Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Donor Relations "Super Session"

First of all, I want to begin with a conference update. I will be speaking at the AFP International Conference in Chicago, March 20-22, I hope to see some of you there!

Now, lets talk about one of the most meaningful sessions I have been a part of for a long time. I was fortunate enough to sit on a panel of wonderful colleagues and mentors at CASE District 2 in Baltimore. We led a “super session” on donor relations, almost three hours of thought leadership, burning questions, and hot topics. I was joined by Helen Adams-Keane, Vice President, Institutional Advancement, Albany Law School,Robbee Kosak, Vice President of University Advancement, Carnegie Mellon University and William McGoldrick, Pincipal, Washburn and McGoldrick. Talk about being surrounded by super-stars, this was it. I was inspired to see two vice presidents and an industry leading consultant so adamant about the importance of stewardship and donor relations and its integral role to the success of a fundraising program. I also learned about what a “catom” was and how it was a wonderful example of stewardship at Carnegie Mellon. Some of the topics we covered included mid level stewardship, stewardship of annual fund donors, how to distinguish yourself and your program from others and many more. As I sat in front of a room filled with professionals varying from vice presidents to stewardship practitioners I was filled with pride at the fervor and attention in the room. These people clearly “get it” and value the role of stewardship and donor relations in their organizations. As I went through the conference and spoke three more times, I was delighted to see these faces again and again, it was a wonderful conference for stewardship and donor relations, seeing multiple sessions on the topic, watching other practitioners showcase their programs to packed rooms, I began to wonder for us as a profession what lies ahead. It is undeniable that during the rough economy of late, those with strong stewardship and donor relations have been much more successful in fundraising. This then leads me to the next step, how do we get more VPs and industry leaders to stand at the front of the room, to attend our sessions, and to take a stand on the importance of stewardship and donor relations to their programs? I may not have that answer yet, but I believe we are way ahead of where we were even five years ago, and we may have a failing economy to thank for that. Coming soon, a guest blog on creating a culture of philanthropy within your organization…

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Guest post from Jessica Davies-- Valentine's Day...

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Some people feel Valentine’s Day is a wonderful holiday filled with love, candy hearts, chocolate, cards, balloons, flowers, heartfelt sentiment, romance, candlelit dinners, and their significant other. To them it is the lovey dovey holiday that makes the world go ‘round.

Conversely, some people look at Valentine’s Day as an overrated Hallmark day and don’t want to have anything to do with it. They see it as too commercialized, too high-pressure, too expensive, ripe with unmet expectations, and is just all-around icky. I count myself mostly in this category.

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy the sentiment and absolutely adore the candy hearts and profusion of chocolate this time of year. Last year I even went on a letter writing campaign when NECCO changed the formulation of their ubiquitous conversation hearts making them seriously gross. Yes, I feel that strongly about it. What I do not enjoy, however, is the pressure of this faux holiday or the unreal expectations placed on one’s boyfriend, girlfriend, significant other, parent, kid, landlord, boss, mail delivery person, and ultimately one’s therapist.

I didn’t enjoy Valentine’s Day until a mystery box appeared at the office last week. It was a white 9”x9” box tied with a simple ribbon.

As I squealed with delight over a surprise delivery from one of our caterers, I also realized I was the recipient of some good donor relations work. The company sending the box may prefer to call it “client relations” or “marketing,” maybe even a “perk,” but in our world this is a stellar example of great donor relations. It was, after all, a thank you for working with them. A box of handmade chocolates and goodies, items perfectly representing their company, delivered at a time of relevance. Who cares that I don’t subscribe to this particular holiday? It was the thought that counted, and you can bet I will remember the caterer next time we need someone with his particular expertise.

I will also remember those frosted cakes and chocolate dipped strawberries!

While it may be difficult to send every donor a box of handmade goodies, I urge you to treat each donor like it’s their personal Valentine’s Day every day. Send something heartfelt and relevant to express your gratitude any way you can. A letter, an email, custom candies, or a simple card. Send it in response to an action, at a holiday, or just because.

They will love you for it.

Jessica Davies is currently the Director of Donor Relations at the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland. She has presented at numerous conferences and appeared as a blogger before, mostly in the area of special events. An expert in commencement and protocol, Jessica is a founding member of the North American Association of Commencement Officers and former president of the association. She has a teenage son at home, a personal blog on the web, and high hopes of winning the HGTV Dream House this year.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

CASE District 1 and Professional Development

Hey Everyone...I recently returned from the CASE District 1 conference Boston where a friend and I allison Lewis presented on the importance of a mid level giving strategy in your development operations. We have since received wonderful feedback and engaging conversations have resulted. In addition to speaking, my favorite thing about conferences is the opportunityto network and meet new people. There are many ways to do this, although I always find the best bonding always occurs during food and drink time :). I think professional development is absolutely essential for progression in your shop and personally. In addition, I find commonalities with those I see conference after cnference, year after year. And interestigly enough, I always see certain schools and development shops missing from the fray. I'm wondering aloud here, beyond budgetary constraints, what the reason is for their absence? Do they have it all figured out? I would propose the opposite, that they in fact are the ones that need the most help... Thoughts?
I attened some good presentations at CASE 1, especially one given by the VPs of Rice (Darrow) and Wake Forest(Mark), it was engaging, insightful and wonderfully down to earth. It was all about the changingface of comprehensive campaigns and had some startling insights. I also attended some "duds" which as many of you know is of great frustration, especially when you're trapped in the front of the room... LOL
This weekend I'm headed to my CASE District conference in Baltimore to speak three times on different topics, Metrics, the Career Journey, and a Donor Relations Panel.. so here is my question to you, dedicated blog readers, What makes a great presentation and what makes it a "dud"... Share away!!