Awards · Professional Development
Finding Your Role in Prospect Development: Q&A With 2023 Margaret Fuhry Award Winner Kelly Douglas
Established in 1998, the Apra Margaret Fuhry Award is given to an Apra member committed to the prospect development profession based on leadership, mentorship and volunteerism. This year’s recipient is Kelly Douglas, associate director of prospect analytics at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).
What follows is a conversation between fellow Margaret Fuhry Awardee Jeff Walker (2004) and Douglas. Learn how she entered the profession, what keeps her inspired, her advice for those new to the community and more.
What path(s) did you follow into our profession — and into your role at Caltech?
Like many others, I fell into our field. I had an interest in working for a university because I enjoy the sense of community and variety of activities. I applied for a gift processing job at my alma mater and was directed to a prospect research position instead, because I had prior experience with skip tracing. I had never even heard of prospect research back then. A PRSPCT-L posting later led me to Caltech.
I became inspired to shift into an analytics role after attending Apra and CARA conferences and hearing about the great data science work being done in prospect development. The conferences really opened my eyes to what is possible with data and the different career trajectories one can pursue in our industry.
If you could go back in time and talk with your younger self, how would you describe your current work? What do you love the most about it? What are some of the fun surprises that keep you inspired?
I took a career inventory back when I was a sophomore in college with no clue what I wanted to do with my life. I find it amusing that my highest score was in “data management — analyzing data for decision making,” because that’s a solid description of my current responsibilities. So, my younger self already had the description, she just didn’t know or recognize it yet.
Being in analytics, I have direct access to query the data, and that’s exciting because I can create my own custom data pulls to build reports and feed into predictive modeling projects. It enables me to answer important business questions and make an impact on our fundraising strategies. I also work with a smart, creative and talented team. It’s an inspiring environment and we have fun working together.
How did you learn you had been selected for the Margaret Fuhry Award, and what was your first reaction?
I received a kind email notification (and a very nice plaque). I excitedly contacted my nominator to thank her and share the happy news. Apra has so many dedicated volunteer leaders, and I value my volunteer involvements, so it means a lot to me to be selected as a recipient and be part of this esteemed group. Apra’s been an important part of my career for over a decade, and I look forward to continued involvement.
The Margaret Fuhry Award also covers the cost of a conference registration. How has this grant helped you?
The grant helped make it possible to attend both Data Science Now and the full Prospect Development (PD2023) conference this year. My colleague and I were able to present our Data Science Challenge entry* in person while there. I came away from the conference with ideas about proposals and forecasting. Regardless of topic, I also enjoy watching how the speakers present, as it provides good examples of effective communication, audience engagement and storytelling.
*The organization named and data used in this Data Science Challenge entry are fictional.
What does being a part of the Apra community mean to you?
There are so many ways to be part of the Apra community. I’ve been involved through attending and volunteering at conferences, participating on PRSPCT-L, serving on committees and a chapter board, speaking at events, contributing knowledge to content like Apra’s Campaign Toolkit and serving on the team that developed Apra Fundamentals: Data Science. Being a community member is about supporting other members and participating in professional development opportunities that make us more effective colleagues and more impactful at our organizations.
What advice would you offer to our new community members?
The Margaret Fuhry Award recognizes volunteerism, leadership and mentorship, but the first time I was asked about serving on an Apra chapter board, I said no. I felt like I was too new, wasn’t sure what was expected and hadn’t really pictured myself in that kind of leadership role. Now from a more experienced perspective, I recognize that the willingness to raise your hand and actively help out is really the most important qualification. Everyone has something to offer, whether you are new to the field or a longtime expert. Although I initially said no, I still credit that first ask as the reason I later said yes — it planted a seed.
Also, because there are so many ways to contribute, find a role that fits your interests. Volunteer activities are really fun if you’re passionate about the project or task. Not all Apra members love public speaking or board meetings, and that’s okay because there’s something for everyone. Volunteering is also a good way to practice and expand skills, meet great people and build experiences. Volunteers give a lot, but they also get a lot in return.
Finally, really dive into the resources available (Apra University, the Body of Knowledge, toolkits, etc.) and understand how lucky we are to have such an open community.