Conferences & Training
Program - Annual Conference for Donor Relations Professionals

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Preconference Workshops

Monday, June 25

9:00 AM - Noon

Donor Relations 101

Senior Leaders in Donor Relations

Main Conference

Day 1, Monday, June 25

Noon - 1:00 PM

1:00 - 1:30 
Welcome and Introductions

1:30 - 2:30
Opening Keynote Address
Where You Sit Does Not Determine Your Impact
Regardless of where you sit within it, you can—and should—influence your organization. Whether you just got the job, are a shop of one, lead a large team, or are not sure how your work matters in the greater scheme of things, you can play an important role in the success of your organization. Drawing upon a career spent "driving from many seats" in a large public university, Lisa Thomas will challenge and inspire us to embrace the opportunity that lies before us: to lead from where we are—no matter our roles/titles.
Lisa Thomas, Associate Vice President, Campaign, University of Washington 

2:45 - 3:45
Elective Sessions (choose one)

  • Does One Size Fit All? Stewarding the Entire Donor Life Cycle
    Can one strategy work to steward donors at every level? Or will building diverse programming help to engage those who give in a more meaningful way? Join us and find out how to build strategies that work to steward donors throughout each level of their giving relationship with your organization. From their first gift to leaving their legacy, this session provides examples and best practices to help guide your work.
  • Diversity and Inclusion in Donor Relations
    The broader conversation about diversity and inclusion is pervasive on our campuses and in our communities. Discuss the basic tenants of diversity and inclusion, examine unintentional biases that we may have, and discuss both aspirational and substantive changes we can make in our donor relations programs.
  • Events that Matter—to the RIGHT People
    Events are a staple for any development shop, and those that provide elements of surprise and creativity not only delight and engage your donors, but can keep them coming back for years. But getting buy-in for why the event, what format, who is the audience, and how will we know if it was a success can sometimes be a challenge. This session focuses on strategies for how best to use events, the staff time needed to implement them, and some of the cool tools and technologies to aid execution. Come prepared to share examples of your own successes and lessons learned.

4:00 - 5:00
What's NOT Changing: Reflections On a Career in Fundraising
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos said, "...a question that comes up very commonly: What's going to change in the next five to 10 years? But I very rarely get asked, What's not going to change in the next five to ten years?" In an era of relentless change, we would be wise to build upon that which is changeless. While we can't know what will be in 10 years, we can look back to see what has remained constant. In this session we will reflect on our years in donor relations to explore this idea and consider what it means for our future.

5:00 - 6:00
Networking Reception

Conference Adjourns for the Day
Dinner on Your Own

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Day 2, Tuesday, June 26

8:00 - 9:00 AM
Continental Breakfast

9:00 - 10:00
Big Shop, Small Shop: Donor Relations Point Counter Point
When you go to conferences, do you find yourself thinking "that's a great idea, but there's no way WE can do that?" If you work in a small shop, do you find yourself thinking the big shops have it all? Or, if you work in a big shop, do you often long for the supposed simplicity of a smaller shop? Explore the question, "Does size really matter?" with an eye toward understanding the pros, cons, myths and shared challenges of working in donor relations shops of any size.

10:15 - 11:30
Elective Sessions (choose one)

  • Making the Case for Donor Relations to Your Leadership
    Are you able to answer these famous shark tank questions? What is unique about your program? What is your ROI? How can you scale this program? Why do you need more (money, people, space, etc.) and how will you use it? Learn simple ways to do a program valuation, learn tips to sell your pitch, and be able to walk away with a solid deal.
  • Thank You for Being a Friend: Building Strong Relationships with Gift Officers and Campus Partners
    Do you have a strong relationship with gift officers and other strategic partners on your campus, or do you often feel like you need more friends to help with your stewardship efforts? In this session, we will travel down the road of bridging what can sometimes seem a vast gap between gift officers and stewardship. We will look at ways to build relationships not only with gift officers but with partners all over campus, from department admins to coaches to archivists. Everyone should be a stewardship partner, and we will learn how to make that happen. You will leave this session knowing that when you return to campus you will be able to find many more pals and confidants to help steward your donors.
  • Trends in Donor Relations
    Butterfly effect: "Small causes can have larger effects." This session is what you think it is—an interactive exploration of the events, innovations and factors that are impacting the world of donor relations right now and the emerging trends on (or just over) the horizon that will affect us tomorrow. Within these trends and influences lie both threats to our success and opportunities to be capitalized upon. Bring your newspaper and your crystal ball and together we will try to identify today's little fluttering butterfly that may turn into tomorrow's tornado.

11:30 AM - 1:15 PM
Lunch on your own

1:15 - 2:15
Faculty Panel: Career Paths in Donor Relations
As yet, no one goes to college and "majors" in fundraising or donor relations/stewardship. Nor is there only one "track" that must be followed to have a career in donor relations or development. This Q & A session with the faculty will highlight their varied backgrounds, experience, skill sets and talents, the motivating factors that brought them to the role they are in today—and the one they hope to be in tomorrow—and the advice they have for newcomers, mid-level and seniors in our field. Come prepared with your own questions around professional development for the panel.

