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Key Takeaways from AFP ICON 2022: The Ultimate Guide

takeaways from AFP ICON 2022
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Great Fundraising Events: From Experience to Transformation.

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The energy and enthusiasm at AFP ICON 2022 was palpable. After two isolated years of the conference being virtual, everyone was excited to be back in person – even if transitioning from solitude to a crowd of thousands gave you some awkward middle-school-dance flashbacks. 

Opening speaker Allyson Felix, the world’s great Olympian and most decorated U.S. runner in history, had the audience riveted in their chairs as she shared her story as a pregnant athlete leading a movement to protect female athletes from being penalized or having their contracts interrupted by their sponsors for pregnancy. Watch her story live here.   

If you missed AFP ICON 2022, please enjoy these highlights and pearls of wisdom from sessions I got to participate in and observe.  

Fundraising Fails & How to Survive Them

I got to spill the tea with Cherian Koshy, Tammy Zonker, and Lynne Wester on our worst fundraising mistakes and what we learned from them. A few lowlights from our past: Letting the donor get too close to the wealth screen, not reading the room to realize who the real decision-makers were, asking for a big gift without the proper cultivation, and not doing our donor research. The worst? Accidentally letting a donor eat potpourri (ouch!). In the end everyone lived, no one got fired, and we learned a lot. 

Takeaways: We’re ashamed of our own humanity but it’s what draws others to us. Don’t waste time covering up your weaknesses, embrace them. Accept that you will make mistakes as a fundraiser – we all do.  

Bonus takeaway: The next time you’re with a donor ask them, what’s your favorite mistake (or “what mistake taught you the most?”)

Winning Fundraising Campaigns that Hit the Fundraising Jackpot

Rachel Clemens, CMO of Mighty Citizen joined me to share 13 fundraising campaigns and examples loaded with personality, authenticity, humor, vulnerability and humanity. Highlights include the RSPCA: Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ free giveaway of a printed pocket guide to giving your pet first aid which landed them initially 600 new monthly donors which grew to over 22,000.  

Takeaway: Get inspired with a detailed behind-the-scenes look at each campaign and results in this lookbook.    

Creating The Perfect Union Between Business And Your Nonprofit

If you feel like your nonprofit is a match made in heaven for a for-profit business and want some inspiration on how to strategize it, there’s a lot you can learn from Linda Lysakowski, ACFRE. Her website is loaded with blogs, books, and free YouTube videos on how to raise more from your business community.  

Takeaway: Corporations give the smallest piece of the fundraising pie (5%) but that 5% amounts to a whopping $18 billion!  

Integrating Online Wills In Your Legacy Offer

In just 15 minutes Ligia Pena shared everything you need to know about online wills – who is (and isn’t) a good fit, the pros and cons for both the donor and the charity, plus how to implement them. Ligia, the globetrotting fundraiser, has a site loaded with helpful free blog articles and a legacy course to help your nonprofit realize the economic windfall of planned gifts.  

Takeaway: Think you can’t afford to invest in legacy giving? You should know the average gift in a will is approximately USD $37,000!   

Making The Ask: 20 Decision Science Tools To Shape Your Solicitation

Bernard Ross, MA is one of the greatest minds in nonprofit fundraising. Brilliant and hysterically witty, he dazzles nonprofit audiences by teaching them how to apply decision science (aka behavioral economics) to campaigns, communications, and fundraising.  

Takeaways: Bernard started with the 5 P’s that you use to influence your donor: passion, proposal, preparation, persuasion and persistence. Next, he gave everyone the winning prescription to give to your donors: DOSE, which stands for: 

D – Dopamine: anticipation, motivation 

O – Oxytocin: empathy, social bonding 

S – Serotonin: mood, feeling pride that they can solve this problem

E – Endorphin: also known as the ‘runner’s high’ donors get this feel-good rush when they give

Bonus Takeaway: Get your hands on Bernard’s 20 decision science tools to win your next gift from his latest book, Making the Ask, which brings the latest thinking in behavioral science and neuroscience into the world of fundraising. You can feel good buying it too – each purchase buys a COVID vaccine in a developing nation.  

