Author Archives: aprahouston

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

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

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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How the Apra Greater Houston Board Spent Their Summer

Summer is officially in our rear view as temperatures drop and the school year is well on its way. While summer looked quite different with the lack of travel plans, trips to the pool, and many other seasonal activities, the Apra Greater Houston Board did not abandon our beach reading list (really, our backyard or living room reading list), and in fact, supplemented it with a selection that helped us get to know our city better and reflect on where we have been and where we are going as a community. The book that has us talking is Prophetic City: Houston on the Cusp of a Changing America by Stephen L. Klineberg.

So, what did we think?:

“As a lifelong Houstonian, I was surprised at how much I was still able to learn about the history of our city from Klineberg. While today, Houston is an incredibly diverse and fairly progressive city, Prophetic City highlights the history of discrimination that shaped much of the city we know today. Things like how as recent as 1980, there were open sewers in the black communities of Houston; and how 5th Ward was purposely bisected by the construction of I-10 and Hwy 59, cutting off downtown access and further isolating those minority communities. The story of the police murder of Vietnam veteran Jose Campos Torres in 1977 where the cops were convicted but given probation and fined $1 sounds all too similar to the many stories of police brutality against people of color that we’re still grappling with today. The studies that Klineberg and his students began in 1981 show how common racist views were not that long ago, but also show surprisingly progressive views like environmental protection and gay rights. It’s fun to read about how we as a city have changed over the last four decades, in both positive and negative ways. “ – Ashley Estes, Apra Greater Houston Board Secretary

“Fascinating! While Houston is home, I did not realize how much more there was to the city’s story. I loved reading about the familiar names we know as Houstonians, like Jesse H. Jones, but excited to learn about the ones I didn’t know as well like the Suite 8F Crowd. If you ever wondered how we earned the title of “the sinkhole and pothole capital of America,” Klineberg covers that as well. He does not pull the punches, quick to highlight where we have fallen short as a community, along with celebrating the best parts of who we are. I have always felt that Houston was a special place, and Klineberg does a wonderful job explaining why.” – Natasha Jesudason, Apra Greater Houston Board Marketing & Communication Director

“As a native Houstonian, I was pleasantly surprised at how much information I didn’t know before reading Prophetic City.  I was most fascinated by learning how much philanthropy shaped Houston.  The philosophy of the early Houston leaders was that government (and specifically taxes) should be minimal and civic leaders needed to also donate time, money, and effort, so that burgeoning cultural institutions could flourish.  Their reasoning was not as altruistic as it seems on face value, but it was effective.  More cultural offerings meant more people wanted to move to Houston and business could also thrive.  But that philosophy of helping others and leading the charge on adding cultural institutions has continued to thrive 180+ years after Houston’s founding.  In addition to that, learning about how Stephen Klineberg’s annual study came to fruition and some of his key findings over years was fascinating to me as a researcher.” – Brittani Williams, Apra Greater Houston Board President

The Board’s informal book club was so much fun that we would like to invite you to join us. Our Fall selection is Biased by Jennifer L. Eberhardt. Watch your inboxes for an opportunity to meet virtually in November to discuss the book.

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New Year, New You

Happy New Year Apra Greater Houston members!

If you are anything like me, once all my new year celebrations officially end around MLK Day (why celebrate one day when you can celebrate for two weeks), dread about new year resolutions I’ve made begins to creep into my psyche.  Some of my personal resolutions include the typical ones such as being healthier and reading more books, but as president of Apra Greater Houston, my personal resolution involves all of you.  But before I share 2020 goals, I’d like to celebrate the successes of 2019.

In late 2018 the board held our first (in a long time) retreat meeting in order to plan 2019 programming.  Our ambitious goal was to plan an event for every month as well as outline our annual conference goals. In recent history, the chapter’s programming was limited to the annual conference and one or two other events throughout the year, which is not unusual for most chapters around the country.  

We sought to increase the number of events as well as bring programming that was relevant to Greater Houston area, which is pretty unique. Houston consists of development organizations big and small; organizations that span from healthcare to zoos; and organizations at varying stages of prospect development sophistication.  We largely accomplished this goal, more than doubling the number of events we held in the previous year and increasing the average number of attendees at our events. Our annual conference had the highest number of attendees in the last four years, a number I’m particularly proud of.  In addition to these goals, we refreshed our website, and social media pages (please add us if you haven’t already!); absorbed the membership of Apra Central/South Texas; and were highlighted in Apra Connections, Apra International’s online magazine.

We couldn’t have accomplished these goals without our membership, so thank you for joining, renewing and attending our events! A special thanks goes out to every member that has given us feedback and our tireless, volunteer-driven board who has worked hard to schedule our events as well as every presenter that spoke at our meetings. Truly, thank you.  

Though it is #newyearnewdecade, my goals for Apra GH remain the same, with a few new challenges.   

