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  • 01/19/2022 7:35 PM | Jennifer (Administrator)

    In a time of great uncertainty, it’s hard to know what lies ahead – but we do know that the world is changing, and philanthropy will certainly change with it. That’s why “Generation Impact: How Next Gen Donors are Revolutionizing Giving” felt like a particularly timely selection for our Apra Carolinas book discussion group. According to the authors, the Gen X and Millennial (and soon Gen Z!) philanthropists are looking to “disrupt” the world of charitable giving.

    What does that mean, for us and for them? Well, here are some key takeaways from the book and questions to ponder moving forward:

    • These donors want to see the IMPACT of their donations (or at least indicators of progress towards a goal).

    Question: How does your organization show the impact of donor gifts? Is there a way that you can communicate that more effectively, especially if your fundraising focus is on something that is hard to quantify?

    • They want to upend philanthropic norms and “change systems, not treat symptoms.”

    Question: Is your organization addressing overarching societal issues (access to healthcare, education, clean water, etc.)? If not, can you show how your organization may help alleviate more systemic problems?

    • They want to focus on fewer organizations rather than spreading their gifts around and would prefer to work with smaller organizations where their donation can have a big impact.

    Question: If you work at a larger organization, how can you highlight specific programs where a philanthropic gift would make a significant (and/or immediate) difference?

    • They are focused on “giving while living” – they want to see their donations working now and are less interested in bequests/estate gifts.

    Question: How can you frame the impact of planned gifts beyond leaving a legacy? (An example might be suggesting that their gift could inspire others in their network to be philanthropic, or that an estate gift could make a larger impact over time than an immediate gift now.)

    • They want to use new approaches to giving beyond standard donations, like impact investing, microloans, and crowdfunding.

    Question: Does your organization offer any of these options? Would it be feasible to work with next gen donors to create fresh funding ideas that appeal to them?

    • They want to help beyond just writing a check – to contribute their time and expertise in meaningful ways and leverage their networks to help as well.

    Question: What options do you have for donor engagement beyond serving on a board or planning/hosting an event? Do you have any experiential learning opportunities or intensive volunteer activities that could allow them to use their skills?

    • They don’t see family giving as a hierarchy. They want to be a member of a multi-generational, multi-branch team that works together, and not just follow the lead of those that came before them.

    Question: How does your organization approach inherited wealth and family giving? Do you engage with children of wealth differently (and separately) from their parents? How can you cultivate and solicit the family in a way that appeals to all its members?

    That’s just some of the highlights. The real-life next gen donor interviews were particularly insightful, though (in my opinion) it would have been helpful to also hear some stories from fundraisers or even family members of different generations and how they have experienced working with these individuals. There will be a learning curve ahead but thinking strategically about these things now will give you a great head start!

    I’d highly recommend reading this book if you’re interested in finding out more. As a member benefit, we are offering copies to the first thirty members that fill out our Google Form. Please do check it out and start planning for the future of fundraising.

    -Merissa Lawson (Immediate Past President, Apra Carolinas)

  • 10/04/2021 8:21 AM | Daniel Moody (Administrator)



    With October as Cyber Security Awareness month, there’s no better time to dive into what it means to be digitally secure and to listen to feedback from experts in the tech-world.  In a constantly moving and advancing digital world, it’s more important now than ever to make sure devices are secure whether it’s for personal or business use. There have been several big-ticket instances in the past few years where malicious scammers have broken through company security forces and held software for ransom, stole sensitive client information, phished passwords from high ranking officials, and various other attacks.

    One might hastily think “were these attacks avoidable?” The answer probably isn’t as easy as just saying “yes,” but using better methods for security from the groundwork up certainly could help reduce risk. Sometimes, these deviant occurrences are unavoidable, and the user or company is targeted for no particular reason. Other times, the user may have inadvertently compromised their own device, or worse yet, their business’ whole system.  Let’s look at some tips that industry experts have offered to prevent these instances from occurring in the first place.




    1.       Xavier Mertens, Freelance Cyber Security Consultant & Owner at Xameco recommends several tips and tricks. For one, he urges users to enable 2-factor authentication if offered by the service. Using a password manager can also help to declutter an old-school notebook for trying to remember all previous passwords and is innately more secure. Xavier also believes users should keep their devices and software as up-to-date as possible. This includes not just phones and computers, but also modems, smart TVs, and any access point that is routinely used. Lastly, Xavier believes that the end user should always ask the question: why? If something might sound too good to be true when a stranger offers something, it probably is. Don’t answer or offer information if you don’t understand the request or if you don’t even know the entity asking.


    2.       Lee Munson, Senior Technical Writer at McAffee believes that the common practice of using the same password for every website and service is an “extremely risk behavior” which can be used by the attacker to have, in essence, “gained access to your entire digital world.” Lee further states that many individuals are too trusting and might click on a link found in an email even if they aren’t familiar with the sender. His advice is to not do this, ever. His last tip for cyber security is to be careful what you are downloading. Since so many downloads are freely available today, users often become a little nonchalant about where they are downloading resources from. Lee says to think twice about where you’re downloading from and to ensure that the website has a ‘padlock’ icon or a URL beginning with https://.

    3.       Kelly Jackson Higgins, the Executive Editor at Dark Reading, strongly encourages all internet users to browse using a VPN connection, or a virtual private network. She believes that this is applicable whether you are using a corporate network, Wi-Fi Network, or a public wired network. Kelly indicates that even though many corporate employers use VPNs for their users, it’s helpful for individuals to use this outside of work as well, even on mobile devices. Kelly agrees with Xavier in that it’s important for users to keep all applications up-to-date with the latest patches and even goes further to say that it can be beneficial to use less-targeted browser option. Ms. Higgins believes that a final key to web security is the creation of a strong and complex password and remembering to change them often and to never reuse them.



    These tips and tricks from industry experts might sound easy, but can just anyone learn how to become more cyber-secure? The answer is yes; not only is there plenty of advice on this topic found through legitimate sources, but there are also courses developed specifically for cyber security. For example, Clark State College offers six free Cyber Security courses offered to any individual interested in advancing their knowledge of cyber security without having to be a student. LinkedIn Learning also offers a free, 30-day trial for courses which include various Cyber Security topics including security & risk management, cloud computing, and the basic foundations of cyber security.


