The Apra BOK Puts the 'Professional' in Professional Development

The term “professional” is overused these days. It’s become a generic term for anyone with a full-time job: “Judy is a top-notch business professional.” Or an indication that a former amateur is now being paid for his activity: “After playing for his college team, Tom made it as a professional ball player.” It might express a vague agreement about certain performance standards: “In this office, we expect everyone to maintain a professional appearance.”

But let’s take a moment to remember what really defines a profession. I like the following description from the Professional Standards Councils of Australia:

profession is a disciplined group of individuals who adhere to ethical standards. This group positions itself as possessing special knowledge and skills in a widely recognized body of learning derived from research, education and training at a high level, and is recognized by the public as such.

Among the principal descriptions of a profession, then, is that the professional group possesses “special knowledge and skills in a widely recognized body of learning derived from research, education and training at a high level.” The best way to learn about the special knowledge and skills required for a career in prospect development is to become familiar with Apra’s Body of Knowledge (BOK), which articulates skill levels, competencies and expertise required for the four major sectors of our field:  Prospect Research, Relationship Management, Data Analytics and Campaigns.

If you have not yet (or have not recently) explored this rich resource available to Apra members, I encourage you to do so. Don’t wait until tomorrow; go now!

The BOK is for prospect development professionals at all stages of their careers. If you are a relative newcomer to the field, you’ll be able to determine the best areas for your own professional development. If you are a team manager or leader, you will find resources for evaluating the expertise of your team members, identifying gaps to be filled or necessary training to undertake. For those who are senior leaders, understanding the current best thinking of your colleagues about what’s required for achieving excellence in prospect development will make you a better advocate for your teams and the profession as a whole.

You may also notice at the end of Connections articles we include a link to BOK domains, as applicable to the articles. This is intended to give you additional reading and learning material to further familiarize yourself with available resources.   

With the creation and expansion of the BOK as a tool and resource for us all, we can be proud that prospect development has indeed evolved into a profession in the truest sense of the word. This is no accident. It is the result of the vision and hard work of our colleagues in the field over many years, beginning with Apra’s formation more than three decades ago — work that continues today. Many thanks to all the members of our community of prospect development professionals who have helped make this happen.

Yours in strengthening the prospect development profession,


Susan Faraone
Chair, Connections Editorial Advisory Committee


Susan Faraone is a senior consultant at Aspen Leadership Group, as well as the former editor of Connections. She has worked in higher education institutions for much of her 35-year career in a wide variety of roles, leading strategic and campaign planning, front-line fundraising teams, prospect development (research, analytics and prospect management), advancement operations, donor relations and stewardship.

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