How to Share Ideas Without Sharing Viruses

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Editor's Note: This article is featured in Best of Connections 2021. Read Apra Editorial Advisory Committee Chair Jessica Balsam's editor's message to learn more about the top articles of the year. 


By Karin McDowell

Many of us who gravitate toward the prospect research and relationship management aspects of philanthropy tend to skew introverted and are thriving in a virtual work world, but some of us may be missing the in-person conferences where we shared ideas and were inspired. Apra Chapters have long been centers of information sharing and best practices, and the global pandemic allowed many to shine in how they organized and presented information virtually.

Personally speaking, the pandemic also allowed me to lean into the best ways to use this time and get the most out of the opportunities offered. Here are a few things I’ve learned about navigating the world of virtual information sharing without suffering Zoom burnout.

  1. Coordinate with colleagues: Does everyone on your team need to attend every learning opportunity? Dividing and conquering is a great way to maximize coverage and information sharing. Plus, you get to hone your presentation skills and ability to summarize information pertinent to your organization. And who knows, with this experience under your belt, maybe you'll be submitting an abstract to present at the next Apra PD conference!

  2. Set intentions: I like to clearly write out what I'm looking to accomplish by attending a session. For instance, "Learn how other organizations are addressing contact methods in the age of virtual visits," or "Watch for data visualizations to inspire our next iteration of business intelligence." It doesn’t have to be SMART-goal level, but make sure it is worth your time. (It is valuable!)

  3. Take notes: I don't know about you, but my memory isn't quite as sharp as it used to be. Take copious notes, capture screenshots or write yourself next-step tasks. Keeping in mind tips 1 and 2, write notes of what you want to share or what specifically supports the intention you set coming into the session. Bonus: Keep everything in Microsoft OneNote so you can keyword search your notes and share directly from the app.

  4. Share with colleagues: Get those notes out and find the appropriate time to debrief the session. It could be in a team meeting, a one-on-one with your supervisor or in a quick stand-up. Teach it forward and prompt some discussion to make it just right for your team. Did the meeting organizer send out a deck or handouts after the session? Be sure to share those with your team, too.

  5. Volunteer: I can't recommend raising your (virtual) hand enough. The magic of Apra and our profession comes from the information sharing we do. Our listservs are a treasure trove of questions and insights. Apra presentations always bring great ideas home. Panel discussions are professional networking magic-lands. I promise you have something valuable to add to the conversation. Our chapters are valuable because of the individuals involved and there's always more room at the table.

I hope as we collectively figure out how to make meeting in person safe (see you in Atlanta in 2022!), that we also continue to share virtually. Stay tuned for a “part two” article on how to incorporate some organizing and presenting best practices to make virtual events the most inclusive and effective uses of your time. If you have ideas or have loved the way someone approached a virtual session, please reach out to me at

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