    In one sense, you can view cyber security training and prowess as a benefit to yourself directly, gathering knowledge that will protect your devices and your own wellbeing. However, becoming fluent in cyber security will actually benefit you, your place of employment, your future, your past, and even help to bolster your resume within this digital age where using technology is not a step of the job but a requirement. There aren’t many good reasons to not be knowledgeable about cyber security in the year 2021. Use this month’s blog post as a reminder to update your applications, change your passwords, and do not open any suspicious links!




    Zaharia, A. (2021, May 25). 50+ internet security tips & tricks from top experts. Heimdal Security Blog. Retrieved September 28, 2021, from https://heimdalsecurity.com/blog/security-experts-roundup/.
  • 09/22/2021 10:13 AM | Anonymous

    About 2021’s Professional Development Scholarship Winner: Bridgette Holley, Advancement Researcher and Advisor at HOPE International, was the 2021 Apra Carolinas Professional Development Scholarship winner. She used her scholarship dollars to purchase recorded sessions from Apra University and the PD2020 Virtual Conference.

    About HOPE International: HOPE International is a faith-based non-profit that provides underserved and impoverished individual and businesses with savings services, microloans, and small business loans to restore dignity and break the cycle of poverty in underdeveloped nations.

    About Apra Carolinas Grants & Scholarships: We strive to put professional development in reach of all Apra Carolinas Members, without the limitations of their organization’s professional development budget. The Professional Development Scholarship is a $1,500 award available annually to any Apra Carolinas member to cover professional development by Apra International or Apra Carolinas. Our 2022 Application will open 1/1/2022.

    Additionally, we offer a Road Trip Grant ($300) to cover travel expenses for an Apra Carolinas member to travel to another organization for the day to learn about procedures, a specific project, or some other Prospect Development related topic. In response to COVID, we also opened a membership scholarship; a merit-based scholarship that considers financial need. Awardees will have their annual membership dues covered by Apra Carolinas - unlocking all of the Apra Carolinas programming for the calendar year. Details about these awards can be found on our Scholarships and Grants page.

    The Interview

    Tell us a little about yourself. How long have you been doing prospect development?

    Almost four years. My first advancement services role was from 2008 to 2011. I was hired as a prospect research analyst at North Carolina State University along with four other analysts. Our manager was director of prospect research at the time. Before we came on, she was a one-person shop. I was tasked primarily with helping validate the results of a database screening during the public phase of the university’s first $1 billion campaign. I also did research on individuals, corporations, and foundations. There was another division focused on prospect management, so my work was strictly research.

    I joined HOPE International in December 2020, nearly 10 years after my previous experience in prospect development. There is an advisor component to my role, so for the first time, I am involved in consulting with front-line development staff about data analytics and management in addition to research.

    What does prospect development mean to you?

    We all have God-given gifts, talents, and abilities to steward well. I would say the highest area of stewardship is relationship. I define my role in prospect development as helping people grow intentional relationships in a healthy and sustainable way that honors Jesus Christ. I love working with data, particularly making connections, like seeing how patterns in historical data can inform future decision-making.

    How did you use your professional development scholarship?

    I know the value of APRA conferences, having attended, "Envisioning the Future, Leading the Change" in Denver, CO in 2008. Nevertheless, I decided not to attend the virtual conference this year knowing that had nearly a decade of change in the industry to catch up on. I used my scholarship for on-demand learning through APRA University to get up to speed.

    Do you have a favorite on-demand learning session?

    I purchased a few standalone sessions, and a couple of bundled sessions centered around a common theme. My favorite is the 2020 Plug In to Campaigns Recordings Bundle.

    What is one thing your organization is doing really well and you felt affirmed in while viewing any of the sessions?

    There was a session in the bundle about the Importance of innovation, intentionality, and risk in virtual engagement. I felt affirmed that HOPE pivoted exceptionally well as an organization when everything went virtual in 2020. Many of the things discussed have been implemented.

    Is there anything that you’d like to implement at your organization as a direct result of experiencing APRA University?

    Creating a prospect development road map using the pattern from this presentation, basically a framework for change based on input from various stakeholders and observations. Combined with my understanding of agile principles, like the concept of a minimum viable product, it would be a living framework. So you see, some things we might dream of doing could be tried using tools we already have in our hands instead of waiting for the perfect database object.

    How would you recommend that the next recipient of the scholarship use their funding?

    Think about the roadmap of your year. Decide what type of learning is most needed for the short-term so that you can apply it immediately with the hope that its effect will have long-term benefits for you and your organization.

  • 07/14/2021 5:14 PM | Jennifer (Administrator)

    For our July blog post, we wanted to tackle the topic of Donor Advised Funds and talk about the open proposal to change the way these funds function.

    What is a DAF?

    The short answer is a Donor Advised Fund (DAF) is a money-earning holding account focused on charitable contributions that allow a donor to receive an immediate tax benefit, without immediately gifting the money to charity. A donor can contribute assets (e.g., cash, cryptocurrency, liquid assets, etc.) to the account and receive the immediate tax benefit, but the assets remain in the account and are distributed to charitable organizations over time. The donor loses direct ownership of the funds but can advise – over time – where the funds should be distributed. The over time portion is important, because these funds are allowed to grow tax-free within the DAF account. While the DAF can continue to grow, the donor only receives the tax benefits on the amount initially contributed during the tax year the assets were added to the fund.

    Leonardo Dicaprio Cheers Meme - Imgflip

    For example…

    Let’s say a donor was given stock in their company and they are retiring this year. They paid $0 for the stock, which is now worth $25,000. To avoid a capital gains tax of $3,750 they decide to put the stock into the DAF, which nets them a tax deduction of $6,000.[1] These stocks go into the DAF and they can decide when and where they would like to charitably transfer the stock in the future. Conversely, if they sold the stock and gave the proceeds to charity, they would end up being taxed the capital gains ($3,750), the non-profit would only receive $21,250, thus the donor tax deduction would be lowered to $5,100, which nets them a personal tax benefit of $1,350.

