By Patricia (Suzi) Elzie-Tuttle
Whenever more than a couple folks in prospect development get together, someone inevitably asks, “How did you get into this profession?” Every answer seems to be different from the next: a fascinating winding journey from journalism, librarianship, the CIA, executive searching or myriad other seemingly unrelated fields. I have yet to meet someone who, as a child, said “I want to be in prospect development” among a sea of aspiring astronauts, marine biologists, doctors and teachers. We all seem to have fallen into this profession in one way or another and unexpectedly found a place where we belong.
My personal journey into prospect development began with a message from a college friend. They saw that I was in graduate school earning a Master’s in Library and Information Science and they reached out to say, “I know of a position that you may be interested in. It’s a behind-the-scenes job that uses your librarian skills for the greater good.” I’ve now been in prospect development for over 10 years and I am so grateful.
What I love most about our field are the people; my prospect development colleagues and peers are some of the most clever, creative and curious people I have ever met. If I have a puzzling question I’m trying to answer, I know that I can ask five different folks on my prospect development team about anything, even non-work related things, and I will get five different, thoughtful and innovative responses.
I can ask about anything from the best pie crust recipe, to a book recommendation, to where to get a good bagel within 15 miles and, undoubtedly, someone will pull up an article about the Bay Area’s best bagels or a post from someone who tried 30 pie crust recipes and ranked them using a complicated and thorough rubric. At the same time, I can also have deeply thoughtful conversations with prospect development colleagues about things like the colonialist overtones of naming public spaces or our role in mitigating and influencing the effects of philanthropic wealth distribution within a white supremacist society.
Even more wonderful is that, in my experience, the same could be said of all of the phenomenal prospect development colleagues I’ve met through Twitter, the California Advancement Researchers Association (CARA) and Apra.
I have been so incredibly fortunate to make such good friends in prospect development and I am even more grateful for all the opportunities that Apra has created for us to connect. As interim chair of Apra’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Committee, I left our recent meeting feeling energized and hopeful because of the thoughtfulness and dedication shown by each committee member. I have been to a number of Apra conferences and CARA events, and I have left each with a feeling of walking on air, having been surrounded by such intelligent and friendly people.
I want these opportunities for everyone. I have been very fortunate to work at organizations that have the resources for these professional development (and cup-filling) opportunities. While I found that the Covid-19 pandemic has made way for professional development opportunities to be more accessible via the wide implementation of virtual events, I would be remiss if I didn’t also recognize that it has been devastating on multiple fronts. Because of this, in 2020, the Apra Foundation Board of Trustees introduced a new charitable initiative, the Apra Foundation Professional Development Assistance Fund. Thus far, Apra has awarded 18 $200 grants over three funding cycles and will have another funding round in May. These grants are in the form of credit toward any Apra educational offering such as Apra Fundamentals, Apra University and the annual Apra Prospect Development Conference.
Since Helen Brown’s proclamation in 2014, March has been International Research Pride month, and so we are asking you to show your pride by supporting the Apra Foundation Professional Development Assistance Fund to help widen access to our fellow researchers who could use it.
The brilliant Toni Morrison has said, “The function of freedom is to free someone else.” I have always interpreted that in part as our responsibility to share the resources we have with others who may not have the same access. Please consider donating to uplift and spread knowledge.