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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APRA-GH board position nominations open

APRA Greater Houston is accepting nominations for our 2016 board officers.  The job of these board officers is to conduct the business side of the chapter and make sure we operate within the guidelines outlined in our corporate bylaws.

APRA-GH members and friends are invited to submit nominations (including self-nominations) for the following board officer positions:

  • President-Elect
  • Treasurer
  • Secretary
  • Membership & Communications Chair.

Submit nominations to until September 24th and board officer elections will follow in October.


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Bookmark this – stokpic

My favorite online graphic design resource has just gone corporate and their former supply of free photographic background imagery has evaporated.  So I have had to start casting about for new sources.  Happily, I discovered stokpic.  It’s too awesome not to share!




This online library of beautiful photographs was founded by photographer Ed Gregory and it’s free for use on websites, on social media posts, and more.  I am overjoyed!

Click on the thumbnails above to explore for yourself!



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The value of storyboarding

I’ve been using the phrase “think it through” a lot in conversations with my manager recently.  All of us are working through business questions and some of these questions are more complex than they appear on the surface.  As an analyst, I need to set aside time to think through my work approach and also my work product approach.  How am I going to communicate the information I find in a way that’s easy for everyone else to understand?




In the past year I’ve been sketching more and more and I’ve been reading more articles that seem to emphasize this low-tech approach to organizing your thoughts before starting to compile a work product.  Makes sense to me.


Here’s a slide deck from Mico Yuk from this year’s PASS Business Analytics Conference discussing storyboarding.


In all honesty, I’ve been looking for a “how-to” storyboard guide for my own use for a while now and haven’t found one.  In my quest to advance my skills I start with a measurement that I’ve been asked to communicate:  the headline.  Then I start asking myself questions about that measurement.  The kind of questions I would expect other people to be curious about — the kind of questions I’m curious about myself.  Then I conduct more analyses to get the answers and incorporate them in the same space, supporting the headline, using visual, easy-to-understand icons whenever possible.


Paper and pen is my best friend for sketching out the order in which the reader will see and digest information.


My journey toward data visualization enlightenment is still in progress, but with a little help from the experts and friends like you, I keep moving forward.  Please share your data viz success story with me if you would!



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Happy Labor Day


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by | September 7, 2015 · 8:08 am