    TL;DR …

    (1)    $25,000 → keep → pay $3,750 capital gains tax
    (2)    $25,000 → DAF → receive $6,000 tax deduction
    (3)    $25,000 → sell → pay $3,750 capital gains tax → donate remainder ($21,250) to charity of choice → receive $5,100 deduction (net tax benefit: $1,350)

    DAFs also allow donors to make grants anonymously, though many continue to tie their name to the grants. The important part is that they can contribute to their DAF, receive an immediate tax benefit, and their contribution is set aside solely for charitable uses that they can select for an indefinite period of time.

    DAF grantmaking

    According to the National Philanthropic Trust’s 2020 Donor-Advised Fund Report, for the tenth consecutive year, DAFs grew in every key metric. Grants from DAFs accounted for over $25 billion in 2019, which was a 93% increase from 2015. From 2018 to 2019 the assets held in DAFs increased 16.2% to $141.95 billion. That is nearly 142 billion philanthropic dollars not in the hands of charitable organizations. The average size of a DAF account has continued to decrease since 2016, currently averaging around $162,556. The decrease in average size has been attributed, in part, to DAF accounts gaining in popularity, the emergence of employer-sponsored DAF accounts, and many organizations requiring no contribution minimums. This allows donors to open and maintain accounts at a smaller level.

    The report projects that “grantmaking from DAFs to charitable organizations will continue to grow at an extremely high rate in the next Donor-Advised Fund Report.” It points to the global pandemic response as well as racial justice and other urgent issues from 2020 as a driving force for DAF grantmaking.

    What is changing?

    Currently nothing, but there is an active proposal from the Initiative to Accelerate Charitable Giving (IACG) which is targeting that over time portion we discussed. The proposal is hoping to free up the money currently sitting in DAFs and close the loophole that allows them to be, in essence, mini endowments. To free up these dollars, the proposal suggests creating two different types of DAF accounts with different tax benefits – sort of like an IRA vs. Roth-IRA account structure focusing on tax benefits rather than penalties.

    1.       15-year DAF: Retains the current tax benefit structure, but the funds must be distributed within 15 years.  
    2.       Aligned Benefit Rule: Allows the funds to be distributed over a longer time frame, but the donor only receives the income tax deduction once the funds have been distributed.

    Why should you care?

    Donors who gift via their DAF have a belief in philanthropy and are likely savvy philanthropists. After all, they set aside a specific amount of money to be used toward philanthropy, and there is no tax advantage to be gained or lost by keeping money in the DAF. So – what kind of difference can they make at your organization by investing in your cause? Almost $142 billion is currently invested in DAFs – imagine the impact a portion of that could make if invested at your organization.

    Looking forward

    Whether or not the IACG proposal is accepted as law, it appears that DAF giving will continue to remain a popular choice among donors. If you do not currently have a plan in place for DAF donors, now is the time to set up and assess fundraising strategies as they pertain to DAF donors.

    Keep in mind, if you send a thank you note, it should go to the donor who advised on the grant rather than the institution holding the grant money. So, if a gift came from Fidelity Charitable from Jane Doe’s DAF, you want the thank you note to go to Jane Doe – but you must make sure to remove any reference to tax deduction. The donor is not eligible to receive another tax deduction for the grant. However, the note is a great chance to get them involved at your organization. After all, they have already told you they are interested in philanthropy (i.e., they have a DAF) and a cause (i.e., where they donated.) Now it is up to you to engage them.

    New options are becoming available to make DAF granting easier for donors. For instance, DAF Direct is a free online application you can add to your giving page that helps donors initiate a grant from their DAF to your online fundraising campaign. Additionally, many organizations target communications specifically to DAF donors, knowing there is likely much more in the account that what has been granted. All of this is dependent on making sure you have a good system in place for tracking your DAF grants and the donors who initiated them.

    How are you tracking DAF grants and donors in your database? Do you steward DAF gifts differently? Do you want to learn more from your peers? Drop us a line on social media or email us at ApraCarolinas@gmail.com to share your process or let us know if you would like to learn more.

  • 05/07/2021 9:24 AM | Jennifer (Administrator)

    “How did you get into prospect development?” is one of my favorite questions to ask anyone in our field. I have yet to meet someone who came into the profession intentionally, rather it seems that most people end up in prospect development through happenstance and pure luck.

    Personally, I wanted to work at a university so I could continue taking classes toward a graduate degree. I applied to anything and everything relevant to my degree and office management experience, but I remember putting stars on the printout of the job description for a Prospect Researcher position, intuitively knowing that prospect research was something that would be a great fit. I had never heard of the profession (or Advancement, if I am being honest), but I knew I loved the idea of solving mysteries and I believed in the power of philanthropy.

    Having worked in the field for over a decade, I have met more than my fair share of researchers. The ones that stick around always seem to have an intuitive way about them – along with a drive to dig deeper and fall into rabbit holes while searching for missing puzzle pieces. When you hire a prospect researcher, you are often hiring someone who has no idea about the profession and building them from the ground up. So, where do you start?

    Local Chapter

    My number one recommendation is to start with your local Apra chapter. If you do not have an active local chapter, be sure to check out the other chapters and join one that fits your professional development budget and goals. You are welcome to join as many chapters as you like, and the cost of the local chapters is much less than that of the larger Apra. It gives you access to local prospect researchers who can help you better understand the intricacies of researching in your area, and it’s easier to attend anything in person if it’s relatively close to where you live. If you have the professional development budget to be a member of a local chapter and the larger chapter, all the better for onboarding; however, you do not need to be a member of the larger Apra to take advantage of many benefits that are ideal for onboarding someone new to prospect development.

    Ethics and Compliance

    On their first day is a great time to introduce your new hire to the Apra Ethics and Compliance Toolkit. This is free to anyone – you do not have to be a member of Apra to access this toolkit – and is the holy grail of prospect development ethical standards. Even as a veteran in the field, you may be asked to do something unethical – this is the place to go to show that while you technically can create a fake social media profile and trick a prospect into accepting a friend request, you won’t do that, as it violates ethical codes of conduct. If you need support for your decision, Apra has your back. When you are onboarding someone new to the field, a great first place to start is with the ethical standards of the profession.

