The 2018 ProspectCon occurred on Friday, March 16, 2018, at NYU's Kimmel Center for University Life. We had a record number of people in attendance and it was an impressive day of ideas, networking, collaboration, and community.

60 Washington Square South, New York, NY 10012

Kimmel Center Colloquium Room



Prospect Research 101: A Foundation-Building Journey to Prospecting (9:45–11:15 AM)

Eric Zheng and Marie Danieli, Columbia Business School (@Columbia_Biz)

Over the years, as nonprofit organizations rely more and more on nuanced intelligence to reach their fundraising goals, prospect research has steadily earned greater recognition. To better serve in this role, it is crucial for all prospect researchers to possess a strong foundational knowledge and constantly keep our skill sets as sharp as possible. Drawing from both industry norms and independent experiences, Mr. Zheng and Ms. Danieli will share the A–Zs of prospect research, including: processes, resources, capacity ratings, and deliverables. In addition, they will provide general insights and perspectives specifically related to how prospect research is conducted at Columbia Business School.

The Shadow of Wealth: Profiling Ultra-High-Net-Worth Individuals and Wealth Managers (11:15 AM–12:45 PM)

Kristina Gropper (@KristinaHBG) and Rachel Dakarian (@Rachel_Dakarian), The Helen Brown Group (@AskHelenBrown)

It's almost a riddle: how are we supposed to find “invisible" wealth and assets? As ultra-high-net-worth (UHNW) individuals utilize wealth management professionals to obfuscate ownership and avoid tax obligations, locating wealth indicators becomes more and more difficult for prospect researchers. In addition to outlining the entities used by wealth managers (corporations, foundations, trusts, among others) to preserve the wealth of their UHNW clients, Ms. Gropper and Ms. Dakarian will share the narratives and techniques they have used in their work to explain the possibility of hidden wealth assets in research profiles and reports. They will also emphasize the importance of understanding how wealth managers themselves can be prospects for major gifts. The presentation will be primarily informed by Brooke Harrington’s Capital without Borders: Wealth Managers and the One Percent.


Activate & Advocate: Being a Strategic Prospect Development Champion (9:45–11:15 AM)

Megan Heister, Planned Parenthood (@PPact) and Troy Smith of NYU (@nyuniversity)

Whether you are new to prospect research or a seasoned people manager, as prospect development professionals, we are often called upon to advocate for ourselves and our industry. In this session, two long-time prospect development professionals will share their own experiences to illustrate how they have grown their careers, elevated the profession, and advocated for their teams.

Attendees will learn how to:

Take big and small risks to position themselves as leaders in change management and challenge conventional thinking.

Leverage existing organizational needs to positively impact the image and reach of prospect development.

Advocate for organizational change.

Taking the “Eh?” out of AI, or How to Become an AI-Enabled Nonprofit (11:15 AM–12:45 PM)

Rich Palmer (@richmpalmer) and Nima Abbasi, PhD, Gravyty (@gravytyco)

When most people think about nonprofits, they don't think about artificial intelligence (AI), big data, or machine learning. However, nonprofits have access to a wealth of data beyond the reach of many for-profit companies. During this presentation, we will first explore the trends that have gotten us this far, followed by exciting techniques that can help your organization, and then we will conclude with case studies of nonprofits that have successfully utilized these modern technologies. Disclaimer: though Gravyty focuses on the use of AI within nonprofits, this is not a product pitch. It is focused on general education of these technologies and case studies from specific nonprofits to allow attendees to consider the role of AI and machine learning in their organizations.

LUNCH (12:45–1:45 PM)

Join us for a buffet lunch. Tweet about your morning @Apra_GNY using #ProspectCon2018.

PLENARY PANEL: What is Motivating Today’s Biggest Gifts? (2:00–3:00 PM)

Moderator: Jon W. Garrow, ‎Montefiore Health System (@MontefioreNYC) & Albert Einstein College of Medicine (@EinsteinMed) Featuring Eric Javier (@ebjavier) of CCS (@CCSfundraising), Anna Kornilakis of NYU Langone (@nyulangone), Jan Mittan of the Nature Conservancy (@nature_org), and Megan O’Neil (@ByMeganONeil) of the Chronicle of Philanthropy (@Philanthropy).

