The Body of Knowledge and You: Using Project Management Tools to Improve Relationship Management Initiatives

The Apra Body of Knowledge (BoK) is a comprehensive tool that helps prospect development professionals ensure they have the knowledge needed to excel in the field. The BoK consists of four unique domains: Prospect Research, Relationship Management, Data Science and Campaigns. In this article, we focus on the Relationship Management domain. 

Within this domain, the competency of Change and Project Management is listed as a skill set needed to produce effective relationship management initiatives. The purpose of this article is to share tips for how to use project management tools to further relationship management projects and introduce Apra members to this crucial part of advanced competency of the relationship management domain. 

Prospect development professionals are often charged to create and lead change management in development offices. Typical projects might introduce refinement in a moves management process or introduce a new fundraiser metric. While these initiatives can bring significant insight to fundraising operations, they also have the potential to create anxiety and confusion for team members.

As the BoK Relationship Management domain points out, use of basic project management phases and thoughtful communication tactics in an initiative can mean the difference between consistent confusion and amazing adoption of your next project. To demonstrate the advanced competencies of the BoK relationship management domain skill set, consider implementing project management to see your efforts stick. 

Project management increases the chances of delivering projects on time and true organizational change. An article from the Harvard Business Review, “The Four Phases of Project Management,” describes the basic phases for project management: planning, build-up, implementation and closeout.


The first phase, planning, sets the stage for the goal of the project. Create a project planning sheet to list the objective of the project, who is involved in completing tasks related to the project costs and potential bottlenecks. During a lengthy process like a database conversion, for example, this sheet can summarize the various fees for consultants and describe implementation problems. Update and use this fundamental document to show leadership the status of the project. Plan ongoing communication points about the project and ask leadership to state why the project is needed to the department. If resources allow, consider designating a project manager to guide the entire project, starting with this planning sheet.

The build-up phase is where most of us have the best experience with project management. This phase creates the detailed task-planning — establishing who will complete what and when. For example, a project to create training videos can have tasks listed such as “record training videos” and note who will complete each specific training. To stay organized, online project management tools like Asana or Trello transform excel task lists into visuals, showing task owners, deadlines, helpful attachments for the training topic and feedback. Use these sites as not only a way to organize and efficiently include others, but also as a source of morale-boosting feedback during long project durations. 

The implementation phase of project management is an opportunity to monitor the department for feedback and assessment of the process’ adoption. Feedback can be gathered through simple surveys or meeting with specific end users. Consider a project that offers a new mapping tool for development officers (DOs) to find prospects in their territory. Gather a few DOs and ask them to navigate to their territory and use the filters to find a prospect that is a recent benefactor. Note the challenges they have and especially the requests or assumptions they make while using it. Do they ask how they can export the data or do they want a better way to zoom in on the map? Acting on these insights during the implementation phase can mean a successful adoption of your new product. 

Once completion is in sight, note the effectiveness of the project with the closeout or deployment phase. Document and develop training tools for the new process during this phase, as well as evaluate and test the project performance. Distribute frequency reports to managers about who uses the tool and how often. Report back to leadership and the end users to illustrate the impact of the initiative. As the project is integrated into the regular business life of the department, reflect on the project management efforts. Take time to recognize what went well with the approach and what might be done differently next time. 

Use of project management concepts is an advanced competency of Apra’s BoK relationship management domain. Consider elevating your next project adoption with these phases to continue your growth as an effective prospect development professional. Communication and planning can expand the chances of new business process acceptance and limit project resistance. Consider reviewing the resources today in Apra’s Body of Knowledge Relationship Management domain for smooth planning and promotion of your next product. 

Additional resources used to write this article:

The Four Phases of Project Management, HBR - Nov 3, 2016

Don’t Just Tell Employees Organizational Changes Are Coming - Explain Why, HBR - Oct 5, 2018


Heather Marzynski joined Apra in 2001. Most of her time and energy since then has been focused on directing prospect development teams. She is currently the chair of Apra's Body of Knowledge Committee and urges everyone in the profession to stay curious, keep learning and continue to bestow our valuable contributions to the fundraising industry. 


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This article relates to the Relationship Management domain in Apra's Body of Knowledge. 

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