    It’s important to note that this area is not a one-and-done kind of thing; the guidelines change as technology and laws change. Take into consideration the ongoing debate over the usage of Federal Election Commission data in prospecting. Laws changed in 2018 and there is still debate regarding whether or not FEC data can be used when compiling a profile. Note: the current official stance of Apra is that FEC data should not be used in prospecting.


    This leads me to the next stop for any new researcher, which is joining the Prspct-L listservs. Run by Apra, these discussion forums provide invaluable insight into prospect development. Not only can you read what topics are currently trending in the field, but if you have a question in mind, you can also go back and search through the discussions to see if anyone has asked a similar question. Broken into different discussion groups, I like to follow them all by getting an email in the morning with a summary digest of the posts from the previous day – this way my email is not constantly dinging all day, but I’m still getting the discussions and can weigh in on anything of interest. However you prefer to follow ‘the L’, it is a great way for anyone in the field to stay in the know about new topics, services, professional development, and more. It is also an ideal place to ask a question, as you will have access to prospect development professionals from across the world, ready to help out with an answer. (No pressure.)

    Apra Education (Free or Paid)

    Still on the Apra page, be sure to bookmark the Apra Talks, Apra Podcast, and Apra Bytes – all of which are free resources to anyone and they provide insight into prospect development. These can help those new to the field understand the complexity and significance of a career in prospect development. Of course, there are plenty of other professional development opportunities through Apra, if you are with an organization that can provide membership. There is the Apra Fundamentals conference each year that is ideal for those new to the field, as well as the larger PD conference each summer. There is something powerful about joining a large group of prospect development professionals and networking yourself into a group of knowledgeable individuals who can serve as a baseline for any question or policy change you may be considering. This can also be achieved locally through your local Apra chapter, though on a smaller scale.

    Free Training

    As our field is gaining traction, there are learning opportunities popping up in unexpected places. Coursera, which offers free courses on a wide variety of topics, actually has two sections that delve into Prospect Research! These particular classes provide a general overview of the profession with development as the primary audience. These courses on prospect research are part of the larger Major and Principal gift development curriculum, which can give those new to the profession valuable insight into development. Are you looking for training on a specific topic? Try a Google search to see if you can find free training – or better yet, have your new hire do the search. Google is about to become their go-to for all questions, so they might as well get comfortable.   

    Paid Training

    For those looking for more interactive training, the Prospect Research Institute, run by Jennifer Filla, provides an exceptional mix of paid and free resources and training. If you are someone starting a prospect research department without a background in the field, this would be an ideal place to go. They offer classes that can get you up and running quickly in the field, all for a reasonable price. They also provide networking and a support system, to ensure you have all of your questions answered. If you are brand new to prospect research, you may not know that Jennifer Fila and Helen Brown literally wrote the book on Prospect Research for Fundraisers.

    Blogs and Resource Libraries

    Speaking of Helen Brown, her website offers a fantastic blog and growing library of prospect research resources and tools. If you are looking for additional free resources for prospect research, be sure to check out the Apra Carolinas blog outlining our board members favorite free resources, as well as some unexpected ways to use them.

    Service Trainings

    If that hasn’t kept your new hire busy enough during onboarding, keep in mind that most of the software that you use also has training that can be accessed for free. Services such as Foundation Directory Online/Candid, LexisNexis, ResearchPoint, etc. all have free training available within them to get your new researcher up to speed on how to use the products. Whatever services you may use, take a moment to find a link to their training modules and have your new researcher learn from the product how it should best be used. Chances are, they may learn a new trick and pass it along to you!

    Even if you are not a client of the prospect research services (e.g., iWave, DonorSearch, Blackbaud, etc.), you can utilize their webinars, white papers, blog posts, and podcasts. By submerging a new hire in prospect research, it may seem a little overwhelming at first, but these resources help show someone new to the field that this is an exceptional career they have stumbled upon.

    What did we miss? What resources are your go-to when onboarding someone new to the field? Be sure to comment on social media or send us an email to let us know!

    If you are not a member of Apra Carolinas and would like to be, we offer a Membership Scholarship for anyone in North or South Carolina who may be unable to afford the $35 to join. Once you are a member, you can apply for other scholarships to unlock additional professional development funding. Members are able to attend all virtual content for free, receive discounts on in-person conferences, and all of our past recorded webinars are freely available to members on the Member Resources tab. We hold monthly networking sessions open to anyone and strive to provide professional development content aligned with the needs of our members.

  • 03/23/2021 10:59 AM | Jennifer (Administrator)

    Did you attend the fantastic Excel Wrestling 101 webinar by Katie Stanhagen from Western Carolina University? This was our first webinar of the year and it was extremely popular! Remember members, you can catch a recorded version of it on the exclusive Members Resources tab on our website! Katie covered a LOT of material, and the entire webinar was done within Excel – even her agenda! 

    We wanted to cover a few of the tips in the blog this month – what do you want to hear more about? Reach out and let us know!

    Conditional Formatting

    Conditional formatting is one of my favorites and I never used it to find duplicates until Katie’s webinar! Personally, I am a big fan of using conditional formatting on custom scores with color scales of a classic Green-Yellow-Red of a stoplight. When development officers are looking at a list and they see custom scores with three green lights, that means they are cruising along on their way to a major gift!

    One of Katie’s tips was to use conditional formatting to highlight  your duplicates, then sort based on the formatting color. In case you didn’t know, sorting by cell color is another fantastic tip and trick in Excel!

    You can also use conditional formatting to add an icon to your values, which can be formatted in many ways. As with any of these tips and tricks, the most important factor in determining what to use is deciding what you want to show with your data. Are you trying to highlight proposals of a specific value? Are you wanting to compare one value to another? There are so many possibilities and it’s easier than you think!


    A fast and easy way to narrow down a spreadsheet is to use filters. When you apply a filter to your spreadsheet, you can select the data in any column and filter out the rest. For instance, let's say you have a giant spreadsheet of all donors and you want to filter down to only those assigned to a certain fundraiser – click filters and use your fundraiser name column to select the name of the one you are wanting to focus. Perhaps you want to find only prospects living in a specific state – you can do that by using your filters.

