I recently attended the virtual 2022 Apra Midwest Spring Conference. Overall, I thought the entire event was well done and a perfect option for me, since my organization has a very limited professional development budget. The conference cost $50 for 2 half-days of live presentations and took place on Thursday and Friday afternoons. The conference began with a keynote session from Randall Hallett, CEO & Founder of Hallett Philanthropy. His presentation was geared toward reducing portfolio sizes to focus on the prospect most likely to give this year (and yes, he did mention the study at Northwestern University with David Lively). His presentation was energetic and full of descriptive data points, though I'd heard most his pitch before (i.e., smaller portfolios, lessen focus on wealth-screening and look more at engagement, etc.)
After the keynote, participants were given a short break and offered two break-out sessions to choose from; I chose to attend a presentation on building your own engagement scores by Karl Schindel, Associate Director of Data Analytics and Integrity at Iowa State University Foundation. Karl shared their experience on finding the right criteria (14 separate data points) to include in creating this score and the right population (everyone, regardless of giving history) to use. He even provided a basic spreadsheet template of their formulas. I found this very helpful because there was a tangible take-away to get started on my own. (I'm happy to share this spreadsheet with anyone who is interested in using it!)
The other break-out session I attended that day was actually led by our former Apra-WI president, Sarah Bernstein, along with Sarah Price of BWF. They discussed how verification of major giving qualification is important and how to organize and add efficiency to your verification process. I particularly appreciated their "Review and Code" method to get through a lot of prospects quickly and save time on large groups of prospects (i.e., a large group of a new class of students' parents). This may be a fairly common practice for most of you already, but again, for a newer researcher and for someone who works in a small shop, this is a great strategy!
The next day started with a DEI panel of experts, including Steve Grimes, Associate Director, Data Insights at Helen Brown Group. The panel was very engaged and transparent in how they were implementing a DEI culture and how they were working toward bringing in a more diverse population of donors to their respective organizations.
My favorite presentation, though, was probably the last one I attended on Friday, "Flummoxed by Farmland?," presented by Sam Edge, prospect development analyst at Mayo Clinic. (I reached out to Sam after the presentation with a scenario to see if I followed his guidelines correctly, and he was very willing to share insights.) I was eager to attend this session because for the first time in my career, most of the donors to my organization (Indiana 4-H Foundation) are farmers or live in rural Indiana. The presentation discussed valuing farmland and how to look up annual farmland values by acreage. Typically, one of the larger (state) university's extension office has this information. (In my world, it's Purdue Extension in Indiana.) I learned how to identify rural addresses (e.g., 330 E 100 N or 18701 121st St) and also that wealth-screening tools might miss farmland valuations entirely, often looking only at the home value. Farmland can be owned or rented (usually a conversation for the gift officer to get more information). The value of the land may be based on market value or "productivity" - Sam went into a very detailed explanation of a case study on a property in Iowa. Again, these productivity values are often determined by state ag agencies (Wisconsin's information might be here: https://extension.wisc.edu/agriculture/). Another resource to consider is the website "AcreValue" which you can get a paid subscription to, but there are some free searches you can do as well to get a rough idea of what the land is worth (usually by county). At the very least, it's chance to look twice at some of your donors and prospects living in the country!
Overall, it was a fantastic learning opportunity. (And I credit Apra-WI for cluing me into this in their newsletter!)
Written by Anitra Hovelson.