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Two Days in the Triangle by Rick Loveday, Road Trip Scholarship Winner

09/12/2017 10:11 AM | Anonymous

Rick Loveday’s Two Days in the Triangle

We were excited to award 2017’s Apra Carolinas’ Professional Development Scholarship to Rick Loveday of Clemson University! The “road trip” is a scholarship program to cover travel expenses for a member to spend a day with someone within the Carolinas to learn about processes, procedures, CRM, a specific project, or so forth. One road trip scholarship is awarded annually and covers travel expenses (gas, meals, and 1 night of lodging) up to $300.

Read on to learn where Rick went and what he learned…

Two Days in the Triangle

I have been in Prospect Research at Clemson University for about a year and a half. This job has been my first foray into non-profits, higher education, and fund raising. I had garnered plenty of research experience in previous jobs, from journalism to fiction to legal. I also had extensive report development and Excel coding experience. Despite jumping into a completely new field, it was a fairly seamless transition. Since about my third week on the job, before I even had any teams of my own to support, I started developing reports to improve some of our methods of tracking portfolio details or created new reports that filled in areas our team had not been tracking yet. Every couple of weeks or so, my boss would drop some idea she came up with or some new aspect she wanted to track. I would take that idea and come back with a prototype report. That process went on for about eight months. By the end of the year, we had a full suite of new reports to help our Development Officers. When the Apra Carolinas’ email went out with the information about the Road Trip Scholarship, my boss made sure I saw it and urged me to apply.

As I pondered where I might want to visit while writing my application essay, I thought about where we were trying to go as a department. My boss has made a big push to increase our analytics offerings since I was hired. I decided I wanted to take a look and see how other similar institutions got started in analytics or ran their departments. Since I am at a university, I wanted to visit another university and that narrowed my list down to a manageable few. I figured if I visited a higher concentration of universities I would get more bang for my buck. That led me to North Carolina’s Research Triangle.

Wednesday, July 19.

On my first day, I met with Pitt Tomlinson and Justin Woodard at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. One of Pitt’s primary goals when accepting the job as the Director of Prospect Management, Research and Analytics a little over two years ago was to create a new analytics team. His first, and to date only, analytics hire was Justin Woodard as Assistant Director of Prospect Analytics. The word “Analytics” was already part of Pitt’s title when he accepted the job and part of UNC’s strategic plan. I took some time to go over our current setup at Clemson. I explained how we had just been focusing on developing new reports and introducing them. Some reports were modifications on existing IT created reports that took a deeper look into certain aspects not previously tracked or recorded. Pitt was impressed with the way we were going about getting our foot in the proverbial door. He encouraged us to continue doing exactly what we were doing. People don’t realize what they are missing out on until it gets put in front of them. The more products we create and push out to our development officers, the more they will realize the additional benefits we can provide.

Justin’s journey to his present position followed a similar trajectory as my own. He had experience in the legal field and was well-versed in various methods of research. But when he took the Assistant Director position, it was his first trip down the fund-raising rabbit hole. He’s spent the last year getting a stronger handle on the position and what all it entails. Pitt explained they could have hired a couple additional analysts, but decided to hold off. He wanted Justin to be fully immersed in the position and go through all the growing pains before bringing in additional staff. In doing so, Justin would have a stronger grasp on the position and be that much more of a leader; it is a concept I could whole-heartedly get behind. I always want to be a master of something before I have to go teach it to others. I love hitting the roadblocks and breaking right through them.

Thursday, July 20.

On Thursday morning, I made the short drive over to Duke University to meet with Natalie Spring and her team. Natalie is the Director of Prospect Research, Management and Analytics. The thing I found most interesting about Duke’s central development office was they do not have a CRM. At Clemson, we use Raiser’s Edge and know a few other schools using Millennium. I couldn’t imagine not using some sort of software to access our constituent database. Natalie first joined the department working in statistics and analysis. She left Duke for another position then returned as the Director of Prospect Research, Management and Analytics. Her biggest piece of advice was to figure out what they were doing and to mold their job descriptions to that. As you adapt jobs, continue to adapt the job descriptions to match. I believe she said they were currently in the middle of the fourth rewrite of job descriptions. The positions they originally had when creating the department no longer existed and have evolved into completely different beasts.

In addition to Natalie, I requested to meet with Ian Conlon and Chris Coutlee. Ian is the Associate Director of Prospect Management and Analytics. Chris is a Data Analyst. Chris’s background really intrigued me because he listed all the online classes and certifications he had gained through Coursera, which were the same I was looking at or already taking through EdX.org and Coursera.

I spoke to Ian and Chris about some of the types of projects they’ve worked on. Chris mentioned they had a script they run that would de-duplicate their constituent lists by removing separate lines for spouses, including all activity for the whole family on the same line. I thought that was an interesting process I needed to look into since we currently have to de-duplicate our lists by hand, depending on the data, or by using the remove duplicates feature of Excel.

Ian explained the typical life-cycle of their projects. They tend to start with something small, usually confined to just one of the departments. They develop a report or application just for that department and try to work out all the bugs. Once that is done, they bring in another department to increase the user pool. This typically leads to more bugs being discovered. They repeat that process until they feel the tool is ready to present to the major stakeholders; I really liked that concept. With what I had developed at Clemson, we generally created something, tested it ourselves, then took it to the stakeholders for approval. We never really went through a beta testing phase or included groups of development officers to get their input or thoughts.

Another key concept they realized quickly was the need for a formalized list of research offerings, that way everyone stayed on the same page. The development officers knew what they could ask for or what research could provide them. The researchers and analysts didn’t have to worry about five different development officers requesting five different variations of the same report. I quickly saw where that would make life much easier.

I also got to spend some time with Chris one on one to see some of the projects he was working on. He showed me a travel list they put together that had some interesting geocoding features built into the report. That took the top spot of ideas I wanted to implement into my own travel lists when I got back to Clemson.

After lunch with both groups from Duke and UNC, I hit the road back to Clemson, fresh with new ideas. Some I can immediately start working on, while others, I know will need more training and experience before I start. In the end, the visits gave me a goal to work towards and a bright horizon to look forward to.

Thank you, Rick, for sharing your experience!

Many thanks to UNC’s Pitt Tomlinson and Justin Woodard and Duke University’s Natalie Spring, Ian Conlon, and Chris Coutlee for hosting and taking time to speak with Rick! 

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