    Filters are a fast and easy way to break down lists – but it can lead to issues if you forget which columns are currently filtering or if you want to start copy/pasting blocks of data. If you are wanting to narrow down a list to work from, or share with development, you may want to turn your spreadsheet straight into a pivot table.

    For many projects, simply filtering the data down will give you a quick idea of what to do next. Another tip: When you apply a filter, look to the bottom left corner of the spreadsheet, and it will give you a count of how many rows of data remain on the filtered list versus how many are in the entire spreadsheet.   


    Do you have a perfect database with reporting that meets all your needs? (I’ll wait while you grab a tissue to dry your eyes from laughter or sorrow.) Don’t worry, you are in good company. If you are trying to merge data from different spreadsheets using a unique column they all have in common (e.g., ID number), VLOOKUP can help you locate data in a vertical column, HLOOKUP can help you locate data in a horizontal row, while XLOOKUP can find the value anywhere in the spreadsheet. XLOOKUP is the newer, better, search function that will allow you to search for a value anywhere in the spreadsheet.

    Anyone who has used VLOOKUP knows that it will often return an error if the data isn’t sorted in the right way or if the return value isn’t located in the right place in the spreadsheet. XLOOKUP allows you to return data that is to the right or left of your search data and will search both horizontally and vertically, essentially combining HLOOKUP and VLOOKUP and then making it even better. If you don’t know how to do any of these, just learn XLOOKUP and skip the others.

    XLOOKUP can help you create a single report when you are trying to merge several different exports of data … and/or when you need to fill in a column that gets added to a report after you’ve already formatted the first report and your boss asks you why you didn’t XYZ in your report. All you need is that common unique identifier, like their ID number, and you can use that factor to take data from one list and insert it into another.

    In one example from the webinar, Katie had a list of constituent names and IDs in one spreadsheet and a list of IDs with a ton of data in the other spreadsheet. She showed how to use XLOOKUP to match the ID numbers in the spreadsheets and bring the constituents names into the larger data spreadsheet.

    Pivot Tables

    We can spend an entire webinar on pivot tables (more on that soon!) which are my personal favorite tool. Pivot tables take your spreadsheet of data and allow you to break it down in meaningful ways. Dashboards are basically data visualizations and pivot tables and data visualizations from pivot tables. The best part is that they are EASY to do! In the webinar, Katie broke down a portfolio by the prospect capacities, which allows you to quickly visualize not only the number of prospects within each stage, but what stage each prospect is in, based on their capacity level. We were quickly able to see that there was a solicitation coming for 1 prospect with a $5m+ capacity as well as 4 prospects with $2.5m - $5m capacity who are almost at solicitation.

    With most versions of Excel, you can simply double-click a number in the pivot table and that will generate a list of the data behind those numbers. Want to see the 81 names in Late Cultivation? Simply double-click the 81 in the pivot table and a new sheet will appear showing those names. For more robust pivot capabilities - looking at you KPIs - you may want to turn on Power Pivot in Excel. To do that, simply go to File → Options → Add-ins → Select Power Pivot for Excel → OK

    While you’re activating Add-ins, I suggest you go ahead and activate the Power Map, Data Streamer, and Analysis ToolPak.

    Even without the complexity of Power Pivot, pivot tables are extremely useful for visualizing data and you can add several pivot tables to a single sheet.

    Once you have pivot tables, you can take it a step further by adding pivot charts with filters and sliders - which will quickly adjust all the pivot charts according to specific criteria.

    For instance, if you've pulled out all development portfolios with prospect status, you may want to add graphs to show how many of their prospects are within each stage to determine pipeline flow. Another graph to show open proposals. Perhaps another one that shows proposals that have closed in the past 30 days (celebrate successes!) Then you can create a slider which will allow you to select an individual development officer, which will drill all of your charts down to only their data. That way, with one report you have the option to view everything in the pipeline, then drill in to each individual development officer, or focus on development teams, all without leaving your single spreadsheet in Excel. 

    We are working toward getting another webinar on the schedule to address your pivot table questions and – as always – please reach out and let us know what you would like to learn more about. We are here to help you excel at all that you do! 

    PS: There were many instructive visuals included in the making of this blog, but the size limit to post required their removal. Thank you for reading! 

  • 02/19/2021 9:56 AM | Jennifer (Administrator)

    Whether you are brand new to prospect research or a veteran of the field, some of the most used tools in our toolkits end up being free resources found online. For our February blog post, we wanted to share the love of our favorite free prospecting tools. The board members were each asked to share their favorite free resource(s) and why they love it. This is what your board had to say…

    Real Estate & Spousal Information

    For Emily Hinz and Rachael Walker, their favorite free resource is pulawski.net, which is a one-stop site for tax assessor websites broken down by state and then county. Rachael pointed out a lesser-known feature on the site that further helps your wealth estimates by explaining the assessment multipliers – that is, the factor by which you may need to multiply the assessed value to determine the actual value of the property. Good examples of how this is useful come into play when researching Pennsylvania or New York – places where each county may value the property a little differently. Emily loves to use property ownership not only for wealth assessment, but to confirm marital status by using the data from their deeds. This data can often confirm whether a prospect is married and can clear up questions about past relationships. Mimi Slade agrees that county property records are essential for understanding their tangible assets and uses their physical assets alongside their SEC filings to gauge a baseline for wealth.

    “A lot of assessor websites will give both the assessed and the market value – but not all of them. I’ve more than once been looking at a property on an assessor’s website and thought ‘that can’t be right.’ Check Pulawski and lo and behold, the value is really more like 150% of what I’m seeing on the assessor site.” -Rachael Dietrich Walker

    SEC Filings

    Speaking of SEC filings, what are the 8 most important SEC filings and what do they mean? To find out, Allison Kiglics bookmarked this article from Accounting Today and uses it anytime she is reviewing insider trading documents. It keeps her from opening every single filing and lets her skip straight to the ones with financial information. To see if your prospect has any SEC filings worth searching, Jennifer Vincent loves the simplicity of rankandfiled.com, which allows you to search by name and/or export large amounts of data to do some proactive searching.


