Reflections from Bridge

By Vanessa Martinez, Program Manager of Direct Response, Make-A-Wish® America and Trista Murphy, VP Integrated Fundraising, Make-A-Wish® America

The DMFA believes that when any one of us becomes a better fundraiser, it helps lift up our peers as well. That’s why the Scholarship Fund was created. It pays for Nonprofit Fundraisers to attend industry conferences and  share  reflections  with the DMFA community. Here are the recaps on Bridge from our Scholarship recipients.

Vanessa’s Perspective on Bridge:

In my 7 years in Direct Mail, this was my first Bridge conference. I came into this not knowing what to expect. I will tell you that my mind was blown away with all the information, resources and networking that were readily available within my reach. From the goody bag to the expo, to the booklet that had the agenda in detail. Each component has contributed to my learning experience at the conference and continues to be a guiding tool with my day-to-day work activities as we speak.

The sessions that were provided varied and covered all areas of marketing and fundraising. Working directly with Direct Mail, my eyes were opened to the vast number of opportunities there are in existence. Collaborating with digital and email and focusing more on donors rather than what we think donors want or need. Understanding the market change and the hurdles that many are currently facing in today’s industry.

Attending several of the sessions I focused primarily on Direct Mail and sustainers. Some sessions had similar titles and content, but all were delivered differently by each presenter. That is what made this conference to be so successful was the uniqueness each speaker brought to their session. Seeing firsthand what worked with their organization and what didn’t work and dissecting it to get a further understanding was refreshing. As Kim Becking stated, “Failure brings change–creates you to be a change maker”. This is what I needed, I needed to see it was okay to fail and not everything may work but that despite those failures you use it to create change.

Although the learning sessions were educational it was welcoming on my part to hear the keynote speaker of the opening session speak reminding us to recharge ourselves. She had several lines that stuck with me. “Stop–shift–reframe” “Instead of focusing on what you are not, focus on what you are.”  Again, coming into this conference I didn’t know what to expect but I did not think it was going to have a balance of learning to improve our skill set for our organization and learning to self-care for ourselves.

With all the ideas and contacts, I obtained at this conference it had me eager to return to work. It had me ready to work with my outside creative team as well as my internal team to develop new ideas and strategic plans for our upcoming fiscal year. The concepts, the list of various vendors and the capabilities we have to expand our program is about to strengthen my program by giving me confidence in what I know I can do.

Overall, this conference was insightful, whether meeting a fellow nonprofit colleague or a new potential agency it was all beneficial. The only downside I came across was I felt unprepared to this conference as this was my first. Knowing what I know now, I am looking forward to next year ready to hear and learn more from my fellow colleagues and potential vendors.

I waited 7 years, but I would encourage all my colleagues to attend this conference within their first 1-2 years of their new role in this industry. I know I will be promoting this conference within my organization and will be encouraging my colleagues to attend next year as well as requesting to attend again myself.

Trista’s Perspective:

Much gratitude to the DMFA for the incredible opportunity to attend the 2022 Bridge Conference in person. After being away for two years it was so good to be back in shared space with peers, colleagues and friends to learn and share from our challenges and successes.

Of particular note was the Emerging Ways of Giving and Mid-Level tracks which took a laser focus on helping attendees understand the importance of cultivating value in unexpected places within their file. It was especially motivating to hear how much growth and opportunity can exist by approaching tactics from a different perspective. Narrowing in on that donor experience from acknowledgment through subsequent follow-ups with DAF and emerging giving trends was a great reinforcement.

Heading back into planning with a renewed sense of purpose and some new ideas to test out!