Author Archives: Tracy

About Tracy

I'm an easy-going, fun girl that enjoys hanging out with friends and family.

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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