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Finding My Value Proposition

Mon, August 29, 2016 1:54 PM | Laura Parshall

At the APRA International conference earlier this summer, Susan Grivno found some inspiration that surprised her in the keynote speech. Susan is a NEDRA board member, and a Senior Prospect Research Analyst at the University of New Hampshire.

Finding My Value Proposition: Thoughts on Risa Mish’s Keynote at APRA Prospect Development 2016

by Susan Grivno

I’m one of those people that really gets into a good keynote speech. A good conference keynote should leave listeners inspired and invigorated to make the most of the information they’ll encounter during the conference. A great one will challenge an audience to look at something in a way they may never have before. The keynote at the 2016 APRA conference in Nashville by Risa Mish did both and has stayed in my head and heart in post-conference. 

To be honest, I wasn’t sure a keynote titled “Art of the Sale: Persuasion and Influence Tips for Development Professionals (and Everyone Else!)” would be terribly memorable. The objective of her talk, to help participants become more persuasive and influential, was intriguing. But I wasn’t sitting at the edge of my seat until she made the following statement: “The key to being comfortable in your own skin is knowing what you stand for. That's credibility from the inside out."

She urged us to establish our own, personal value proposition. The term “value proposition” is typically used in marketing. They’re statements about how a product or company will benefit a customer. Mish suggested that we can’t be successful unless we actively identify, acknowledge, and live by a set of core values. She provided a sheet with dozens of possible value words—a list with words like autonomy, efficiency, passion, unity, tolerance, trust, and many more—and urged us to choose five that we identified with. Then she had us sacrifice two of our darlings and settle on the top three to get at what we value the most. How difficult! And then she gave us homework. How will we use these values in action? With our values in mind, what actions do we commit to? Commit to avoiding? 

There’s something about firmly establishing my values and actually using them in action that I find liberating. Does this decision, this activity jive with what I hold valuable? I find I’m framing new opportunities that way and even turned down a volunteer role recently that would have been interesting—one I was have surely accepted in the past. I found myself pausing, though, wondering if it would lead me too far away from one of my three core values: harmony. The role would have meant even more time in front of a computer screen and my work-life balance would likely have suffered. I was able to turn down the offer with less guilt than I would have normally felt, sure in the fact that it was the right decision for me.


A few years ago, a colleague of mine and her spouse left their comfortable IT positions to move to California. They had no jobs lined up, just a few connections, and only a vague sense of a life coach business she would start there. When asked why they were making such a drastic change, her short answer was “to be happy.” She’d explain that it was not just about stepping back from a 9-5 office job, or about escaping the New England weather—it was about being happy. She received mostly smiles and nods and a few “good for you’s,” but not too many people probed further. I did. What was this move going to do to bring her happiness? She said: “it will start me on a path toward authenticity.” I don’t think I really understood what she meant until I listened to Risa Mish at the APRA conference. Now I’m on my own path, with authenticity as my destination.


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