williams, President

“This was my first year serving on the APRA GH board, so I was pretty clueless. The veteran board members immediately welcomed us newbies into the group, providing all of the guidance and training we needed to hit the ground running. While 2020 threw nearly all of our plans in the garbage, working with my fellow board members to figure out how we could adjust our plans to still provide valuable content to our membership was a highlight of this year for me. Serving on the board has allowed me to connect with my peers on a deeper level, and I am a better prospect researcher and leader because of those connections.”  – Ashley Estes, Secretary

“Serving on the board of Apra Greater Houston has been an amazing experience. I joined the board just a few years into my career as a prospect development professional. Outside of the professional development that Apra Greater Houston provides, having a sounding board of peers that I see and talk with regularly has been invaluable.  I feel that my time as an Apra board member has pushed me out of my comfort zone in ways that have grown professional skills that I would not be normally developing in my day to day job. I have dipped my toe into public speaking with moderating panels, something which I would have never pictured myself doing previously. Serving on the board has been a highlight for me as every individual on the board brings their own unique skillsets and interests. The board really gives everyone the opportunity to do what they are comfortable with, while also encouraging each other to grow and expand their skills. I know I am a better prospect development professional because of my experiences on the board.” – Amanda Whiteside, Treasurer

“It has been my absolute pleasure to serve on the 2020 Apra Greater Houston Board. As an introvert, leading has pushed me out of my comfort zone. This was my first year serving, which was challenging due to, well, 2020. However, the beauty of board service is that you are not alone. It’s been lovely to be a part of the 2020 Apra GH team. I have enjoyed getting to know our chapter members and am so grateful for the friendships that I’ve made. It is wonderful to have a network of people who fully understand the joys and challenges of our field. I have learned so much being a member and hope all of you have as well. If you haven’t had the opportunity to visit with Brittani, Amanda, Ashley, Brian, and Victoria, get to know them. They are awesome!” – Natasha Jesudason, Marketing & Communications Director

“I’ve enjoyed my time serving on the APRA Greater Houston Board.  I find my fellow Board Members to be friendly, bright and professional.  I’ve enjoyed learning from them, and being in the know, about research developments across Houston and the country.  The team approach taken to all of the work of the board has meant that my responsibilities have never felt overwhelming.  I hope anyone interested will consider board service.  They won’t be disappointed.”  Brian Lacy, Board Member At-Large

“The never-dull 2019-2020 season is my first serving on the APRA Greater Houston board. Though I have been a member of two different APRA chapters in my career, I had never served on the board before. This opportunity has pushed me to refresh my skills as a mid-career professional and learn many new skills. Board service with APRA has added depth to the way I feel about my chosen career of prospect research because it has required me to think about the profession from the outside—what does it need, how can it grow, what do I like about it? I have felt more connected to my daily job because of my board service—through our board meetings, strategic planning and event pre- and post-discussions, I have a chance to reflect and evaluate the kind of professional I am and want to be. Moreover, I have picked up numerous tips, tricks and wise nuggets from my fellow board members on topics like selecting speakers, obtaining event sponsors, creating a blog, using a registration platform, running a board meeting and more. One of the things that I’ve been reminded about through this experience is just how smart, clever, diverse and interesting prospect researchers are!  Our APRA Greater Houston board is a group of exceptional people with mad skills who work hard, make me laugh, and want to make a difference in our profession and in the world. Whether you are new to the field, or have been at it a while like me, I encourage you to consider joining the APRA Greater Houston board.” – Victoria Walsh, 2020 Board Member At-Large

If you are interested in becoming more active with the Apra Greater Houston Chapter, join us at our next event, our Fall meeting for our informal Apra Greater Houston Book Club on November 18, 2020. Click here for details and registration. If you would like to volunteer or nominate someone to the board, please contact us. We will be accepting nominations until November 20, 2020, and elections will be held via online survey from November 30 – December 10, 2020.

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