Counting Our Achievements
By Melissa Bank Stepno | August 12, 2022
About a year ago, as I ramped up for my year as Apra’s President, I was humbled, excited and a bit trepidatious. What would the year bring? Would I fulfill the trust that had been given to me by the Apra Nominations Committee, the Board of Directors and the entire Membership? A year seemed like forever, yet it also seemed like it would go by in a snap.
Fast forward to today as my year comes to a close and I feel reflective, fulfilled and grateful for all the year has brought for Apra. Admittedly, I frequently have trouble seeing the forest for the trees. Or more specifically, I have trouble remembering and acknowledging accomplishments for a given period of time. This isn’t specific to Apra.
At work, I’ve found a tactic that’s helped me with this: I started keeping a running list where I could add successes and project completions as they occurred. Then I expanded it to my team and asked them to contribute accomplishments on a monthly basis. This way, whenever we needed to reflect, roll it all up and report out, we’d have a cheat sheet.
The list essentially became the forest, but it was pre-populated with trees! Without fail, when I would look back on any given period of time I would think: “Wow! We accomplished all that in such a short amount of time!”
Unfortunately, I was not forward-thinking enough to do the same when I became Apra president. Yes, I planned, we set goals and KPIs for the board and our committees, we completed projects that had begun the prior year and we kicked off new initiatives. But I didn’t consistently keep track of all the good that our tremendous volunteer and staff teams were doing.
Fortunately, a few weeks ago when I read each committee’s year-end report, I started seeing — really seeing — all the trees. Although it should come to me as no surprise, as we’re a community of over-achievers, I was overwhelmed and impressed by how much Apra accomplished!
So, please allow me a few minutes of your reading time to boast and to applaud our Year in Review:
Most recently, and probably most impactfully, was the success of the Apra Prospect Development conference in Atlanta this past July. After two years of virtual-only conferences, being able to meet again in person left me feeling super-charged. The energy from attendees was palpable. With total registration surpassing our 2019 Phoenix conference, it confirms our community’s desire to gather, network and learn from one another. I can’t wait to see what Apra Prospect Development 2023 brings (save the date, August 28-31 in Indianapolis)!
Immediately prior to Apra’s Prospect Development conference, the board met in person to dive deep into our strategic planning efforts. After some finishing touches, we should be ready to approve the plan at our next board meeting. Once we do, we’ll share our strategic goals and direction with all of you so you know where we’re heading over the next three years.
Apra isn’t migrating from its core values and you’ll recognize that in our strategic priorities. We are, however, pushing ourselves to continue to be bold, opportunistic and forward-thinking — focusing both on how we continue to stay relevant in a changing landscape and how we expand our role and presence in advancing our values across the philanthropic industry.
Over the coming weeks we’ll begin to go live on our new Association Management System (AMS), which is the database that we use to manage Apra’s membership and business operations. The new AMS will be more sophisticated and user-friendly, providing you with a better experience and easier access to the features and content you want. On the flip side, it will provide Apra staff and volunteers better database management and reporting tools so we can improve how we operate.
The migration to the new platform will be a bit of a journey and you’ll soon start to see communications about the new system. You can also anticipate that we’ll continue to migrate and advance additional functionality over the coming months. As an added bonus, the Connections website is undergoing a refresh and will launch around the same time as the new AMS. You can expect a more modern look and feel, improved user experience and new content categorizations.
This fall we will be launching a new membership level that will be at a lower price point than our existing single-tier membership. The new offering was specifically designed to offer a curated set of member benefits at a more accessible level, for those who might be newer to the field or only working in prospect development part time. Many of the select benefits will focus on virtual educational content and community building, while our full membership will offer the same comprehensive benefits current members are accustomed too, along with expanded free content. Watch your inbox for more information and full details over the next couple of months.
To close, here’s just a handful of other highlights:
- Developed two new Data Science educational offerings: live virtual symposium Apra Expanse in March (planning is already underway for next year) and a self-paced Data Science Fundamentals course launching later this Fall
- Finalized a new Campaign Toolkit
- Launching a new Leadership Domain within the Body of Knowledge, accompanied by a virtual event Plug-In to Leadership, scheduled for November 2-3 (register now!)
- Continued our promotion and industry partnerships (AFP, CASE and aasp) around our DEI Data Guide and built a supplemental resource on data minimization, ready for publication soon
- Matured the Apra Foundation’s fundraising practices, including approval of a Gift Acceptance Policy
- Entered our second year of awarding the Foundation’s Professional Development Assistance Fund grants, continuing our work to support Apra members experiencing financial hardship in having access to Apra educational content and training opportunities.
Let me simply say this: Thank you.
The list of accomplishments that I shared with you in this message is long, but it’s incomplete. I simply do not have the space in Connections to list out EVERYTHING we’ve done in the past year.
But here’s the thing — I did very little of it. It was all of YOU, our fantastic and broad volunteer base, and our dedicated Apra staff team, that made it all possible. I thank you for your dedication, your commitment, your drive and your energy.
One last time, I thank you for allowing me to humbly guide this community for a year.
Melissa Bank Stepno
President, Apra; Director of Analytics & Business Consulting Services, Blackbaud, Inc.
Melissa Bank Stepno joined Blackbaud in 2005 and currently serves as Director, Analytics & Business Consulting Services. She has worked in the fundraising and nonprofit space for over 20 years, spending about half that time as an Analytics Consultant for Target Analytics. Her specific areas of interest including the impact high net worth philanthropy on major giving programs and on helping organizations develop effective research and prospect management operations. Melissa sits on the Board of Directors for Apra and is an instructor for the Rice University Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership.
Previously, she has served on the boards of NEDRA, AFP’s Northern New England Chapter and Brandeis University’s Alumni Association. She received her BA from Brandeis University and masters’ degrees in Arts Administration and Higher Education Administration from Boston University. You can contact her at Melissa.Stepno@blackbaud.com.