2020 Mariann Bishop Professional Development Grant Recipient - Danielle Bornstein

You work in the development office at a university. Your 24-hour giving drive is one month away, but the buzz on campus is lackluster at best, and giving has been in sharp decline for a few weeks. What's going on?

Let me back up. I entered the field of prospect research in 2013 - sideways, as many of us did! Since then, my experience has evolved from the basics of contact information updates and verifying screening results to include sophisticated capacity ratings, briefing materials, reputational risk assessments, and data analysis projects. In receiving the Mariann Bishop Memorial Grant, I jumped at the opportunity to renew my subscription to Coursera Plus for another year so I can continue to add tools and perspectives to my arsenal.

A few years ago, I was asked to do an analysis of parents in our (Higher Ed) database to look for interesting trends or insights. That project led to others, and an interest in data analytics was kindled. On Coursera Plus, I had previously taken courses in data analytics math skills, probability and data in R, and inferential statistics to get a foundational understanding of the math beneath the code and interpret the results in better context. With the grant, I've been able to continue my data analytics journey with a full-scope certificate program that covers every step of the data analysis process, including asking the right questions, ethical handling of the data, cleaning and preparing the data, analysis, visualization and communication tools, and taking action on the data insights. It covers tools like R, SQL, and Tableau and includes a hands-on capstone project to showcase what I've learned.

Though I'm still progressing through the modules of the certificate, I can already see different ways to use the wealth of data that organizations already collect. Jumping back into the scenario above: analysis could be useful in identifying the decline in giving and resuscitating the momentum before your giving drive.

  • With it, you notice that giving dropped off sharply about five weeks ago, around the same time that a student protest took place on campus.
  • The university president addressed the concerns, and things on campus seem to have gone back to normal, but a segmented look at the data shows that the drop in giving rests almost entirely with current parents and alumni athletes.
  • Social media analysis helps you zero in on their grievances and recruit previously-identified influencers who might help you right the ship.
  • Based on social media analysis and change data, the research team is able to quickly pull a list of affected major prospects for personal gift officer outreach.
  • Soon, you've secured a partnership between two alumni influencers and the marketing team, issued a statement from the athletic director about policy changes being implemented, and hosted open Zoom sessions with the dean of students and the director of parent relations to answer any lingering questions the disgruntled parents may have.

This is just one scenario - data analytics can help you build portfolios, identify new prospects, custom-fit ratings to your constituency, build better surveys, flag reputational risks, and understand your donors' behavior. Using data analysis to solve specific business questions lets you leverage the mountains of data available to your organization, leading you to be more efficient, reduce bias, and make data-driven decisions. It lends transparency and reproducibility to the results of analysis and helps translate those results into easy-to-understand ideas that call for action. I'm grateful to have received this grant so that I can bring these kinds of skills and insights into my work in the future!

Are you an Apra PA member interested in applying for the Mariann Bishop Memorial Professional Development Grant? Visit the application page to apply.

Apra Pennsylvania is a 501(c)6 non-profit organization.

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