This discussion will review recent 8- and 9-figure gifts, changes in tax policy, and business and economic trends that have impacted large-scale philanthropy. It will include recommendations for how we can be proactive in identifying and profiling the motivating factors of top prospects and their philanthropy.

DONORSEARCH KEYNOTE: David Callahan (3:15–4:00 PM)

Our keynote speaker David Callahan is founder and editor of Inside Philanthropy, a digital media site. He has written extensively on trends in philanthropy, as well as American culture, public policy, and business. He is author of The Givers: Wealth, Power, and Philanthropy in a New Gilded Age, as well as The Cheating Culture: Why More Americans Are Doing Wrong to Get Ahead.

VENDOR COCKTAIL HOUR: Join us for a cocktail! (4:00–5:00 PM)

We will conclude the day with a networking cocktail hour featuring our vendor sponsors, overlooking Washington Square Park and all of the views that New York has to offer.


DonorSearch Keynote Speaker, David Callahan, is the founder and editor of Inside Philanthropy, a digital media site. He has written extensively on trends in philanthropy, as well as American culture, public policy, and business. He is the author of The Givers: Wealth, Power, and Philanthropy in a New Gilded Age, as well as The Cheating Culture: Why More Americans Are Doing Wrong to Get Ahead. In addition, Mr. Callahan has seven more books on domestic and international issues to his name and has written numerous op-ed and feature articles in publications such as The New York Times and Washington Post. Prior to launching Inside Philanthropy in 2014, Mr. Callahan co-founded Demos, a New York-based national think tank, where he held various leadership positions and conducted research on a wide range of issues relating to economic and political inequality. Previously, he was a resident scholar at the Century Foundation and managing editor of the American Prospect, a public policy journal. Mr. Callahan received his PhD from Princeton University in American politics and international relations.

Nima Abbasi, PhD is a director of data science at Gravyty, a company that helps nonprofit organizations raise more money by increasing their fundraisers’ efficiency with actionable data analytics and artificial intelligence. Before joining Gravyty, he was a graduate research assistant in the mechanical engineering department of Northeastern University. He holds a PhD from Northeastern University with a graduate master’s certificate in data science.

Rachel Dakarian is a senior researcher with the Helen Brown Group (HBG). A fundraising professional with nonprofit and political campaign experience, she joined HBG in 2015. A Brooklyn transplant, her roots are in the Midwest. Ms. Dakarian previously was prospect research analyst for Drake University and assistant director of development research at the Iowa State University Foundation. Before her career in development, she was a field organizer for Planned Parenthood and held various campaign roles with the Democratic party in Iowa and Minnesota. Ms. Dakarian is a member of Apra and Apra Greater New York. She is a former director of Apra Great Plains (the Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota chapters) and past president of Wheatsfield Cooperative Grocery in Ames, Iowa. She is a 2008 graduate of Drake University.

Marie Danieli is assistant director of prospect and donor relations at Columbia Business School, where she has worked since August 2016. Previously, she was the manager of research and resource development operations, and formerly prospect researcher, at the United Way of New York City. She began her career in prospect research as an intern at United Way in 2012. Ms. Danieli's love for research began as an Information Center intern at Catalyst, a nonprofit organization with a mission to expand opportunities for women in business. She previously held roles at the Anti-Defamation League, AdNation News, and the Morstan General Agency. She received a BA in English from the State University of New York at Geneseo, and a master’s degree in library science from Queens College. Ms. Danieli has been director of marketing/social media for Apra GNY since early 2017.

Jon W. Garrow is director of prospect development at Montefiore Einstein, an academic medical system serving the Bronx, Westchester, and Hudson Valley. He has been in the prospect development field since 2007, working as a consultant, and in higher education, medical research, and arts organizations. Mr. Garrow is currently pursuing a graduate degree in philanthropy studies from the Lilly School of Philanthropy and serves on the board of the New Rochelle Public Library Foundation. He is vice president of Apra GNY.

Kristina Gropper is a research associate at the Helen Brown Group (HBG). Before joining HBG in 2017, she was research manager at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn and an associate manager of prospect research at City Harvest, a food rescue organization. Ms. Gropper started her nonprofit career as a legal assistant at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2004. She is a member of Apra and an at-large board member of Apra Greater New York. Previously, she was Apra Greater New York’s director of programming from June 2014 to May 2016. Ms. Gropper graduated from the University of Chicago and the Bard Graduate Center.

