DMA 2019 Washington Nonprofit Conference

The DMFA sent several nonprofits to the DMA 2019 Washington Nonprofit Conference. Here is a recap of what they learned.

Arielle Baker, Alaska Wilderness 

I am very grateful for the scholarship I was awarded in order to attend The DMA 2019 Nonprofit Conference. It was a thrilling opportunity that set me up for success in my new fundraising position, provided me with dozens of new ideas to try in the year ahead, and allowed me to make valuable connections with others working in the industry.

Six months ago, I secured my first position entirely focused on fundraising. While I have had jobs adjacent to the fundraising world in the past, this is my first role where I am specifically responsible for bringing in a certain percentage of the budget. The organization I work for relies heavily on direct mail both for our current mailing list as well as for donor acquisition. The industry of direct mail is completely new to me and I am starting to realize there is a lot to learn! This conference gave me access to experts in the field coming from many different viewpoints: nonprofits large and small, consultants, and direct mail vendors. I was able to learn the buzzwords and best practices in a short amount of time. Without a conference like this one, it would have taken me months to catch up on everything.

Besides just learning the terminology and best practices, this conference provided me with many ideas to revamp our fundraising practices. Breakout sessions like “60 ideas in 60 minutes” and “Kiss My Ask! Testing Unconventional Ask Methodologies” both gave me ideas to implement in our direct mail strategies, but also helped me in convincing my boss that we need a more aggressive direct mail schedule and need to be more intentional about testing different approaches with our audience. Additionally, the breakout sessions on how to grow a sustainer program was extremely helpful. Our organization currently has a sustainer program, but we can be doing much more to steward the existing group and to motivate existing donors into becoming sustainers.

This conference also gave the ability to connect with dozens of others in the industry. First, I was able to connect with direct mail vendors. As we ramp up our direct mail program, our relationship with our vendor is going to be very important. At this conference I was able to talk with our current vendor as well as hear from others, allowing me to assess what is the best option for us moving forward. Second, I was able to hear from nonprofit leaders working in the environmental field. All best practices and great ideas for testing come with a caveat: that audience matters and donors differ. Therefore, it was very helpful to hear from experts who are speaking to a similar audience as our donors. Third, it was very helpful to network with nonprofit professionals working in smaller nonprofits like mine. Many of the sessions and pieces of advice during the conference were targeted toward larger nonprofits. Therefore, it was helpful to talk with individuals at nonprofits with capacities similar to mine in order to apply the lessons learned to our particular circumstances.

Jillian Kuklinski, Environmental Investigation Agency

Overall, the conference was exciting for many reasons and I am extremely grateful for the scholarship that allowed me to attend!

I’m honored to have received a scholarship to attend the 2019 ANA DC Nonprofit Conference. I attended a total of 11 sessions and learned so much in during the 3-day conference. My hope was to learn new fundraising skills to take back to my office to help us ramp up our fundraising efforts and to inspire my team to focus on donor relationships and donor communications.

The three sessions on the first day focused on professional development. I was inspired to focus more on my long-term career goals and to develop a plan of where I want to be in the future. I learned that work culture can be as (if not more) important than the job itself. By the end of the day, I felt empowered to speak up to my coworkers and supervisors about any ideas and goals I may have, and to feel more confident in my own abilities and talents.

On Thursday, in the first session I attended I learned about how emotions really drive donations. People tend to make decisions emotionally instead of rationally, and marketing is really a mixture of art and science. Strong visuals are vital to effective fundraising: if you have strong visuals you will stop people scrolling on social media and catch their attention. Good visuals will evoke emotions and create a positive association with your organization.

One of my favorite sessions on Thursday was titled: 32 Hot Creative Ideas to Heat Up Your Fundraising Results. The suggestions were very creative and I feel that many of them will be really useful to our work. I especially liked the ideas of tying holidays into fundraising appeals, such as a Valentine’s Day fundraiser, and asking donors to ‘donate their birthday’ and raise money for a good cause.

On Friday, I attended a similar session of rapid-fire ideas titled: 60 Ideas in 60 Minutes. This session focused on ideas for direct mail fundraising. Although we currently don’t do a lot of direct mail fundraising, I learned that it is still a very effective strategy, even in this current digital age. A couple of ideas I am interesting in testing out include using a blank outer envelope to pique curiosity, using real handwriting on written materials, and personalizing content based on the donor’s location.

I also attended a session with great ideas for fundraising on Facebook, such as asking for donor contact information in exchange for mission-related swag (such as stickers, water bottles, or magnets), as well as using current events to tie in your mission and encourage donations. Another idea I really loved is to try raising funds for a specific item, such as, in our case, a piece of investigative equipment. I also learned how important it is for an organization to have specified staff members in charge of responding to any comments or questions posted on Facebook. We currently don’t do this, and I feel as though this lack of response might make our supporters feel like they’re being ignored.

Overall I felt the conference was very informative and left me feeling inspired and more creative. I’m very eager to take everything I’ve learned and apply it to my organization and our work. We have needed to boost our fundraising efforts for a couple years now, and I think this is the boost we were looking for. I’ve already scheduled meetings with some colleagues, including our Comms/Media department, about ways in which we can implement some new strategies and test out some of these ideas. I’m looking forward to seeing the results and to strengthening our donor relationships.