CoolData blog

19 March 2012

Symposium on Data Analytics is a must-attend

If you’re interested in working with data for the benefit of a non-profit organization or for education institutional advancement, then you must make room in your calendar for the APRA Symposium on Data Analytics.

Kate Chamberlin of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center recently posted the listserv message below which I am quoting in its entirety, with her blessing. Kate is Chair of this year’s Symposium, being held this summer in Minneapolis. I’ve attended a few of these symposiums (and presented at one), and I can tell you that they’re great. This is a conference where you can really learn, and meet the people who are doing cool stuff with data for their institutions and organizations.

Of particular interest are the Case Study sessions, which are brief (20 minutes) presentations of analytics projects that your colleagues at other institutions have carried out. If you’ve worked on a such a project, consider sharing! Contact information is included below.

Here’s Kate’s message:

Hello everyone!

Many of you may have noticed the fifth annual APRA Symposium on Data Analytics is definitely happening again this summer in conjunction with APRA’s International Conference in Minneapolis!  The dates are Wednesday and Thursday, August 1st and 2nd — some additional information is available here:

We don’t have the full schedule yet, but hopefully will within a week or so.  In the meantime, let me give you some preliminary details:

Wednesday morning the conference will open with a keynote from Rob Scott at MIT, who was instrumental in founding the Symposium, and has a bird’s-eye view of the history of analytics in fundraising, from the perspective of research, IT, front-line fundraising, and fundraising management.  Thursday morning, we will have the opportunity to join the larger conference to hear Penelope Burke, President of Cygnus Applied Research Inc., on Donor-Centered Fundraising.

The fundamental track is intended as a two day introduction to analytics in fundraising, with the goal of giving participants a solid road map to approach their first project.  Topics will include: Various Variables: Data Preparation and Management for Successful Analytics, Walkthrough: Understanding the Problem and the Resources, Key Questions in Project Management, and Implementation.  Presenters will include Chuck McClenon at the University of Texas, James Cheng at Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Audrey Geoffroy at the University of Florida, and myself.  In addition, six short case studies from a variety of nonprofits will be presented in the fundamental track.

In the intermediate/advanced track, we will continue the focus on case study with nine short project presentations.  We will also have a presentation from Jeff Shuck of Event 360, who applies predictive modeling and segmentation to fundraising events and peer-to-peer fundraising programs.  Marianne Pelletier of Cornell University and Josh Birkholz of Bentz Whaley Flessner will present on constituent engagement.  Chuck McClenon of the University of Texas will lead a panel of practitioners to discuss the intricacies of collaborating with development IT.

Finally, we will have our usual faculty/committee panel to close the Symposium.  We will be asking our faculty, committee members, and a few guests to tell us about the one best idea they’ve heard recently in the area of development analytics, and follow up with a free-wheeling conversation including these ideas and any and all questions from the floor.

Last year we experimented with a case study format that gave us the opportunity to hear many of our colleagues present on projects they are working on at their institutions.  As you see above, with a few tweaks, we are continuing to set aside some time for case study this year.  If you’re planning to attend, I’m hoping some of you might have a project you’d be interested in presenting?  You will have 20 minutes to present a project of your choice and take a few questions.  Emma Hinke at Johns Hopkins has kindly agreed to handle the logistics of case studies for me, so if you have an idea, or would just like more information on the case studies, please be in touch with Emma at  If we have a great flood of ideas, we may not be able to pack them all in, but wouldn’t that be a great problem to have?  Please send us your thoughts, and if we can’t manage them all this year, we’ll start a list for next year.

I do hope you will consider joining us — it’s the variety of attendees that makes the Symposium great.  I’ll let you know when we have the full schedule up on the Symposium web site.

Many thanks,

Kate Chamberlin
Chair, APRA Symposium on Data Analytics
Campaign Strategic Research Director, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center


7 October 2010

Toronto, here we come!

Filed under: Peter Wylie, Training / Professional Development — Tags: , — kevinmacdonell @ 6:52 am

In just a few days I’ll be in Toronto for APRA Canada’s second national conference (13-15 Oct), where I’ll be co-leading a half-day workshop on data mining with Peter Wylie.

“APRA” stands for the Association of Professional Researchers for Advancement, so we’ll be addressing to prospect researchers working primarily in Major Gifts for universities, hospitals, arts organizations and other non-profits from sea to shining sea.

Prospect researchers are nice people. And Canadians are nice people, too. But we know our audience wants us to deliver the goods: “Give us something we can use!”

So we’re giving it a shot: Three hours of working with real data, building real models, in real time. Peter and I have been working with two institutions over the summer — the University of Manitoba, and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. They have provided us with anonymized data, including as many potential predictor variables as they could easily obtain, and we’re going to provide them with customized score sets that they can use in their fundraising programs.

What those looking on should gain is a real sense of what data mining “looks like.” The live demonstration will be software-specific (we will be using Data Desk), but the essentials are perfectly applicable to one’s software of choice.

Ideally, we’d have everyone sitting at a computer going through the steps with us, but that’s not possible. The central idea is to get one step beyond simply talking about data mining and predictive modeling, and actually demonstrate it in a visual, physical way.

We welcome you to join us, and if you happen to see either of us between sessions, by all means introduce yourself and ask questions!

14 March 2010

Where you’ll find me

Filed under: Peter Wylie, Training / Professional Development — Tags: , , — kevinmacdonell @ 3:22 pm

Today I’m posting from Washington DC, where my wife and I are spending a few days of vacation, as well as taking the welcome opportunity to visit data mining pioneer Peter Wylie.

While I’m here with Peter, I wanted to mention that he and I will be delivering a half-day workshop on predictive modeling at the national conference of the Canadian Chapter of the Association of Professional Researchers for Advancement (APRA-Canada), Oct 13-15, in Toronto ON. Registration for that event will be open shortly, if it isn’t already. Visit APRA-Canada’s conference website for details.

While I’m at it, I might as well mention that in July I’ll be presenting in Anaheim CA at APRA International’s annual conference and the APRA Symposium on Data Analytics, which this year is being held concurrently with the conference. Details later.

Closer to (my) home, and closer in time too, are a couple of presentations I’ll be giving in Halifax, Nova Scotia. One is a 90-minute presentation for advancement and fundraising professionals, hosted by the great people who work in fundraising at Dalhousie University. That will be followed in late April with a shorter presentation at the conference for the Nova Scotia Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP). (Conference website.)

UPDATE: A list of upcoming and past events is available on THIS PAGE.

Create a free website or blog at