FYI Blog

Summer Conference Wrap-up

Ann S. Bio Photo170Avalon has been out in force at industry conferences this summer, presenting and attending sessions at the New York Nonprofit Conference and Bridge Conference.

Based on which sessions were overflowing with participants, it seems like many nonprofits are eager for more information on analytics, sustainer conversion, and perfecting mid-level bridge programs to systematically upgrade donors. We particularly loved the sessions that focused on the donor experience—cultivation strategies, storytelling, and how to best connect with donors.

We’ve compiled some of our impressions and takeaways below:

NYNP16-logo-Sharing more data. Of course, we would have liked to have seen more actual data shared in many of the presentations. As always, there were so many terrific ideas presented, but in our industry, those ideas need to be backed up with how they have been tested and proven to improve results. We hope that more hard data—like long-term value, net revenue, and ROI—are shared at upcoming conferences to support all the great ideas we heard about. 

Data visualization. We found that the most effective presentations leveraged data visualization and trend analysis—this separated the good presentations from the great ones.

Co-ops. Avalon has been leveraging co-op databases and modeling for our clients for many years—and they’re rapidly growing in popularity as more and more nonprofits develop ways to effectively expand their donor files.

Bridge Conf. 2016The donor’s perspective. David Rubenstein’s Bridge keynote so perfectly captured his subject, Inside the Donor’s Mind—with excellent points for fundraisers, both major gifts officers and direct marketers alike: Do your homework before making the ask; be patient and have a long-term horizon; be confident, unapologetic, and driven by your cause; and…don’t forget to say thank you!

Donor stewardship. Building on Rubenstein’s points, we know how important it is to form a stronger bond with donors through specialized communications and personal contact. Many conference sessions covered those meaningful touches—personal stories, handwritten notes in mailings, thank you phone calls, specialized email updates—that can make all the difference in moving donors up the giving ladder.

Analytics. At Bridge, Amnesty International USA chronicled its substantial drop in revenue and donors over five years. Cut to the chase: They combined focus group research and analytics to correct course, echoing Avalon’s commitment to deep, forensic analytics and actually listening to your donors to help understand the next steps to creating positive results.

Sustainers. The summer conferences gave a huge focus to sustainers. This makes sense, since they are your most reliable donors. Avalon is always looking at ways to expand monthly donor programs, and we know that sustainer stewardship in support of retention is equally critical. 

Digital optimization. As people spend more time than ever on screens daily, we all know we have to find ways to reach them where they are. Mothers Against Drunk Driving broke it down this way: The job of the ad is to get the click and the job of the donation page is to convert the donation—a solid reminder to really think through that donation page optimization.

It was great to see so many nonprofits and vendor partners coming together at the conferences this summer to share challenges and inspire each other with successes—and good inspiration as we set our sights on year end!