Megan Heister is director of research & prospect management at the Planned Parenthood Federation of America & Planned Parenthood Action Fund, where she oversees a team of prospect development professionals. She has over 15 years of fundraising experience in health care, academic, cultural, and cause-based organizations in New York and Boston, including Massachusetts’ General Hospital and Tufts University. She is an alumna of Carleton College.

Eric B. Javier is a principal and managing director of CCS, the largest fundraising strategy and management firm in the world. For the last 20 years, Mr. Javier has advised leading executives and trustees across the nonprofit sector. He has helped design and direct more than 200 fundraising campaigns and initiatives that have raised more than $2 billion to make a positive difference in communities globally. Mr. Javier’s primary areas of expertise include feasibility and planning studies; capital and endowment campaigns; major donor programs; principal gift solicitation strategies; strategic development planning; case messaging and development; and coaching and training. He is a graduate of the College of the Holy Cross.

Anna Kornilakis is senior director of development of the NYU Langone Medical Center, overseeing fundraising for its Brooklyn-based efforts. She joined NYU Langone in 2008 and was previously director of development at the Vera Institute. She received her MS in nonprofit management from the New School and her BS from Northeastern University. She recently spoke as well on a panel at Fundraising Day NYC in 2017.

Jan Mittan is chief philanthropy officer of the Nature Conservancy in New York. Prior to the Conservancy, she was senior vice president of development and external relations at the St. Mary’s Healthcare System for Children in New York City (2006–2015). Prior to that, she was executive director of the Children’s Hospital Foundation at Westchester Medical Center (2001–2006). Ms. Mittan is credited with leading campaigns to build two children’s hospitals in the New York area. She has served for many years on the faculty of Columbia University’s graduate program in fundraising and nonprofit management. Her nonprofit career began as development officer of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, NY (1986–2000). She is an alumna of Buena Vista University.

Megan O’Neil is a reporter at the Chronicle of Philanthropy, where she writes about federal policy, leadership and management, and nonprofit finance. Prior to that, Ms. O’Neil reported on the intersection of technology and education at its sister publication, the Chronicle of Higher Education. Her work has been published by the Los Angeles Times and Bloomberg News. She has a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Southern California.

Rich Palmer is president and chief technology officer of Gravyty, a company that helps nonprofit organizations raise more money by increasing their fundraisers’ efficiency with actionable data analytics and artificial intelligence. Prior to Gravyty, he was a senior product manager at RelSci, and before that, he was head of portfolio analytics at CapitalIQ. He has founded four technology-based companies. In 2017, Gravyty was named #1 of New Fundraising Ideas that Worked by the Chronicle of Philanthropy. He has a BS in economics and information technology from Renesselaer Polytechnic Institute and an MBA from Babson College.

Troy Smith is executive director of prospect development and campaign analytics at New York University. In this role, he is responsible for strategic alignment of prospect development functions to drive informed decision making and leads the analysis of past fundraising efforts to provide data essential to the development of a comprehensive campaign plan. Before joining NYU in 2011, he held prospect development positions at organizations large and small since 2002. He earned his undergraduate degree from Catawba College, his master's degree from McDaniel College, and is pursuing doctoral studies at the NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development.

Eric Zheng is associate director of research at Columbia Business School’s Office of External Relations and Development, where he oversees prospect research operations. Prior to joining Columbia Business School, he was a research analyst at Columbia Law School and a research associate at Pace University. Before entering the nonprofit field in 2011, Mr. Zheng worked in an engineering and landscape architectural consulting firm in Maryland, where he was a lead planner, technical lead, and project coordinator for residential, commercial, and community development and planning projects. He earned a BA in landscape architecture from the University of Maryland at College Park, and an MBA in finance, as well as a certificate in project management from Pace University. Mr. Zheng is pursuing an MPA at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs.

A warm thank you to our sponsors:


David Callahan Keynote Address Sponsor

A special shout-out to the Prospect Research Institute for hosting a giveaway during our cocktail hour!

Another thank you to Earth Spectrum for gifts in-kind.

Contact Us:

P.O. Box 1105

New York, NY 10113

apragny @

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