In addition to continuing the high level of programming and conference attendance of 2019, I would like to empower those in our profession to become better ambassadors for prospect development. My approach to this goal is two-pronged.  First, I would like to grow our organization’s outreach to the many universities in the area to introduce the prospect development/fundraising career to the next generation.  A commonly shared anecdote amongst many of us is that we “fell” into development. I’d like to help make that career choice more intentional for Generation Z, which by many accounts is supposed to be the most philanthropically savvy generation. Secondly, I would like to encourage YOU to be more involved with Apra. That’s right – you reading this blog right now! If your 2020 goals include professional development, we are the place where you can present, write a blog, join a committee or connect with other members to gain expertise.  If you don’t want to do any of those things, but still would like to get involved in other ways, email me.  The goes to my phone and I check it on a regular basis.

Finally, if the way you would like to grow your professional development is simply by showing up, please do so. Our next events that are currently scheduled are on February 26th, March 24th and our annual conference on May 28th, so mark your calendars! I look forward to seeing you there! 

Brittani Williams, President

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Foresight is 2020! Get a jump on the decade with these tips from industry pro Helen Brown Group.

Sunrise 2020, Japan

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A peek behind the curtain…



If you have access to Inside Philanthropy, check out this recent article highlighting the role of Prospect Development!

What to know before you ask: Talking shop with a veteran prospect researcher


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Happy 4th of July! – Upcoming Events



Happy 4th of July!

Due to the holiday our regular Apra email will go out next week, but save the date for a few events!

  • July 17th – Retaining Mega Donors Lunch and Learn
  • August 1st – Apra Texas (Greater Houston & North Texas Chapters) Happy Hour at Prospect Development in Phoenix

Have a safe and happy holiday!

-Apra Greater Houston board


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Throwback Thursday

Another Apra GH annual conference is in the books!

Thank you again to our sponsors, volunteers, presenters and most importantly attendees!  If you attended and haven’t completed your post-conference survey sent out on Tuesday, please do so.  We’d like to make the 2020 conference even bigger and better!

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Take a peak at our annual conference speakers!

Still on the fence about attending our annual conference on May 23rd? Check out our amazing presenters!


Roslyn P. Clarke is the director of prospect research services, on the BWF Insight team. She manages all outsourced research projects, leads a team of researchers, conducts trainings, and provides prospect research counsel.

Before joining BWF Insight, Roslyn served as director of prospect research at Morehouse College and assistant director at Harvard University, where she was responsible for education and training for development research and specialized in the financial industry. At Harvard, Roslyn also lead research efforts for the principal gifts team and New York fundraising region while working to educate gift officers on wealth and philanthropic trends. Prior to Harvard, Roslyn worked at Brown University and Hebrew SeniorLife.

Roslyn is a seasoned conference speaker, frequent conference faculty member, and has conducted countless prospect research bootcamps. Over the years, she has presented for Apra, CASE, NEDRA, and AFP.

Elizabeth C. Hickman is the vice president at Thompson & Associates.  Elizabeth has over 35 years in the financial services world.  She brings significant trust and wealth management experience to the team. Her knowledge of family and estate-planning issues, wealth preservation and wealth transfer, added to her expertise in private foundations, charitable trusts and the needs of the nonprofit sector, enhance the team’s abilities to meet the needs of its clients. 

Active in the charitable community, Elizabeth has served on the boards of both local and national organizations, while serving on numerous professional advisors boards for Houston nonprofits.

She has taught at the Advanced Trust School of the Texas Bankers Association on subjects relating to charitable trusts and private foundations. She earned the Five Star Wealth Manager designation for seven consecutive years.

Elizabeth is a proud sixth generation Texan. She is married for over 20 years to Greg and currently lives in Houston. They are active in their church, where they have both served in various leadership positions. They enjoy using their gifts of hospitality with family, friends and strangers. They love to read, travel and are passionate about encouraging others to live generous lives.

Mike Pede, AVP for Alumni Relations at UH, enters his 10th year in service to UHAA. A 1989 graduate of UH’s Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management, Mike and his wife, fellow UH graduate Melanie Stinson Pede (’91), are UHAA Life Members and the proud parents of daughters Kelsey (’17) and Krista (Class of ‘21) . Mike has served or currently serves on advisory boards for Bank of America and Liberty Mutual alumni affinity programs, and Council of Alumni Association Executives. He also has served CASE as Chair of the 2017 CASE IV Conference and as Programming Chair for the 2014 Conference in Houston. Also a member of the global CASE Commission on Alumni Relations. Mike also serves on committees at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, Greater Houston Basketball Committee and the Texas Bowl. He is in his third term as Chair of the American Athletic Conference Alumni Council and is a past board member of the National Association of Collegiate Marketing Administrators.

Following graduation Mike served in several capacities at UH Athletics from 1989-1993, before serving 13 years as Assistant and Associate AD for Rice University. Beginning in 2006, Mike was in private business for three years and also extended his resume as VP of North American Music for LiveNation in Houston. Now Associate VP for Alumni Relations at UH, Mike has been leading UH alumni relations programs since rejoining his alma mater in 2010 with UHAA. In whatever time is left, he enjoys spending quality time with his family, golf and travel.

Mark Walcott is the Executive Director, Advancement Information Systems, Reporting, and Analytics at the University of Houston. Mark has over 9 years of experience in advancement services where he has transformed various aspects of Illinois State University, University of Houston, and University of California, Davis. His vision for the profession is to continue to find innovative ways to enhance the relationship between an organization and its donors, constituents, and friends.

Mark also serves on the board of directors for AASP.

Register here for the annual conference today!


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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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