    If you are looking for salaries for those working in the University of North Carolina System, Jennifer suggests you use the UNC Salary Information Database which reports any salary for an employee in the UNC System as well as their position details. It is a great way to confirm employment and find salary in one stop. Similarly, when looking for employees of North Carolina government, public school, or UNC Hospitals, the News & Observer has a link to a database where you can find position details and salaries. Likewise, you can search for any South Carolina state employee with a salary over $50,000 by searching the South Carolina Department of Administration. When looking for a salary range for federal government employees, www.federalpay.org is a great resource that Merissa Lawson uses regularly. You can use the “federal employee lookup” tool and sometimes you are able to find the exact person’s salary or work history.


    If you are looking for someone who attended college in North Carolina, Allison finds DigitalNC Yearbooks to be extremely helpful for verifying the educational history of a prospect or donor.

    “DigitalNC Yearbooks is a great way to verify that a prospect or donor did in fact earn a Law Degree and MBA from Duke, plus a Biology Degree from Wake Forest, and an Engineering Degree from NC State.” – Allison Kiglics


    While this may seem more applicable to the coastal researchers like Allison at UNC Wilmington, sometimes you come across a prospect with a boat … or a boat creates the path to a prospect. Allison shared that the USCG Vessel Search provides a free way to take a boat name from the marina (or a social media photo) and get the specs on the vessel and/or the owner. It can take a bit of sleuthing, but can lead you to details about the vessel, which gives insight into value. Sometimes you may find the boat is owned by a private company you did not know they had or leads you to a city you did not know they had ties. Then, of course, you will be off to county records to see what else you can find.

    Professional Development

    Daniel Moody says that his favorite free resource is on our Member Resources tab where you can watch our pre-recorded webinars from the past few years. This is only available to Apra Carolinas members, and contains over a dozen pre-recorded webinars on topics pertaining to prospect development. We continue to add more content each year and this resource provides a way to get answers to prospect development questions as they arise at your organization. Maybe your department was not ready for an engagement score last year, so you missed the webinar, but now leadership is discussing how to create one. Hop over to the Member Resources tab and check out that webinar!

    "There are many times that I can't attend the live session, so I'm grateful to be able to go back and view these retroactively for some great content." -Daniel Moody


    Steve Grimes created a Wealth Open Data Dashboard to help assist non-profits in their wealth screening and fundraising strategies. Daniel has this dashboard bookmarked and uses it frequently, since it is a great tool to search through various wealth indicators in a variety of ways.

    Giving and 990s

    To find charitable organizations in a certain state, Jennifer likes to use the ProPublica Nonprofit Explorer, which allows you to search for different types of nonprofits and shows annual revenue, locations, and classification. So, if you are looking for grant funding for something related to healthcare, you can search for South Carolina Health nonprofits with a 501(c)(3) type and then look for organizations with high revenue … then dive directly into their 990s to see where they give. You can also search your prospect name on the site to see if someone you are researching is linked to any potential funding through a nonprofit. Merissa uses www.candid.org (formerly Foundation Center and Guidestar) almost daily. It is her favorite free resource for accessing 990s. This site is easy to use and they have historical records of filings, which can help you establish giving patterns. Amy Jackson is a big fan of Foundation Directory Online, which is part of Candid now. Many public libraries have access to their FDO Pro, but if you are planning to access it from a library, Amy recommends you watch their free 1-hour tutorial first, and then bring a flash drive with you so you can download search results and profiles for more in-depth research once you are back at your desk. Candid also has some great e-newsletters delivered straight to your inbox to keep you up to date on subject-based philanthropy, links to resources, and funding alerts.

    “While FDO Professional is a paid resource, it’s FREE to use at many public libraries (search for one that has it near you here.)”  - Amy Jackson

    Anything and Everything

    Finally, if you are looking for a single bookmark to contain most of your bookmarks, Daniel utilizes the Research Links Directory from Aspire Research Group and Jennifer uses the Helen Brown Group Research Links page. They both present a directory that breaks links down into topics and has a legend to let you know which services require subscriptions, free registration, or a mix of both. Most of the links are simply free, with no registration or fees required. Interestingly, a few of our favorite sites listed above are not in the directories, though you will find many many more.

    Image result for no cost meme

    Did we mention your favorite free resource? If not, drop us an email or comment on social media and share your favorite free resource with the chapter!  

  • 01/06/2021 8:31 PM | Jennifer (Administrator)

    Greetings Apra Carolinas Chapter!

    Most of us wanted to rush through 2020, certain that 2021 would undoubtedly be a better and brighter year. Here at your local Apra Carolinas chapter, each year we strive to make sure that every year is better than the last, and this year is no different. As your new president, I wanted to take a moment to celebrate the successes of the past year and tell you a bit about what we are planning for the year ahead.

    First and foremost – I want to welcome back the wonderful Apra Carolinas board. Most of the faces are the same as last year, but we have shuffled the deck a little. Our fabulous leader from the past two years, Merissa Lawson, has stepped into the Immediate Past President role, allowing yours truly, Jennifer Vincent, to become President. You may know her best for her hilarious GIFs, but the fantastic Allison Kiglics has agreed to become President-Elect for the next two years. Fear not, there will be plenty of GIFs still coming your way as Communications now falls into the very capable hands of Emily Glesias. Membership questions can still be directed to the ambitious Daniel Moody; the ever-witty Rachael Dietrich Walker will continue to bring outstanding content through her role as Education Chair; the ever reliable Mimi Slade is keeping us on track through her role as Secretary; and Emily Hinz, our terrific Treasurer, will process your invoices before you even knew you wanted to register. Sitara Smith will continue to share her insightful ideas through her role as the SC Regional Representative, and we are thrilled to welcome the dynamic Amy Jackson to the board as the NC Regional Representative, where she can share her vast acumen with all of us.

    Looking back at 2020, I want to thank our amazing board and speakers for the Ross Geller style PIVOT in February/March that led to our first ever Virtual Spring Conference. I would also like to extend a huge thank you to our incredible members who pivoted with us and gave the board excellent feedback through session surveys and membership surveys. We heard what you were saying and applied your insights to the Virtual Fall Conference in October – which was a huge success, by all accounts. We have been chatting it up one morning a month at our Virtual Coffee Chats and we are excited to offer more of those with some additional virtual networking opportunities in 2021.

