Can’t We All Just Get Along?
Something disturbing happened at the 2006
DMA Annual Washington Nonprofit
Conference in February.
It occurred at the beginning of the question-and-answer phase of a panel discussion titled “How to Beat a Long-Standing Control.” According to accounts, a member of the audience stood up and harangued the DMA for allowing one of the participants — who works for the national office of Planned Parenthood — to be on the panel.
He lectured the audience and the panel about the supposed evils of Planned Parenthood, and he upset many of those who attended.
When he finished, another person stood up to offer a countering opinion. Before others could jump into the debate, the moderator stepped in and did an excellent job of calming everyone and steering the discussion back to the session’s true subject.
This incident greatly concerns me. In this increasingly partisan world, conferences and other activities organized by the DMA and other industry groups should
be a welcome refuge from the mudslinging that often can dominate discussions concerning sensitive issues.
Along with their coats, participants should check their politics and partisanship at the door. No one should feel threatened or open to harassment at
Like most people, I have my own opinions, but I’m not about to use this column to argue the complicated issues of abortion, birth control and reproductive
rights — or any other issue, for that matter — or to
rail against those who oppose my viewpoint.
Just like this publication, industry events should be free of politics. Just like this publication, industry events should offer tools to help fundraising
professionals improve their skills and raise more
money for their organizations. No one will benefit by transforming industry events into debating societies — unless, of course, you’re debating analytical tools
or the use of one direct-mail strategy over another.
The effectiveness of these events would be
greatly endangered if such outbursts become more common. These conferences provide educational opportunities for those seeking growth within our sector and a vital chance for all of us
The next time you attend an industry conference, if you
happen to sit in on a session that includes a panelist from an organization that really upsets you, keep quiet or walk out. If you don’t think you can do either, pay attention to the information in the program you receive when you register. If someone’s participation will be troubling to you, don’t go to that
Voicing protest at these events will not win converts. Many attendees of the
session in question were greatly angered by the incident, according to a source who read the feedback comments submitted afterwards.
If you’re really opposed to a panelist’s viewpoint, what better way to counter it than to attend his session, learn all about the successful strategies the
organization is using, and then go back to your office and try to figure out how to apply your new knowledge on behalf of a mission that you do support?
That way, you’ve made a real-world difference without compromising the conference experience for your
colleagues — all of whom, believe it or not, are as passionate about their
beliefs as you are about yours. u