The Anatomy of a Nonprofit National Conference
I recently attended the 2018 Salvation Army National Community Relations and Development/Emergency Disaster Services Conference at the Indianapolis Marriott. This conference was led by National Salvation Army leaders Lt. Colonel Ward Matthews, National Community Relations & Development, and Lt. Colonel Michele Matthews, National Director for White House Relations. My Indiana division, led by Divisional Commander Major Bob Webster and Director of Women’s Ministries Major Collette Webster, handled a variety of functions as assigned by the national office.
In my role of executive director of development for the State of Indiana, I did a variety of functions from loading and unloading trucks, helping fold 1,000 programs and being a facilitator for educational sessions.
I was excited for my division to host this conference titled, “Believe,” for upwards of 1,000 attendees because of the academic and continuing educational opportunities the conference provided.
Some of the featured speakers for this conference included:
Gordon Graham—Graham Research Consultants. Graham entertained the audience with a variety of important points, including the seven rules of Admiral Hyman Rickover and how they apply to your operations in The Salvation Army. One major takeaway for me was each organization and members thereof must have the ability and willingness to learn from mistakes of the past.
Penelope Burk—Author, researcher and fundraising Expert. Burk provided a great deal of research insight into donor behavior. She noted that donor trust is important; one must thank donors promptly when a gift is made plus make calls to donors as touchpoints.
Una Osili, PhD—Associate Dean for Research & International Programs, Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. She noted that there are headwinds in philanthropy today. Giving is stuck at 2.1 percent of the gross national product. Older generations are more likely to give and give at greater levels. She also introduced and encouraged people to check out the Give-O-Meter concept online. I did and I am in the 93rd percentile for time and treasure.
Samples for the conference included sessions that were of particular interest to me. These included: “The Science Behind Successful Solicitations: The Art and Science of Persuasion,” “A Dynamic Approach to Building Your Case for Support,” “Are You Leaving Kettle Money on the Table,” “Building and Maintaining High Performing Teams,” “Integrating LinkedIn with Advisory Board Members” and “Volunteers Plus Book Writing.”
I was thrilled to have one session taught by my long-time colleague, Dr. Gene Tempel, Professor of Philanthropic Studies and Founding Dean Emeritus at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. In his session, we discussed many relevant topics including what attributes an employer should look for when hiring a quality development professional.
Other key points that I took away from this conference included:
- Donors are funding fewer causes.
- Number of 501(c)(3)s as of 2016—1.2M;
- Make a case for support sticky—simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, emotional, story-filled.
- 63 million people volunteer annually in the U.S.—72 percent for one organization.
- It is all about relationships in fundraising.
- Seek to improve stewardship, as it is crucial to long-term fundraising success.
- Read the book, “The New Fundraisers,” by Beth Breeze.”
- LinkedIn is a very important business social media tool for nonprofit board recruiting;
- The average book sells 5,000 copies and writing a book takes two to three years.
- Fundraising professionals must be mission focused, good communicators, excellent listeners, ethical, compassionate and trustworthy.
On a personal note, there was plenty of time to network and meet colleagues from across the country. The major program sessions were engaging and focused. We were even entertained by comedians Bean and Bailey, who sang “Country Roads,” which I enjoyed as I am from West Virginia.
On the last night of the conference, my greatest joy was to see our volunteers plus staff members receive awards from the stage. Bruce Wakeley, key volunteer, received the “Sleeves Rolled Up Award.” This award is given to an outstanding emergency disaster service volunteer in each territory in the U.S. He represented the central territory of which the Indiana Division is a part of.
Jo Ann Remender, my planned gifts director, won the National Andrew S. Miller Award of Excellence from The Salvation Army. She has worked for The Salvation Army Indiana Division for 30 years. She also received, from Nonprofit PRO, the 2016 Nonprofit PRO Professionals of the Year Lifetime Achievement Award.
This was my Nonprofit PRO story quote about Jo Ann in 2016:
“Jo Ann embodies the fundraiser’s mantra of time, talent and treasure,” said F. Duke Haddad, Ed.D. CFRE, executive director of development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division. “She is known for creating unique engagement opportunities for donors so that they can give time while learning about the people their generosity serves. She also taps into the talents of key donors and professionals, giving them a feeling of being impactful. She remembers to keep the appropriate individual as the center of attention, listening attentively and responding appropriately to make sure their needs are met.”
Jo Ann is one of the most outstanding professionals I have ever worked with in my long career. She is so humble and would be the last person to want this type of recognition. She feels she is doing the Lord’s work.
The bottom line for you is to get out of the daily grind and attend a nonprofit national conference at least one time each year. Your academic and social batteries will be recharged and you will quickly realize others have the same problems as you. I bet you leave your conference inspired.
My division hosted this same national conference in 2014. It heads to Chicago in 2020. I am already excited about attending my next national conference!
Duke has extensive experience as a nonprofit practitioner, author, lecturer and consultant. He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the last 11 years. He has been a long-standing member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals where he was previously named the AFP Indiana Chapter Fundraising Executive of the Year and has held the CFRE designation for many years.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in education administration, master's degree from Marshall University with an emphasis in public administration and a bachelor's degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in marketing/management. He has also completed post graduate work at the University of Louisville.
He is currently executive director of development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis, Indiana. Contact Duke at firstname.lastname@example.org or 317-224-1029.