Are You Ready to Engage?
With FundRaising Success' second annual Engage conference just a week away (April 10 in historic Old City Philadelphia), the topic of engagement has been on my mind a lot lately. Face it, if you're involved in any way with the fundraising community, the topic of engagement is almost always on your mind. You have to engage with the other members of your fundraising team, and your team has to engage with those in other departments of your organization (marketing and communications, programs, etc.). Then, of course, there's the Big E ... donor engagement.
It wasn't all that long ago that nonprofits could send out a few direct-mail pieces a year, then basically sit back and wait for the checks to roll in. The donors of that era were more likely to give to an organization they trusted and then just trust that the organization was doing right by them and by its constituents. There was no "online" to check on the organization's work, no easily accessed charity watchdogs to get ratings from, no social-media sites where like-minded supporters could converse with each other and the organization. In short, no real sense of engagement. And it worked. For a long time.
But with the birth of the Internet came the birth of a whole new breed of donors. Folks who came up into their giving years over the past two decades or so — the boomers — want (and have) myriad avenues of communications with the organizations they support, as well as a large variety of ways to support those organizations that don't necessarily involve cash donations. And the next generations of givers — the millennials, Gen X, Gen Y and whatever letter that'll come next — might not be ready or have the resources to give cash donations just yet, but trust me, they are already checking out the nonprofit space, connecting with organizations that resonate with them for whatever reason and getting to know them (you). They're already engaging.
That's why we believe so strongly in the concept of the Engage conference. It celebrates and facilitates engagement on a number of levels. Each year, we choose three organizations that have stepped it up and taken their fundraising to the next level (whatever it may be for that organization). And we bring together people who represent varying elements of the overall strategy that propelled the organizations from where they were to where they are. The speakers dig down into that growth to give attendees a big-picture look at how well-integrated organizations benefit when everyone is engaged with the goal and each other. And they break down how those winning concepts can be applied to organizations of any size or mission (including yours).
And then the conference itself is an exercise in engagement. Attendance is limited to about 125 fundraising professionals — your peers at nonprofit organizations. The whole group stays together for the keynote (this year, it's fundraising consultant and marketing strategist Kivi Leroux Miller), the case studies and the closing session, where our speakers will really hone in on the ideas that you can take back to your office and put to use right away. The group breaks down into 10 or 12 roundtable discussions, covering topics from monthly giving to major gifts, board development, marketing, retention, digital fundraising, copywriting and more. And those are lively sessions where the moderators are there to let you have your say, ask your questions and share your thoughts. Totally attendee-driven.
The opportunities to engage with speakers, roundtable moderators and your peers begin at registration and breakfast and continue through the case studies, roundtables, lunch and closing reception. If you're local or in town the night before, you can even get a head start at our Give Me Liberty! Happy Hour at Spasso Italian Grill.
To be kind of silly (though spot-on) about it, you can say that Engage is an engaging conference about engagement (on all levels), with plenty of opportunities to engage (with your peers and with some of the top fundraisers and consultants in the country).
You might have guessed that Engage is very near and dear to my heart. That's true for a number of reasons:
- Engage 2013 was FundRaising Success' first go at a hands-on, face-to-face, live event. And it was so warmly and enthusiastically received. Thank you for that.
- Engage takes place in my beloved hometown of Philadelphia, where the magazine was born and lives today.
- Engage brings together a wide array of fundraisers from organizations of all sizes and missions, as well as from the agencies and vendors that partner with them in their critical work.
- Engage is all about communications. The venue, the format, the personalities all work together to engender real conversations that bring the good, the bad and the ugly of fundraising to the table.
- Engage is a labor of love. Well, of course, it's a labor of profit too; we couldn't do it for free! But the two aren't mutually exclusive. The day's high-energy, good-vibey camaraderie is infectious, and we just love that that's as true for our staff as it is for the attendees, speakers and sponsors.
Look who's talking!
Wow, how could I have gotten this far into a blog about Engage without mentioning our stellar lineup of speakers? I'll write about them tomorrow, but if you want a sneak peek, you can get it here. One of the things that is really cool about Engage (and it represents a reality that sits at the heart of the fundraising community) is that everyone is so open and willing to share. It's as true of the speakers as it is of the attendees, and you might find yourself giving a seasoned pro a tip or two. They'll sure be open to learning from you too.
Go here for more information and here to register. The FS staff and I are looking forward to meeting you, breaking bread with you, chatting with you, learning with you and — yes, I'll say it — engaging with you next week. Hope to see you there!