2017 Mariann Bishop Professional Development Grant Recipient - Valerie Smith, Villanova University
As the recipient of the 2017 Mariann Bishop Memorial Professional Development Grant, I wanted to thank APRA PA again for the chance to take advantage of the grant, as we all know how important it is to stay on top of current practices in research and related fields. I ultimately ended up applying the grant toward APRA’s 2018 Plug In to Relationship Management virtual conference that was held last November. Having worked off and on in Villanova’s Prospect Management department since the mid-1990s, before moving solely to Prospect Research in 2008, I already have solid experience in how things are supposed to run, but it was nice to get an update on current practices.
As with any conference, webinar, etc. that I attend, my biggest takeaway is always seeing how things are done in other shops, looking for ways our office can improve our processes, or simply confirming that Villanova is already following the best practices. While each of the sessions touched on various aspects of relationship management, I found the session “Policy Development and Implementation” most valuable. Overall, it emphasized how important it is to have a framework in place so that all fundraising roles and processes within the office are understood by everyone. This session outlined all the steps involved in establishing policies, from the initial stages of collaborating with leadership and other colleagues, to finalizing and communicating it out to everyone, and then addressing any technical or procedural hurdles.
While the speaker, Gareth Griffin, pointed out that a policy is “NOT a procedures manual,” (a policy defines “the framework for fundraising at an organization” and “outlines fundraising roles and processes”, whereas a procedure defines the steps you take to accomplish an end result), it still brought back valuable memories from the 1990s when Villanova moved to a new alumni database, and subsequently a new Prospect Management system, and I was in charge of combing through the new system and figuring out all the ins and out of how we were going to put the new system to use. I was also tasked with creating a “Prospect Management System Procedures Manual” and training staff members. While that early version was geared more toward data entry procedures, our office has a more extensive manual today that focuses more on the policies that our office follows, and the processes/procedures that are used behind the scenes to make sure they’re being followed. To me, having policies in place, enforcing them while remaining open to change, and documenting everything are all key components in keeping the Relationship Management system running smoothly.
I enjoyed attending APRA’s 2018 Plug In to Relationship Management virtual conference and look forward to attending similar events in the future.