2:30 - 3:45
Elective Sessions (choose one)

  • Strategic and Sustainable Impact Reporting
    Many colleges struggle with consistently describing the impact of a donor's gift. In efforts to convey significant and personalized meaning, impact reports can become too labor-intensive to be created regularly. On the other hand, mass impact reporting can be dry and impersonal. We will help you strike a balance between personal, yet manageable impact reporting through creating a sustainable system. Tips include how to strategically use resources, efficiently gather information, and best practices for collaborating with communications colleagues. Impact reports covering scholarships, fellowships and professorships will be showcased.
  • By George, I Think We've Got It! Enhancing Cross-Campus Collaboration
    The George Washington University and the University of Georgia's central donor relations teams were faced with a challenge—a growing number of stewardship colleagues without any direct or dotted reporting lines. This session provides an overview of how both universities integrated colleagues across campus into stewardship working groups to help ensure a baseline of stewardship activities in the four pillars. We'll share lessons learned along the way and tips and tricks for making the most out of your relationships across campus.
  • Resistance is Futile: Assimilate your Donor Relations Program Into the Future
    Is your donor relations team in need of a reboot or reorganization? Have you recently completed a campaign and know that stewardship should be a priority? Could your staff be organized more effectively? The benefits of reorganization can be transformational. The presenters will talk through a case study of an assessment and re-organization at Drake University. In addition, they will share tips and best practices related to reorganizing your donor relations team and share ideas related to developing metrics and reporting solutions to assess the value of your rebooted program.

4:00 - 5:15
Elective Sessions (choose one)

  • Leadership Lessons for Donor Relations Managers
    A Google search for "leadership lessons for managers" returns nearly 2M results. In other words, there's no single way to becoming or succeed as a leader and manager. Reflecting upon our experiences as a leaders and managers, this session seeks to draw out guiding principles and helpful, practical ideas for those who find themselves leading and managing teams within donor relations shops (and advancement shops in general). Discuss the often complicated relationships between character and skill, leadership and management, and individuals and teams.
  • Establishing Stewardship Standards
    Picture this: You walk into a building across campus and see your donor's name on the wall...misspelled. Yikes! Learn how establishing simple standards and best practices in your donor relations program can prevent missteps and provide a more consistent and effective donor experience.
  • Size Doesn't Matter: Strategic Planning for ALL Donor Relations Pros
    Strategic planning can be a powerful tool for any organization, but it is often the most dreaded activity any of us undertake. Talk through what makes a great strategic plan and how you can build one with your own team. Whether you've undergone this type of planning before, or if you're approaching the task for the very first time, this session provides you the opportunity to learn and discuss what works and what doesn't!

Conference Adjourns for the Day
Dinner on your own
Social event for all conference attendees (more info to come soon!)

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Day 3, Wednesday, June 27

8:00 - 9:00 AM
Continental Breakfast

9:00 - 10:00 
Elective Sessions (choose one)

  • Refreshing Your Scholarship Stewardship
    Have you been going through the motions with your scholarship stewardship? Are you bored? Are your donors bored? Are you ready to find new ways to engage some of your most loyal supporters? If it's time for a refresh then this session is for you. We will look at the most common ways we steward our scholarship donors and ways to bring fresh life into thank you notes, impact reports and receptions, among other stewardship activities. Come with ideas to share and leave inspired and excited to breathe new life into your scholarship stewardship!
  • The Donor Relations World of Metrics 
    Unlike front-line fundraisers, a donor relations/stewardship team goal is not usually tied to having to raise a certain dollar amount within the fiscal year. Rather, building our credibility with leadership depends on being able to "talk-the-talk" in ways that showcase how donor relations/stewardship functions and activities have measured outcomes that contribute to the overall fundraising efforts. This session helps you evaluate your current program and identify different approaches you can use to capture, measure and promote your team's work and value—especially as related to donor retention and continued giving. Such a value-add can not only help get you a better seat at the table but also help make the case for more resources.
  • Challenges and Opportunities in Donor Recognition
    The recognition of yesterday often impacts the work we do today. With an increasing number of difficult ethical issues arising in our field, determining how best to proceed can be hard. Join in for a roundtable discussion on handling the most challenging donor recognition issues in our industry and discuss some of the most innovative ideas and practices. Participants are encouraged to bring samples of any recognition pieces/strategies they would like to share with the group.

10:15 - 11:30
Closing Keynote Address
Resilience In Action
With the unexpected becoming an increasing part of the everyday, a talk about resilience could not be timelier or more important. This presentation highlights the mechanisms through which individuals and organizations can use their capabilities and talents to interact with their contexts in ways that enable positive adjustment. Resilience emerges as people deeply engage with their contexts to simultaneously manage drift and manage meaning. Moreover, resilience is more likely when people collectively bear the effects of adversity. This session ponders what we all know to be true: that processes of identifying, making sense of, and managing risks are not as simple, tidy, or quantifiable as is commonly portrayed. And at the same time, it provides insight and hope by suggesting that resilience is not as mysterious and elusive as it might seem.
Kathleen M. Sutcliffe, Bloomberg Distinguished Professor, Johns Hopkins University, Carey Business School/School of Medicine

11:30 AM - NOON
Conference Wrap-up

Conference Adjourns

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Day 1
Day 2
Day 3