Growing your Monthly Giving Program From Good To Great To Mighty

Did you know that monthly giving boosts donor retention as high as 90% and a whopping 57% of U.S. and Canadian donors are enrolled in a monthly giving program? If you want to launch or improve your monthly giving program and haven’t heard of Erica Waasdorp, pay her website a visit. It’s loaded with free tools, from a monthly donor roadmap to a monthly donor retention checkup, and so much more!  

Takeaways: Erica shared low-hanging fruit tips to start or boost your program including 1) adding a button to your homepage, 2) explaining monthly giving, 3) adding an extra button everywhere, 4) using a short story to ask for monthly gifts on social media, and 5) using pop ups before check out.

Why Should I Give to You? 4 Keys to Answering Your Donors’ Most Fundamental Question

Courtney Gaines, Senior VP, and her team at NextAfter are well known for their split A/B experiments on nonprofit emails and landing pages. Courtney’s session covered side-by-side examples posing the question of which worked best – succinct vs long-form, etc. The average donation page converts 21% of visitors and Courtney made some jaws drop when she challenged the audience instead to look at it as the average donation page fails 79% of potential donors. Ouch!  

Takeaways: Have a strong value proposition that addresses 4 things for your ideal donor: 1) How badly do I want this? 2) Where else can I get this? 3) How well do I understand it?  4) How much do I believe and trust you?  

Bonus Takeaway: Courtney’s advice to boost your online donation conversions: Look at your donation page and ask yourself how well does it answer those 4 questions?  

The New Rules Of Digital Fundraising: How To Convert (And Keep!) More Digital Donors

Give Julia Campbell and Josh Hirsch a microphone and they won’t disappoint! If you aren’t following Julia’s new podcast, Nonprofit Nation it’s loaded with pearls of wisdom from Julia and her special guests!  

Takeaways: Julia and Josh urge you to focus on 3 essentials to convert more online donors: 1) An urgent and relevant message, 2) A clear and compelling call to donate, and 3) a frictionless user experience.  

Donors ARE Data: Creating A Donor-Centered Fundraising Operation

Clay Buck always delivers a fresh perspective on fundraising and in this session, he opened up the door for fundraisers to consider how they might reach their overall fundraising goal using a gift chart.  

Takeaways: Clay challenged everyone to attend fewer meetings, talk to more beneficiaries (amen!), and put gratitude first. 

Handling Objections: Donor Objections Are A Sign Of Interest

Muhi Khwaja, MPA, CFRE, CFRM, and Jack Alotto, MA, CFRE gave everyone an important reminder (and reframe) that donor objections are NOT a rejection but a sign of interest by a donor.  

Takeaway: Instead of viewing objections as battles to be won, welcome them and view them as the door behind a donor’s real interest which you can use discovery questions to reveal.   

Bonus Takeaway: If you are looking for great discovery questions check out this donor discovery guide from yours truly and Bloomerang. It’s loaded with best-of discovery questions to ask donors.  

Acknowledgment Best Practices For Any Size Shop

Lynne Wester, the Donor Guru, is a fundraising comedian. Seeing her in action will give you as many aha moments as it will side-splitting laughter.  

Takeaways: Acknowledgements (aka thank yous) are about the donor, not the organization! Be grateful, genuine, personal, short (3-4 sentences), and tell a story to connect them with their impact. Don’t be shy about using email, letters, postcards, cards, video email, and  even texts. Celebrate milestones in giving, first-time donors, and loyalty in giving.  

What Every Board Member Wants Every Fundraiser To Know And What Every Fundraiser Wants Every Board Member To Know

Sam Laprade, CFRE nailed the communication gap between staff and boards.  

Takeaways: Staff need the right tools, team, and professional development, and they want board members to open doors, see the big picture, give, tell their story, celebrate, and do the work. Board members worry about the finances, do not know what you do, think about your succession (and theirs), and want to be inspired by impact.  

There were a lot of sessions I did not make it to like the fabulous Kishshana Palmer’s two-part session, “You’ve Got the Chops: Speaking for Results.”  I can’t imagine a more fun and inspirational person to boost your confidence as a presenter! Takeaway: Get free inspiration from Kishshana here.   

Want to see a live recap of AFP ICON takeaways? Check out this fantastic Facebook live video from the always sensational Jim Anderson of Goalbusters.

If you attended AFP ICON live and have a favorite session and or takeaway, please share it in the comments below!

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