Invest in Marketing and Fundraising to Encourage Innovation

June 10, 2013 - by Tiffany Neill

I’m looking forward to getting away from the office at the end of July and getting revitalized and re-inspired about the work I do every day. I won’t be lying on the beach, or soaking in a spa (although that would be lovely). I will be spending three days inside a large conference hotel “talking shop” with my co-workers and thousands of other direct marketing and fundraising professionals.

And, I will come back to the office refreshed and better at my job raising money for non-profit organizations.

Like many business owners, I’ve found that sending key marketing and fundraising employees (and myself) to conferences like the Bridge to Integrated Marketing and Fundraising Conference (affectionately known as the Bridge Conference) is one of the best ways to invest our limited marketing budget. The non-profit organizations with whom we work – whose budgets are stretched even thinner – send their executives, their direct mail professional staff, and their fundraising staff.

Why does attending a conference have such an impact?

  • As technology advances, the tools available to direct mail professionals and fundraisers are constantly changing – we need to know what’s working in fundraising and marketing. At a conference, you can learn from professionals in educational sessions (more than 70 at the Bridge conference) who have tried the latest in such things as social media marketing, or have the latest research on ways to reach major donors.
  • We need to know what companies have the tools we need. Going through an exhibition hall (or solution showcase) is a great way to get some candy, and some small gifts for my children, AND to get to know businesses that can help us do our work better.  These companies will have fundraising ideas, and new ways to reach donors and potential donors.  I want to meet them.
  • We may meet our next client or great employee. The best thing about a conference is the opportunity to meet people who are as interested in your work as you are. The professional term is “networking” – but it’s really a chance to meet the people who are going to make your company better.
  • At a good conference, an old dog can learn new tricks. I’ve been a fundraising and direct marketing professional for more than 20 years. Many of the best people I work with have done this work for even longer. Every day, I use a new technique, a new technology, or call a new company and try a new thing. Why? Because I learned about new things at conferences and I want to try them.
  • You can learn from experts whose path you may never cross. I always hear people say “oh, you can skip the keynote presentation.” If I did that, I wouldn’t have a chance to learn from Joseph Pine – the head of Strategic Horizons and the author of The Experience Economy: Work is Theater & Every Business a Stage. Let’s face it, Joseph Pine probably wouldn’t come to my office and share his insight. But, I can learn it at the Bridge Conference, and that’s worth it.
  • It’s all in one place. We could spend weeks – or months – and thousands of dollars putting together a training plan for each employee that explains best practices, that shares case studies of effective implementation, and provides them with a list of companies who can help. Or, we can send folks to a three-day adventure where they can discover this for themselves. I chose the latter.

All of this equals an exciting, dynamic experience that I find revitalizing. It banishes the feeling of “same old, same old” about a job I’ve done for a long time. And, every employee we send has learned something different – sharing experience and knowledge makes us all stronger.

So, it may not be a beach, or a spa, but three days at the Bridge Conference outside Washington, DC rejuvenates me in the same way. And, it makes us a stronger, better, business.


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