    Looking ahead, we have exciting plans for 2021!

    You can plan on a virtual spring conference, but this one will be bigger and better than ever. That is all the teaser we will share right now, but get excited, it’s going to be grand! Let’s all cross our fingers as we start planning an in-person fall conference in 2021 – can you believe it? Of course, nothing is set in stone, but we’re working toward getting the band back together for a reunion tour. We will offer up some additional webinar content throughout the year and hope to have a couple of surprises up our sleeves. 

    As always, reach out to any of us – or the chapter email – with any questions or requests, and we look forward to sharing another magnificent year with all of you.

    Jennifer Vincent

    President, Apra Carolinas

  • 11/20/2020 8:57 AM | Apra Carolinas (Administrator)

    Our 2020 virtual Fall conference was a smashing success! 76 unique attendees – an Apra Carolinas conference record – heard from presenters across the country on four important and timely topics. Recaps of the sessions follow; if you missed any, Apra Carolinas members can check out the recordings on our new Member Resources page!

    October 7th – Leadership Annual Giving Panel

    Mandy Baker Queen, Associate Director of Development, NC State University
    Molly Moriarty Russell, Associate Director, Annual Giving, the Oregon State University Foundation
    Drew Phillips, Assistant Director for Discovery and Pipeline Development, the Oregon State University Foundation
    Allison Kiglics, Prospect Development Manager, UNC Wilmington

    Summary by Moderator, Emily Hinz, Apra Carolinas Treasurer, UNC Charlotte

    Leadership Annual Giving (LAG) and Leadership Annual Giving Officers (LAGOs) have become increasingly important to many institutions’ donor retention and pipeline development in recent years. For its first session of the Fall 2020 conference, Apra Carolinas gathered an expert group of panelists to talk about the subject. Leadership annual giving is very different from major giving in many respects. For one thing, with a gift size in the $1,000 - $2,500 range, a pool of prospective prospects could be huge. For another thing, a LAG prospect can move through the entire portfolio cycle – from qualification to solicitation to stewardship – in a single phone call.

    Despite these differences, prospecting and portfolio management is much the same as with major giving. Work with LAGOs to understand their goals and desired outcomes in order to be able to come up with the best prospects. Use data points like affinity, giving history, and event attendance to build your lists. Metrics for LAGOs are not that different from major gift officers, and looking to the dollar amount raised is always a good measurement for success.

    Ultimately, when launching a leadership annual giving program at any institution, collaboration between prospect research and annual giving staff is critical. Clarifying goals, expectations, criteria, and tracking methods on both sides of the prospect development process is the best way to ensure the program’s success.

    October 14th – AI & Machine Learning: The Impact on Prospect Research

    Presenters: Cecelia Poplin and Sarah TeDesco, DonorSearch

    Summary by Emily Glesias, Apra Carolinas NC Regional Rep, Novant Health

    Our presenters, Cecelia Poplin and Sarah TeDesco from DonorSearch, couldn’t have said it better: between the pandemic, recession and unrest, 2020 has truly been a confluence of crisis. What this means for us in nonprofits is that there are new (and sometimes further exposed) pain points within our organizations. The key takeaway was that there’s a LOT of data out there in cyberspace ready to be leveraged; companies and for-profit organizations have been and continue to use this consumer data for nearly every decision they make using emerging artificial intelligence (AI) technology. Nonprofit organizations have not begun to tap into the potential of AI like the private sector but, nearly 83% of those surveyed in 2018 believe that it would improve efficiency, according to Harvard Business Review.

    This is where a nonprofit-centric tool like DonorSearch comes in: the use of AI, predictive modeling and scoring, as well as machine learning and can help advance your ability to do large-batch prospect screenings, deliver rankings and key philanthropic indicators in a timely and meaningful way. A research tool that has the capability to cross-reference your organization’s unique data points to millions of other donors and non-donors within the US is only beginning to bridge the gap for nonprofit organizations to finally leverage the same vast amounts of data that the private sector already uses. To take it a step further, tools like DonorSearch that feature an application programming interface (API) can allow you to connect to any available endpoint within your data or tools to deliver profiles and key data points and summaries which can be automated or triggered to run automatically saving you and your organization time to focus in on your mission and prioritize your donor acquisition strategy. The future of data is huge – and happening now – it’s up to nonprofits to keep up with their private sector counterparts and join in on big data if they’re going to stay savvy.

    October 21st - The True Final Frontier: Corporate and Foundation Research and Relationship Management

    Presenter: Megan Tedeschi, Deputy Director of Prospect Intelligence, UNICEF

    Summary by Mimi Slade, Apra Carolinas Treasurer, Central Carolina Community Foundation

    For the third session of the Apra Carolinas fall conference, Megan Tedeschi spoke on the topic of corporate and foundation giving (or relations, CFR for short). While individual philanthropy was down 6% the first quarter of 2020 (per the Chronicle of Philanthropy), foundations are stepping up to fill in the gap, and some companies have been able to survive and thrive during this challenging time. With institutional funding on the rise, it’s worth the time to build great relationships with the gift officers who focus in this area.

    How can we find these corporations that might be interested in partnering with our organization? PD professionals need to understand fundraisers and know exactly what they are looking for? Set up news alerts for top prospects or funding topics, and look into relationship mapping to be able to understand where your organization’s connections are.

    To help fundraisers understand a CFR prospect, try tailoring a specific template for organizations; delivering content beyond the 990; providing a strategy recommendation; or sharing relationship mapping. An important part of Megan’s profiles is a capacity rating – check out the recording for the details of how Megan comes up with those in the CFR space!

    When it comes to relationship management, keep in mind that CFR prospects are unique in some respects. You must tailor departmental metrics/KPIs specifically for CFR. Just as with major giving portfolios, regular reviews are helpful for CFR, but different metrics may need to be considered.

    October 28th: What’s DEI Got To Do With It?

