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    By Drew Fox Jordan • June 29, 2021

    AFP ICON 2021: Our Top Sessions From This Year's Conference

    This year's AFP ICON conference played host to so many engaging and thought-provoking sessions that it was hard to choose which ones have been our favorites so far. Luckily for you, the Gravyty team picked some of their favorites and compiled a list of their top takeaways from this year's speakers.

    Gravyty at AFP ICON 2021Here are the top sessions the Gravyty team attended at this year's AFP ICON:

    DAY ONE:

    5 Trends with the Power to Change Major Gifts Fundraising

    Major gift fundraisers are laser-focused on donors—but sector-wide trends are changing the field as we know it. We will explore the big picture, bringing together nonprofit leaders to discuss the changing donor demographics, decline in broad-based giving, the impact of the events of the last year, the relentless emphasis on outcomes, and more.

    Recap: The power of individual giving: per AFP, 95% of all giving (inc. family foundations and bequests) relates to an individual donor. From a resource perspective, investment in major giving has the highest ROI. While other endeavors are critically important to build a base of donors and build the pipeline, the investment in major giving (staff and the tools to assist them) has the highest yield.

    Ethical Dilemmas in Crisis Fundraising: Calling All Reflective Practitioners

    In the context of crisis fundraising, how do we do the right thing and do it now? Investigate multiple case studies, face multi-faceted challenges, and determine what you think is best and why. Receive multiple tools for ethical reflection. Participants from various sectors will benefit from this interactive presentation.

    Recap: While all non-profits faced challenges at the onset of the pandemic, healthcare organizations faced unique ethical considerations that have important implications for the future. With grateful patients being a key pipeline for donor prospecting, many healthcare organizations debated whether typical outreach was appropriate in March of 2020 and onward. Many organizations chose to take a step back and evaluate their position within the context of the entire situation and were intentional about when and how they communicated with their donors and prospects.

    The influx of in-kind donations was unprecedented, but not all organizations could accept all of the donations their donors were looking to give. Ensuring donor intent matches need by being transparent and specific about your organization’s needs at the outset is a key approach to proactively addressing this particular issue.

    When it comes to navigating any crisis, comparative suffering is a dangerous way to make a decision, so doing what we can as fundraisers, organizations, and people to address the root causes of suffering, rather than funding band aid solutions is the clearest way to prevent, address, and survive a crisis.


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    Global Fundraising Challenges after the COVID-19 Pandemic

    This session will consist of two segments: (1) presentation of the most up-to-date information on global philanthropic responses to the COVID-19 crisis based on results from numerous studies conducted by the presenters and (2) audience engagement to evaluate the role and impact of global philanthropy during the COVID-19 global pandemic.

    Recap: The pandemic was an inflection point for philanthropy. Three key areas of change during the pandemic were 1) the expansion of the global visibility of philanthropy, 2) the marked increase in collaboration and innovation across the nonprofit sector and 3) racial equity and social justice having permanently transformed philanthropy overall.

    Throughout, we have seen just how important the role of community, leadership as change agents. We have realized that we need to expand the definition of philanthropy by building a diverse pipeline of current and future donors. Crowdfunding reshaped the way we give throughout a crisis, seeing the largest number of campaigns of any past disasters combined. We have seen a transformation of how the government and the social service sector are working together to help to continue to serve the various communities.

    The most significant changes came in the form of how networking has changed, at every level, within every sector. How new forms of collaborations and coalitions have formed, and how almost every organization across the globe have found new and innovative ways to use technology. Three-fourths of nonprofits across the globe are looking to build capacity for digital fundraising, with nearly 76% looking to find new ways to fundraise through digital technology, and 61% are identifying digital tools to better connect with stakeholders. Together, we are building a roadmap to resilience through technology, communication, strategic planning, fundraising, leadership, and diversity, equity, and inclusion.

    Handling Objections: Turning Hesitation into Commitment

    Reshape the way you see donor objections. When addressed strategically, objections can pave the way toward a successful ask. Together we will learn how to uncover donors’ hidden concerns, identify types of objections you might encounter, and explore strategies to overcome objections and deepen trust with your donor.

    Recap: Objections can slow your momentum and can affect your confidence, but, if you are willing to thoughtfully discover and address the donor’s objection you will pave the way to a gift. There are four types of objections: The Stall, The Searcher, The Hidden Objection, and The Stop. On a human level, donors may not always want to share why they can’t or won’t make a gift. Fundraisers can ask questions to try to understand, but also need to know when to step back. Go back to being a relationship builder, thinking and caring about the donor. Ask how they are doing , thank them, and wait for the right time to re-open the gift conversation. To counter objection, techniques include: the “feel/felt/found” technique, compensate or counterbalance, ask why, boomerang, curiosity, deny the objection (if you believe it is based on misinformation - something much common in the internet age), and using visuals. Listen, find out what’s on the donor's mind, let them feel heard. Respect where they’re coming from, treat them with dignity. In turn, your goal is to earn their respect and avoid an adverse reaction. Remember, this is not about you, this is about your organization. Your game face is always on. Don’t show that they have upset or derailed you. Here’s a six-step plan for handling an objection: Listen and hear them out, confirm your understanding, acknowledge their point of view, select a specific technique, counter the objection, and then attempt to close the gift.

