Come On, Get Engaged
If you’re at a fundraising conference and there’s a commotion in the hallway or exhibit hall, chances are John Bell will be at the center of it. Either there’s a crisis to be handled, a story to be told or, oh well, he happened to just somehow be there. John, senior VP of sales and marketing at MMI Direct, is one of the most energetic, enthusiastic and visible (and hey, if you choose to read that as “loud,” well, you said it — not me) personalities on the fundraising conference circuit, and it’s just kind of a joy to be around him — if you can keep up.
So it was on a recent Thursday afternoon in Washington, D.C. I was rushing to a session on day one of the DMA Nonprofit Federation conference when I was sidetracked by an animated conversation in front of a dark session room. I didn’t have to see John to know he was there, and when I worked my way into the center of it, there he was. Winter weather up and down the East Coast had put the kibosh on many folks’ travel plans for the conference, and this particular bout of excitement was over that morning’s opening keynote. John, who is on the planning committee, was breathlessly explaining how the sole opening keynote presenter, Postal Regulatory Commission Chairman Ruth Goldway, cancelled that morning — and how the committee scrambled to pull together a stimulating opening session nonetheless. The committee members took stock of who was on hand and asked certain attendees to fill in. In the end, Russ Reid’s Tom Harrison; Senny Boone, senior VP, corporate and social responsibility at the Direct Marketing Association; and Food For The Poor’s Angel Aloma led an intense and stirring discussion on postal reform bill s.1486. It resulted in a roomful of fundraisers taking out their cellphones, right then and there, to call on their senators to oppose the language in Section 301 of the bill, which would make the 4.3 percent exigent rate increase approved by the Postal Rate Commission permanent, costing mailers billions of dollars and severely impacting nonprofit fundraisers. (Learn how you can take DMAAction here.)
That’s part of what I love about this industry. Fundraisers are so eager to engage — whether it’s by filling in at the last minute for a missing keynote speaker; picking up their phones at the drop of a hat to make impassioned requests of their legislators; or sharing information with their peers about what’s working, what’s not and what will be working in their quest for — you guessed it — deeper engagement with their donors and other supporters.
And isn’t this a nice segue into an invitation for each of you to attend FundRaising Success’ second annual Engage Conference in Philadelphia on April 10? (You can register and get all kinds of information about it at engage.fundraisingsuccessmag.com).
There’s a reason we named our conference Engage. It’s because, of course, engagement rests at the very core of fundraising: engagement with donors, engagement among peers and even heartfelt engagement at the deepest level with your chosen profession. Without it, it’s all just talk. And the world has enough talk. The world needs action, which comes from engagement. And that is where you shine. So shine on, and stay engaged.