    Presenter: Chandra Montgomery, University of Southern California

    Summary by Rachael Dietrich Walker, Apra Carolinas Education Chair, Western Carolina University

    The final session of the conference touched on the incredibly important and timely topic of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). Our presenter was Chandra Montgomery, Director of Health Sciences Prospect Development and co-chair of the DEI Council at the University of Southern California, a nationally known speaker on DEI topics, and a member of Apra International’s inaugural DEI Committee. Chandra began by giving us a common vocabulary to use, providing definitions of diversity, equity, equality, and inclusion that attendees said helped to illuminate the topic for them in ways it hadn’t been before.  The key lesson here, in Chandra’s impactful words: “Diverse” is an adjective. People are nouns.

    With a baseline understanding of the concepts, Chandra moved into discussing how they affect our work in development: from creating awareness our biases in pipeline development and algorithms, to working to be more inclusive in everything from our language to our affinity groups, to looking beyond the usual suspects for major and principal gifts. Next, she gave some suggestions for strategizing around DEI implementation: “easy” wins like pronoun inclusivity and a DEI values statement, an implementation arc from aspiration to action to accountability, and the suggestion that an organization should “plan for DEI like you’d plan for a campaign.” Her recommendation for the entire process: “get comfortable being uncomfortable.” She finished by providing resources for both theory and practice, as well as some DEI resources in the Carolinas, including the Foundation for the Carolinas, NC Center for Nonprofits, and the Racial Equity Institute in Greensboro. Attendees came away with lots to think about and a great toolkit for turning these thoughts into practice. Chandra was an incredibly powerful speaker on this crucial topic.

    October 30th: Post-Conference Coffee Chat

    We wrapped up the conference with our monthly networking chat to discuss the takeaways of conference attendees from our various sessions – and to announce our Apra Carolinas Chapter Award Winners! This year’s Professional of the Year is Lauren Mullis from the University of South Carolina, and the Distinguished Service Award recipient is Merissa Lawson from Elon University, our chapter President.

    After the award announcements, our feedback began with the Leadership Annual Giving Panel. The topic was very relevant and attendees enjoyed having the mix of researchers and gift officers on the panel. It was helpful to think about having goals and metrics for establishing a Major Gifts pipeline. It’s important to have someone thinking about LAG as it tends to be a gap where prospects aren’t really addressed in a dedicated way.

    We then shifted to discussing the DEI webinar (Chandra Montgomery). The idea that we should be focused on why diversity is important and what it would add to a team, board, or council, rather than addressing it as a “box to be checked” was thought-provoking. Giving expectations around boards and councils can be too much of a focus when populating those roles and how that may adversely affect who is included. Attendees mentioned that they had attended other DEI sessions but our speaker “synthesized the information so well.”

    Finally, we discussed lessons learned from the Corporation and Foundation Relations webinar (Megan Tedeschi). It was helpful to hear that researchers should be focusing less on information gathering and more on analysis and strategy with these prospects. One person said that they’re interested in working on capacity analysis for corporations and foundations after this session; another said that they would be developing a program to pass along grant information discovered during research to faculty members. Unfortunately, we ran out of time to discuss the AI & Machine Learning presentation.

    That wraps up our 2020 Apra Carolinas Fall Conference. Thank you to everyone for your attendance and participation!

  • 09/15/2020 9:44 AM | Apra Carolinas (Administrator)

    Margaret Valyou (Assistant Director of Prospect Development, Research & Strategy at NC State University) is the recipient of the 2020 Apra Carolina’s Professional Development Scholarship. The scholarship can be applied to any professional development activity offered by Apra Carolinas or Apra International. Margaret used the funds to attend this year's virtual Apra PD Conference in August. She shared the following impressions of her experience through a Q&A session:

    Tell me a little about yourself. How long have you been in prospect development?
    I’m originally from New York State and moved to North Carolina to pursue an MPA degree at UNC-Chapel Hill. Once I realized that warm spring weather could come as early as February in the South, I was hooked and never moved back north! I’ve worked in the Office of Prospect Development at NC State University for 11 years. Prior to that, I worked at several nonprofits in various fundraising operations roles.

    What did you think of the virtual format of the conference?
    This is the first virtual conference I’ve attended. Overall, it worked out well for me. I enjoyed having options for how much live interaction I wanted in a day. There seemed to be enough flexibility to accommodate both introverts and extroverts, while providing similar networking opportunities that you would find at an in-person conference. I also appreciated the breaks that were built into the schedule. Multiple hours of virtual sessions can be tiring on your body and mind.

    Have you attended Apra PD before this year?
    Yes, several times over the years I’ve worked at NC State.

    Why did you choose this conference in particular?
    A co-worker had previously won the Apra Conference registration in a prize drawing (thank you Apra Carolinas!) but was no longer available to attend. So, I was fortunate to be able to transfer the registration and attend in her place.

    Did you have a favorite session?
    I enjoyed the keynote presentation by Frank Sesno and the parallels he drew between his work and our industry. Some meaningful takeaways for me were:

    - “The key is not necessarily the first question asked but the follow up question/s.”

    - “When you pose a question to others you create a partnership, you invite others into the dialogue, you give them a sense of ownership.”

    - His suggestions on how to structure a successful discussion

    The Corporate and Foundation Research and Relationship Management session by Megan Tedeschi was also interesting because she walked through how her shop determines capacity on organizations, which is always a great topic. It was helpful that she outlined several options and described the methodology. [Editor's Note: We're glad you enjoyed it, Margaret! Megan will be presenting that session for us as part of our Apra Carolinas fall conference, so plan to register if you missed it at PD!] 

    Did you notice any common themes throughout the sessions? The idea of how much/what kind of data to collect and then what to do with it once you have it – in terms of ethical data use, privacy regulations, and diversity/inclusion – was an overall theme referenced in most of the sessions I attended.

    Did anything unique stick out about this conference as compared to others you’ve attended?

    As you might expect, the uncertainty and urgency spawned by the pandemic and social injustice protests were at the top of most people’s minds at this conference.  

    Is there one thing that you’re committed to making happen at your organization as a direct result of attending the conference? I had already been thinking about the idea of diversity in prospect pools. How do we increase diversity within the research process of identifying suspects when we’re working on a data level and dealing with data points, not people with individual characteristics? There were a couple conference sessions that touched on this and gave me some different ways to think about it, so I’ll definitely be continuing down that road. [Editor's Note: We will also be hosting a wonderful session on DEI at our fall conference, so stay tuned for more details!] 



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