Inaugural Blog Post: What’s Up in Wyoming?

Snowy Range MountainsIt’s a new year and positive thinking is at the forefront of my mind. I’ve never made a new year’s resolution in my life–and at this point it’s unlikely I ever will–but I think that personal growth should be a constant striving. Plus, a bleak Wyoming winter is the perfect stage to be considering how positive thought can affect us in our work. I believe that optimism can permeate all aspects of our lives, but I had to ask myself: “how can the bright side improve prospect development?”

It’s easy to find those little annoyances that can bog down our daily lives in this field. Perhaps it’s that fundraiser who is too busy raising money to enter contact reports. Maybe it’s those little aspects of our data that we know are low enough of quality that they are hindering our efforts in meaningful statistical analysis. Heck, I’ve had my moments where I was just plain sick of writing profiles. Instead fixating on the grievances, let’s relish in some victories and savor the excitement of our upcoming plans for growing philanthropy for our organizations.

In 2015, I experienced some staff turnover, and as a consequence, interviewed a number of aspiring prospect development professionals. Admittedly, this is Wyoming and I think most of them didn’t know what prospect development was. However, one of the spectacular side benefits to this process was the perspective it gave me on why I love my work. I had a candidate ask at the end of the interview what we like about working here. Great question. I fell in to prospect development almost as serendipitously as anyone and had never really considered an articulation of this answer. However, it tumbled out of me like a mountain stream: the opportunity for creative problem-solving, respect from leadership for our unique perspective in how we can advance our mission, knowing that I am spending my work time supporting a cause that I believe is making a positive impact on the world. The positivity was lying under the surface, just below my pre-articulated thoughts. Let’s bring the positivity to the surface and make it a part of our daily lives. Recently we announced a large, meaningful gift to College of Education here at the University of Wyoming and I asked my staff to break from their work to attend the media announcement. I wanted them to see the fruits of their labor–the excitement on the faces of our faculty and our university and state leaders and the words of optimism of creating a preeminent program in our state. Prospect development is a part of that and I wanted us all to take a half hour to savor it. I think those little positive reminders can pay forward in our optimism for our work. In 2016, I challenge you to carve a little time out of your schedule to appreciate the impacts on society to which you are contributing.

I often enjoy perusing articles and blogs while I have my morning tea. I’m sure many of them will be referenced in my future posts, but one of my favorite series is titled “How to Be a Success at Everything” (http://www.fastcompany.com/section/how-to-be-a-success-at-everything) and a line in one of their recent posts inspired my desire to self-analyze my positive thinking in prospect development. The author, Harvey Duetschendorf, states, “Without a dose of optimism, we’d never try anything new, and our lives would remain perpetually stuck in the same place.” (http://www.fastcompany.com/3055069/how-to-be-a-success-at-everything/7-habits-that-can-help-you-become-more-optimistic) Trying new things in prospect development can be a scary space – time and budgetary commitments and return on investment are up in the air. But with some positive thinking, this might just be the year to leap off a running horse and tackle a steer by its horns.

That said, here’s my first new year’s resolution ever. In 2016, I resolve to think more positively.

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Welcome to the first installment of the CPRA blog!

To wrap up I want to briefly introduce myself so that you can contextualize any ridiculous comments you may encounter (e.g. rodeo metaphors).

My name is Colleen and I am the Director of Prospect Management and Research for the University of Wyoming. Here at UW, we have an amazing team that covers all of the areas of prospect development, even though “data analytics” isn’t in our titles. My educational background is in anthropology and my work background pretty closely follows the classic form of a prospect researcher ? a variety of unrelated jobs of varying degrees of interest. Eventually I found myself in Wyoming and in prospect development and I know I’m right where I belong. Here we do the anthropology of philanthropy and have the bonus of statistically significant sample sizes.

CPRA’s member organizations represent a number of very important causes. I reside in higher ed, which I personally believe is one of the most important solutions to so many of our cultural woes. I know that the faculty and students I serve are making a difference in the world and that my work in turn is making a positive impact.

So what I’d truly like to kick off the CRPA blog with is gratitude. Gratitude to all CPRA members for your work toward wonderful causes and gratitude for the opportunity to do my part to make the world a little bit better of a place.

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