Message From the President: Two Bright Spots in a Challenging Year

By Misa Lobato, Apra President

Dear Apra members,

It’s fall 2020, and we’re starting a new Apra volunteer year under circumstances I could never have imagined. COVID-19 has had an enormous impact on our daily lives, both at work and at home (although, if you’re like me, work and home are now the same place). Some days the challenges of this year have felt too hard to bear.

But 2020 has also pushed us to collectively reexamine the significance of community connections, and I’ve seen two beautiful outcomes of this. The first is a heightened societal awareness around issues of social and racial justice. Social justice work has been a driving force in my life. It informs my daily work with Apra and will be a primary focus of my presidency. And while diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) have long been values of Apra, our organization needed to demonstrate our sincere commitment to those values through a formalized plan and a dedicated effort.

This began with the development of diversity and inclusion goals outlined in our 2019-2021 Strategic Plan. We then further codified these values with our Diversity and Inclusion Statement of Principles. Diversity, equity, and inclusion have become key areas of focus in the board nomination process, and this summer, the inaugural Apra Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee finalized an Apra DEI Action Plan. The plan outlines tactics for Apra to analyze, directly address, and provide education on issues of diversity, equity and inclusion across three areas:

  1. Apra as an organization, where we will be working to understand member demographics, ensure diverse representation across our governance and volunteer structures, engage in practices that promote inclusivity and address issues of accessibility
  2. The prospect development profession, where we will confront the critical lack of diversity within the philanthropic sector by actively pursuing opportunities to diversify our profession, and will provide our membership with education and tools on DEI issues in philanthropy
  3. The broader philanthropic sector, where we will guide our industry to be more diverse and inclusive by developing guidelines and tools on how to reach and engage diverse constituents

Because this work touches every area of our organization, the 2020/2021 DEI Committee will be working collaboratively with many Apra committees to coordinate, organize, prioritize and support DEI work throughout Apra.

One critical DEI effort currently underway is to collect identity data from you, our Apra members. We're asking you to voluntarily provide data on your race and/or ethnicity, gender identity, sexual identity, disabilities and/or impairments, age range and religion. By understanding our member demographics, we can develop benchmarks for diverse representation in our governance and programming. These data will also be used to inform initiatives to further diversify Apra and the philanthropic sector. They will also guide our efforts to improve accessibility throughout our events and resources. I encourage you to provide this identity information by filling out your member profile. Your responses to these identity questions will not be publicly viewable.

Our goals in diversity, equity and inclusion are not simply to improve our organization, but to create meaningful and lasting change in the world. Apra will be an industry leader on issues of diversity, equity and inclusion in philanthropy, and our members will be agents of change within their organizations.

I mentioned a second beautiful outcome of this terrible year, and that has been to witness the incredible ways our community has strengthened. Apra has always been a home for me; individual Apra members generously shared resources and best practices as I learned the prospect development profession, and many of my closest friendships have been made through Apra. This year, as I’ve seen Apra chapters and members rally to support one another through budget cuts, furloughs, job loss, grief, loneliness and daily personal challenges, I’ve been reminded of how exceptional this community is. Just a few examples:

  • #PDVE2020 registration counts exceeded goals, and participation was active and enthusiastic at our first-ever Prospect Development Virtual Experience conference
  • Chapters are sharing resources and content with one another and have opened up many of their virtual events
  • Members have generously supported the Apra Foundation through direct donations and the purchase of Data-Driven Deliciousness: The Apra Cookbook — funds raised through this cookbook will support the education of members adversely affected by COVID-19
  • Members have proactively hosted Apra happy hours to keep us connected

Apra is a learning community, with an educational mission and a membership dedicated to lifelong learning. But this year has shown us once again that it’s also a system of extraordinary support. Thank you for creating this community. I’m grateful to be a part of it.

I’m also excited to share that Apra will soon be launching a learning management system (LMS). This project was the first-ever funded through the Apra Innovation Fund. We can’t wait for you to experience this robust new learning tool. Stay tuned — more info will be coming soon.

Wishing you strength, resilience and a beautiful fall,

Misa Lobato, Apra President

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