Amy Jackson, Director of Research for Prospect Development at Wingate University, is the recent recipient of the Professional Development Scholarship awarded by Apra Carolinas to an upcoming leader in the prospect research industry. Recipients receive a $1,500 scholarship to be applied toward professional development activities offered by Apra Carolinas or Apra International. Amy used her scholarship to attend the ARC Conference held March 13 - 15 in Atlanta, Georgia.
Vicki O’Brien, Associate Director of Prospect Research at the University of South Carolina and Apra Carolinas Blog Coordinator, spoke to Amy about the ARC Conference to learn more about her experience.
Vicki: One thing I love about working in the prospect research industry is that it is a constant education, and there are so many opportunities for professional growth and development through attending conferences. What made you decide to apply your scholarship toward ARC when there were other conferences to choose from—APRA Chapter conferences, APRA International, APRA regional conferences, etc.?
Amy: Being new to full-time prospect research, I really felt that the regional conference was the best way to “get my feet wet” given the smaller size and numerous opportunities throughout the conference to have conversations about prospect research with others in the field relatively close by. Also, the timing of ARC was perfect based on my other work-related commitments and responsibilities. I’m looking forward to attending other APRA professional development offerings and plan on using my remaining scholarship funds to attend the Apra Carolinas Fall Conference in Wilmington.
Vicki: I was lucky enough to attend the conference myself, and I have to say that my favorite thing (besides the fruit tart desserts) was the “Share the Knowledge” session where everyone in attendance was encouraged to chat about what they do at their prospect research shops. Did you pick up any neat tips or tricks during this session that you are going to implement?
Amy: The breakfast buffet was a highlight for me, ha! I really enjoyed the “Share the Knowledge” session as well. One thing I picked up that I’m going to implement -- having gift officers identify the “Top 10” from their portfolios and then setting google alerts based on those names. I’ve got google alerts for mentions of the university and some of my own prospects, but I hadn’t thought about using them to assist gift officers with people already in their portfolios.
Vicki: Several topics were discussed during the 3-day conference. What topics stood out to you as setting the pace for the future of prospect research? Are those topics we all need to focus on as the landscape of prospect research is being re-defined with new tools and techniques?
Amy: I think analytics and predictive modeling stood out the most in looking at the future of prospect research. We’re going away from traditional research and profiles and relying more on data mining and scoring based on affinity and capacity to identify major donors and drive fundraising.
Vicki: At the conference there were researchers representing large, medium, and small prospect research shops. Additionally, there were prospect researchers from several types of non-profit organizations ranging from museums to hospitals to religious-based organizations to higher education institutions. There was diversity among the prospect researchers attending the conference. Despite the differences in size and type, did you identify any common characteristics all prospect research shops share?
Amy: You’re right. The crowd was diverse, which I loved, since my background is in the arts and now I’m working in higher education. I think the one thing shared by everyone, no matter the shop size or focus area, was the desire to learn and improve. We all want to be better at what we do and how we support our executive leadership, gift officers, and other team members.
Vicki: Conferences are always so exciting for me, and I genuinely return to my office feeling inspired to be an influencer and initiate change. Is there one thing that you are committed to making happen at your organization as a direct result of attending the conference?
Amy: After a conference I feel ready to take on the world! For my organization, I am committed to making data cleanup a top priority. For myself, I will dedicate more time for webinars and online training sessions.
Vicki: Would you recommend ARC to the next Professional Development Scholarship recipient or anybody in prospect research for that matter?
Amy: Absolutely! Session presenters covered a variety of relevant topics, exhibitors shared worthwhile information regarding available products and tools (good swag, too), and the chance to interact with other prospect research professionals in this particular setting was truly invaluable.
Vicki: Thanks so much, Amy! I’m glad I was able to learn more about your experience. You offered some great insight into what’s happening in prospect research today. Is there anything else that you would like to share?Amy: I would like to thank the Apra Carolinas Chapter for making it possible for me to attend ARC this year. It was truly a meaningful, wonderful experience.