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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