Think back to a time when someone truly made you feel special. Maybe it was through a thank you letter, or a handwritten note or even a text message.
What if that feeling was the basis of a fundraising conference?
That’s the #DonorLove Rendezvous, and if you missed it prepare for a healthy dose of FOMO.
Here’s what made it so special:
Organized by Fundraisers with Donors at the Center
To call the rendezvous a labor of love would be an understatement. Organizers Rory Green, Maeve Strathy and their team of volunteers all maintain full-time jobs in the sector, and put together the event in their spare time.
When an association or other membership group puts on a conference, it’s because it’s their job. #DonorLove was nothing short of a passion project.
Hour-long sessions were broken up into 15-20 chunks by multiple speakers, most of which were boots-on-the-ground fundraising practitioners, who shared real-life examples of stewardship pieces and campaigns they had used at their own organizations.
No platitudes, no fluff. Only practical takeaways.
The final session of the day was a type of donors forum, where actual donors shared their experiences (some bad, but mostly good). One explained why she had stayed a long-time volunteer with a Toronto nonprofit, while a donor explained his family’s major gift / legacy giving philosophy, process and experience. It was perhaps the most eye-opening session of the day, leading me to wonder why we aren’t putting more donors on the stage at conferences.
— lawlesscarol (@CarolLawless) May 12, 2016
Following the lunch speaker (more on her in a bit), attendees were broken up into topical groups based on their roles and needs, including major gifts, mid-level giving, planned giving, direct mail/annual giving, culture, digital/online giving, corporate sponsorships and small shop fundraising. Discussions were led by a group leader (with expertise in each topic), and attendees were able to share struggles, successes and ideas with one another.
— Brady Hambleton (@fundraiserbrady) May 11, 2016
It wasn’t the kind of forced group activity that makes typical conference attendees constantly checking their watches over, but a venue for truly transformational discussion.
Breaks between sessions were intentionally elongated to 30-45 minutes, allowing attendees to mingle and discuss the preceding presentation. Having only plenary sessions (no breakouts) allowed for a true group dynamic to form throughout the course of the day.
— Sheena Greer (@colludos) May 12, 2016
Not only do the conference organizers talk the stewardship talk, but they also walk the walk. Attendees received a lovely swag bag filled with goodies like a high-quality notepad, a handmade wood block calendar, personalized stationary and a handwritten note of thanks from the conference organizers.
Having attended hundreds of fundraising conferences in the past, I can honestly say it was the best I have ever been treated as an attendee. Being on the receiving end of such wonderful stewardship put everyone in the mood to learn more about loving their own donors.
— adelia marchese (@adelia_marchese) May 11, 2016
There’s little that separates fundraisers, even those oceans apart. The #DonorLove Rendezvous drew attendees from both the US and Canada, and featured two speakers from Ireland: Damian O’Broin and Simon Scriver. Hearing that a professional 500-1000 miles away is going through the same struggles that you are.
— Paul Nazareth (@UinvitedU) May 11, 2016
Somewhere along the lines we forgot that networking and educational events are supposed to be fun.
The rendezvous maintained a lively atmosphere throughout the day; a kind of TED Talk + birthday party + tent revival complete with balloons, cupcakes and crayons. The unique, naturally-lit, open-air space gave folks the flexibility to walk outside for fresh air, while a healthy lunch was locally provided.
To help us get over the post-lunch malaise, Sheena Greer led us in a group play exercise; a kind of visual telephone game where members of each table collaborated to draw (yes, draw) the hopes and dreams of their ideal donor.
— Simon Scriver CFRE (@ToastFundraiser) May 11, 2016
Events like the #DonorLove Rendezvous, Cause Camp, the Nonprofit Storytelling Conference, Gratitude Camp and, dare I say, BloomCon (we definitely took some notes) offer the kind of disruptive and authentic programming that the nonprofit sector desperately needs. I urge you to mark each of these on your calendar.
Did you make it to the #DonorLove Rendezvous? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below!