How Conferences Can Renew Your Passion for Fundraising
I love all kinds of music. Coming of age in the late 1960s, I particularly enjoyed Glen Campbell. His music can put you into a certain thought-filled mood of a different time. He had many hits, but his 1967 song, “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” which won two Grammys, is among my all-time favorites.
I actually listened to this song several times on my way to a recent Salvation Army Conference in Phoenix.
In fact, there were two conferences back to back. One conference dealt with community relations and development. The other conference focused on advisory organizations and boards. I was extremely honored to take a photo with Gen. André Cox of The Salvation Army. He is originally from Zimbabwe. The Salvation Army is located in 127 countries worldwide.
At these conferences, I was fortunate to hear a number of outstanding speakers. From several of them, I gathered key information on lessons that can be applied to nonprofit professionals.
A few of the speakers are highlighted below:
- Emmitt J. Smith: He is a Hall of Fame football player and played on three Super Bowl-winning teams with the Dallas Cowboys. He said, “your attitude determines your altitude.”
- Dr. William Crouch: He is a retired Georgetown College president and now president of his own consulting firm. He told fundraising professionals to “think vertically as well as horizontally.”
- Dr. Leith Anderson: He is pastor emeritus of Wooddale Church in Eden Prairie, Minn. He told stories of survival and quiet acts of leadership. One such act was based upon the Chilean mine rescue in 2010.
- Joel K. Manby: He is president and CEO of SeaWorld. He noted that his company had to “pivot” in another direction to take negative publicity and turn it into a positive one. His videos on whales and how the company is changing its business model to reflect changing times were extremely powerful.
Besides tremendous speakers who told stories, the conference presented numerous workshops on a variety of nonprofit topics. One presentation was particularly interesting to me. That presentation dealt with information generated in 2014 by the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy research in conjunction with the U.S. Trust that studied high-net-worth donors. The high-net-worth individuals studied had assets of at least $1 million and an annual income of at least $200,000.
Key points from this presentation are as follows:
- Those with inherited wealth gave more than wage earners.
- Cash-type gifts were declining.
- Giving was primarily from personal assets.
- The average annual gift in the study was at least $68,000.
- This group’s reasons for giving included personal fulfillment, support of special causes, giving back to the community, personal satisfaction, serving as a volunteer or board member, and belief that gifts do indeed make a difference.
- Sixty-one percent of wealthy donors make giving decisions jointly.
- Wealthy donors are ready to give more.
- Seventy-five percent of wealthy donors volunteered for the organizations they financially support.
- In nearly 90 percent of high-net-worth individuals, women are either the sole decision-maker or at least a partner in charitable gift decisions.
The conferences included a variety of general sessions, workshops and networking opportunities. The amount of information shared in Phoenix was amazing. The theme of telling stories that are emotional to prospects and donors resonated with me. I loved the combination of practical and theoretical information. The conference validated the passion I have to serve others through my current position with The Salvation Army in Indiana.
The bottom line is: When you feel burned out or stale in your nonprofit position, go to a conference that interests you. You will feel renewed and validated.
I had a long conversation with one of my advisory board members at one of the conferences. I could see the joy gleaned from her volunteer experience. Together, we left Phoenix glad for the time spent there.
By the time I got to Phoenix, I was ready to enjoy several days of laughing, crying and making new friends, including my new, young colleague from Hawaii. Try a conference out for size. You will be glad you did!
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.