By Sarah Daly and Lindsey Nadeau
Apra’s Prospect Development 2019 conference was a year of innovation: the organization’s first live streams; new online communities for conference cohorts like Executive Leadership Council, Data Analytics Symposium and New Researcher’s Symposium; a purposeful integration of Apra’s Diversity and Inclusion Statement; and tailored programming for various career stages.
Prior to the keynote, Conference Planning Committee Chair Sarah Daly had the opportunity to welcome all attendees. Sarah was genuinely overcome with emotion during her remarks, because organizing this conference was a highlight of her professional career.
With over 1,000 attendees, 117 presenters from 89 organizations, 52 volunteers (16 Conference Planning Committee members, 2 volunteer co-chairs and 34 onsite volunteers) and over 350 first-time attendees, 2019 was a year for the history books!
As our Phoenix tans started to fade, I sat down with Sarah to reflect on the conference’s key accomplishments.
Q: What were Prospect Development’s biggest draws this year?
A: Michelle Poler’s keynote begged the question, “What’s the best thing that can happen when you face your fear?” I’ve heard such positive feedback from attendees about her message and pushing us to dare to live beyond fear. Additionally, some of the most attended sessions included “Partnerships in Pipeline Development,” presented by Liz Clark; “Flying Cowboys and Performing Hawkeyes: Discovering New Prospects Using an Interest-Based, Social Media-Driven Approach,” presented by Jacob Astley; and “Beyond Capacity: Wrangling Ratings for Fundraising Success,” presented by Jon Garrow — attendees were spilling out into the hallway to absorb the educational content.
Q: What was Prospect Development’s most impactful innovation?
A: We introduced a new Apra Talks format — Apra Friendly Debates — which allowed members to examine both sides of some of the most challenging questions facing our field. We were also able to leverage live polling technology to gather data in real time, representing a glimpse into our industry’s current stance on the Friendly Debates topics.
Additionally, we were able to implement live streaming of selected breakout sessions, enabling Apra’s content experts to reach over 70 locations (with some streams reaching multiple people). We also jump-started Group Discussions, providing a forum for attendees to discuss practitioner-identified topics and trends. And, most importantly, we provided multiple mechanisms for first-time attendees to connect with one another, including a targeted reception with the Apra Board of Directors and easy-to-spot ribbons to encourage seasoned members to introduce themselves.
A special shout-out to Apra staff, without whom the majority of these innovations would not have elevated this year’s conference!
Q: How did Prospect Development try to better serve the Apra membership?
A: Apra’s Education and Professional Development Committee (the chairs of all the committees related to educational content) worked collaboratively to identify Prospect Development presentations that would translate well into Apra Bytes, Connections articles and produce a recap of Apra’s Group Discussions. We truly applied feedback provided via Prospect Development 2018 session surveys and post-conference surveys, and in debrief meetings with Apra’s staff, Board of Directors and volunteers.
Additionally, building on an identified need to develop content for all Apra members, who span various points on the career spectrum, Apra just launched a Leadership Task Force. This group is responsible for deliberately developing mechanisms to provide content to emerging, strategic, and executive leaders. We are excited to use this task force’s recommendations to inform content for 2020.
Q: Speaking of next year, what successes do you hope Prospect Development will carry forward in 2020 and beyond?
A: Strategically curating educational content with Apra’s Body of Knowledge and Strategic Plan — this year featured three presentations on diversity and inclusion (check them out: 1, 2, 3)! My hope is that 2020 will continue our effort to tailor content to different career stages, providing newbies, mid-career and seasoned veterans outlets to level up their skillset. And obviously, next year’s location in Washington, D.C. poses a multitude of opportunities to integrate nonprofit and sister association leadership, which I know Apra seeks to leverage.