Lessons from Bridge to Integrated Marketing and Fundraising Conference 2023

–Michele C. Collins, Donor Development Officer,  Marine Corps Association Foundation

I had the privilege of attending the Bridge to Integrated Marketing and Fundraising Conference 2023 thanks to a scholarship from the Direct Marketing Fundraisers Association. The conference was a dynamic event focused on fundraising and integrated marketing with topics such as mid-level giving, stewardship, digital marketing, capital campaigns, renewal/retention donor engagement and more. Held on August 3-4 at the Gaylord National Harbor, this conference brought together a diverse group of professionals passionate about advancing their organizations’ fundraising and direct marketing efforts and enhancing their donor relationships. 

The conference was a hub of knowledge exchange and collaboration, featuring a series of insightful sessions that delved deep into the latest trends, strategies, and best practices within the nonprofit sector. Notably, discussions on mid-level giving stood out, with experts sharing innovative approaches to cultivating relationships with donors who fall between the major gifts and annual giving tiers. All three sessions I attended emphasized the importance of personalized communication and tailored engagement to create a sense of belonging and value for mid-level donors. 

Stewardship emerged as a recurring theme throughout the conference. Speakers stressed the significance of demonstrating appreciation and impact to donors, highlighting case studies where effective stewardship resulted in increased donor retention and long-term support. Workshops on crafting compelling impact stories and maintaining transparent communication left a lasting impression, driving home the notion that stewardship is a cornerstone of successful fundraising. 

Digital marketing’s role in modern fundraising strategies was another key area of exploration. In a world increasingly driven by technology, experts offered insights into leveraging various digital platforms to reach and engage donors effectively. Social media campaigns, email marketing, and personalized online experiences were highlighted as powerful tools for building meaningful connections with donors and driving donations. This is an area that is new to me and one I want to explore more for my organization. 

Beyond the informative sessions, the Bridge Conference provided ample networking opportunities. Engaging with fellow attendees, I had the chance to exchange ideas, share experiences, and forge valuable connections within the nonprofit community. The conference’s breakout sessions also allowed for practical, hands-on learning that I can readily implement in my organization. 

As I reflect on my time at the Bridge Conference, I am filled with a sense of inspiration and motivation. The insights gained, coupled with the connections formed, have equipped me with a renewed perspective on fundraising and donor engagement. This experience has reaffirmed the critical role that effective communication, innovative strategies, and genuine appreciation play in building strong and lasting relationships with our supporters. 

The Bridge Conference reinvigorated my commitment to advancing the goals of my organization through thoughtful fundraising practices and empowered me to make a tangible difference in the lives of Today’s Marines.