September 2019 Newsletter

In This Edition

Upcoming Event: Apra Indiana 2019 Fall Conference

We reminisce about Apra's Prospect Development 2019
conference through chapter member submissions:

What's the BEST that Can Happen?

Getting Started in Fundraising Data Analytics

Prospect Personas

Always Impressed

"It was a dry heat." A group of Apra Indiana members attending
Prospect Development 2019 met for a chapter dinner while in Phoenix. 

Apra Indiana 2019 Fall Conference

Join us on November 6, 2019 for our Fall Conference at the Kurz Purdue Technology Center for an exclusive event that focuses on partnership opportunities between researchers and fundraisers. Sessions will include how to establish realistic expectations for successful relationships between fundraising and research, philanthropy trends from fundraising and prospect research perspectives, networking tips, and so much more! This conference will feature a “What It’s Like to be Me” panel comprising of successful individuals in the fundraising and prospect research fields. We are also excited to have Anthony Cawdron, events coordinator for Purdue University President Mitch Daniels, lead a session on event etiquette and networking. Don’t miss an opportunity to network with professionals across the industry! Early-bird registration is now available at just $25 per person, with opportunities to bundle registrations for savings! We are encouraging fundraisers and prospect researchers from the same organizations to participate together! Please contact us at for questions.


What's the BEST that Can Happen?

Submitted by Apra Indiana member Jeanette Bogren, Indiana University Health Foundation

Keynote: Fear Less, Do More by Michelle Poler

Watch Michelle's TEDx   |

In Michelle Poler’s keynote speech discussing her project 100 Days Without Fear, one quote struck me in particular: “What’s the best that can happen?” This thought is a way to counteract our typical fear-based reaction to risk and the unknown. Our automatic response brings worst-case scenarios to mind, rather than all the best possible rewards. By switching out one word, the entire thought process changes, and the likelihood of taking action increases. 

She also noted that the point is not to be fearless, but courageous. The fear will still be there, but having the courage to face it anyway, despite the discomfort and risk, is what makes the difference. I hope to use this way of thinking when I’m problem-solving, brainstorming, and strategizing, both at work and at home. It will help me open up to more possibilities and go outside of my comfort zone when the rewards are worth the risk.


Getting Started in Fundraising Data Analytics

Submitted by Apra Indiana member and 2019 Founders' Award Winner
Ryan Allison, Indiana University Foundation

Various Sessions, Data Analytics Symposium

“There are more than 2.5 quintrillion new bytes of data generated every single day.”
 – Richard Tollefson, Jr., The Phoenix Philanthropy Group

Let that statement sink in for a moment.

At the Symposium, Tollefson’s statement was issued as a challenge to prospect development professionals who are interested in leveraging data analytics to drive fundraising success. As researchers who have an interest in fundraising analytics, but may not necessarily have a background in statistical science, Apra’s message was clear and consistent: the first thing we must do is give ourselves freedom— freedom to test, formulate different variables, scores, and concepts; and, with much trial and error, freedom to use descriptive and predictive modeling techniques that demonstrate actionable value for our partners and stakeholders.

As the field of data analytics in higher education is, by most appearances, still in early adoption, it is up to us in traditional prospect research shops to provide small wins that demonstrate incremental, actionable value that our fundraisers and leadership can grasp. To do this, many presenters at the symposium encouraged us to design and implement SMART goals related to data science, tackling tasks such as establishing a project plan, project scope, milestones, and timeline. 

One of the most helpful formulations for designing a new data science project was delivered by data scientist Renee Teate, who presented a talk entitled “Applied Machine Learning with Python: Donor Upgrade Targeting.” Teate said that, in order to successfully drive value at our organizations, we should follow these four steps:

1. Identify a Business Question

  • What is the non-technical business question we are trying to solve?

2. Identify a Data Question

  • What is the technical data question that allows us to get at the business question?

3. Perform the Data Analysis to Get a Data Answer

  • Perform and interpret the results by using an appropriate data science method.

4. Reframe the Data Answer as a Business Answer

  • Provide a non-technical business answer to partners and stakeholders.

In a presentation titled “The Advancement Ecosystem – Pairing Engagement with Giving,” Nicholas Teff and Kelsey Parman of the University of Iowa (UI) gave a wonderful example of a project that demonstrated actionable, incremental value to their institution. They shared techniques for measuring donor engagement that were used to grasp a causal relationship between donor engagement and giving behavior. With a broad concept definition, UI created a “Local Engagement Score,” defined by numerous indicators that were tied to four broad categories of engagement: philanthropic, experiential, alumni information, and volunteer. As an interesting aside, indicators that captured “experiential” included whether a donor was a college event attendee, the number of college events attended, and the date of the last college event attended. Each of the larger categories were composed of indicators like these. UI’s goal was to build a multi-dimensional view of engagement and, through it, custom build a “Local Engagement Score” that they could use to test correlated variation with donor giving behavior.

With respect to the larger community of professionals in fundraising data analytics, there has never been a better time to learn, practice, and implement the tools and methods that are available to us. One of my guiding principles, given to me by a close friend and a veteran Army Ranger, is that small steps plus consistency over time will lead to world-changing results. I look forward to continuing my professional development and partnering with many of you as we have opportunities to help one another succeed in fundraising data science.

I want to express my gratitude for the generosity of Apra Indiana. Through the Founders' Scholarship, Apra Indiana granted me the incredible opportunity to participate in Apra International’s Prospect Development 2019 Annual Conference and Data Analytics Symposium in Phoenix, AZ. For this experience, I am sincerely grateful. I believe the scholarship helped to jumpstart my career in data analytics and I know it afforded me the opportunity to connect with many helpful and interesting professionals from across the country and around the world. So, one more time, thank you, Apra Indiana!

If anyone would like a list of online resources related to data science, tools, methods, or community discussion, please contact me at and I will be happy to provide!


Prospect Personas

Submitted by Apra Indiana member Tanya Ford, Taylor University

Session: Creating Prospect Personas for an Analytic Affinity Model
by Jessica O’Connor and Rachel Veron

Jessica O'Connor and Rachel Veron, both from the Louisiana State University Foundation, presented their interesting take on affinity scores. (Side note: I wish I would have thought of this!) I found their interpretation of modeling scores clever. The concept was to take modeling scores and then create personas to be applied to their constituent base. 

The premise is quite compelling because it bypasses the end user having to decipher the seemingly arbitrary scoring returned from a modeling project. Instead, a tidy package that is relatable is delivered. Jessica and Rachel used characters from the TV show Game of Thrones to put a face to the personas. They provided a title based on a character's personality, capacity rating, affinity and inclination. On a descriptive blurb, they included a summary of fundraising status and direction as well as a quote from the character. The templates shared in the presentation showcased how much information really can be provided by deceptively simple profiles. 


Always Impressed

Submitted by Apra Indiana member Nick Pendergraft, Hanover College

"I am always impressed by the new and interesting ways many shops [presenting at Prospect Development] are using data. Some are using vendor tools to do new things, but also some shops are building affinity scores, visualizing data, and innovating the way portfolios are constructed and managed...all in-house!"

Apra Indiana would like to congratulate all who presented at
Prospect Development 2019, including chapter members:

Stephanie Brouwer, Marian University

Susan O'Shea, Purdue Research Foundation

Cindy Teron, Purdue Research Foundation

Well done!