    How Storytelling Fuels Fundraising at the Houston SPCA

    Driving donor retention and lifetime value is a growth imperative for most organizations. However many fundraisers struggle to create donor connection, particularly after that first gift. Discover how aligning Programs and Fundraising teams can create a cycle of storytelling that continuously deepens relationships by fulfilling audience needs.

    Recap: Your organization’s storytelling is only as good as the stories you get. Stories are the most effective means of human communication, and when they’re executed well, can build a real bond. But many organizations don’t leverage their full palette of stories. Everyone associated with the team has a story, from board members to part-time assistants. Enabling each individual to capture their stories, from Facebook posts to pictures of programs and services, creatively unifies the community of staff, volunteers, and supporters.

    Embracing the Power of Your Legacy Pipeline

    Wondering how to move donors to leave a gift in their will? This interactive session will show you how simple it is to implement a 3-step pipeline to inspire donors to leave a legacy and how to design engaging and personalized donor journeys that excite and strengthen relationships with donors.

    Recap: In the United States, bequest giving only accounts for 9% of total charitable giving. The process or asking to be included in a will can be awkward, but that doesn’t mean potential supporters shouldn’t be included in an engaging and personalized donor journey.

    After developing a segment of donors you want to send planned giving messages to, sending a survey gauging interest is a good way to get started. Of course, some will say “no”, but a “no” now isn’t forever! Keep them informed on updates to be sure your organization stays top-of-mind. Next, building trust with those interested via personal messaging and marketing efforts is important to be sure they know who they’re giving a gift to. These personal relationships advance through the settlement of the estate, where continued stewardship, recognition, and impact should be communicated.

    DAY TWO:

    Fundraising for Nonprofit Board Members - Getting Them On-Board to Reach Fundraising Goals

    Almost every organization expects its board members to fundraise, but almost as many say they have trouble getting their board members to do it. This session show you how to motivate your board members to fundraise and give you and them practical tools to do it more effectively and fruitfully.

    Recap: Board Members play a crucial role in fundraising - not only as donors, but as fundraisers, too! While many Board Members may not be skilled at fundraising, we know it is more important to be a sincere person rather than a trained solicitor when it comes to building relationships with donors. The average age of a charitable donor in the U.S. is 62, and many Board Members fall within that age bracket, so they should feel comfortable knowing they are talking to their peers. When it comes to fundraising for the Board, play to your Board member strengths, and remember that each Board member may bring something different to the table - it’s not a one size fits all endeavor.

    Diversifying Fundraising Efforts to Build Resilience in the Months Ahead

    Nonprofits looking to go “back to normal” after the pandemic may leave themselves vulnerable. To minimize the impact of future disruption, Ariana Younai, Head of LinkedIn for Nonprofits, and Grace Rochford Everitt, LinkedIn for Nonprofits’ East Coast Manager, will discuss opportunities for organizations to build resilience by diversifying fundraising revenue.

    Recap: Instead of focusing on back to normal, we can be striving for better. Your mission is designed to solve some very big problems and is worth the investment. Many organizations saw their main sources of income drying up during the pandemic and had to pivot to survive. With fundraising events being cancelled with no backup, donors shifting their giving to specific areas during the crisis, we have learned that we must take proactive steps to diversify your fundraising channels. Caution your teams on taking “back to normal” approach to fundraising. Don’t adopt a wait and see approach and leave yourself vulnerable to falling back into comfort zones. Adopting new ideas will enable your organization to be more agile and help to future proof it in the face of adversity.

    77% of nonprofits said donor fatigue is already an issue or very soon will be (*LinkedIn poll of nonprofts, across all donor profiles). People grow weary of endless fundraising appeals and will need to act with a startup mentality. Try new areas of fundraising, but with a focus (3-4 new areas). Maybe replicate where you got traction in 2020. Organizations get bogged down in the day to day operations, or fear of breaking from tradition or “red tape” mentality.

    From Identify to Ask: Leveraging Research to Bridge to Larger Gifts

    The cost of research tools has gone down, but many smaller organizations still struggle to turn this data into action. Now you can finally connect the dots between data and gifts! Learn straightforward steps you can take to identify, track, and ask for larger gifts with confidence.

    Recap: Research is the basis for successful major gift fundraising. There are many components which come together to form a donor profile to inform the gift officer’s actions. Prospect wealth screening was created 24 years ago by David Lawson who built the PIN, the Prospect Information Network based on visible assets (found through public records). The problem is, the higher an individual’s net worth, the less visible the wealth because it is held privately. The extremely wealthy have more ways to screen their wealth and may be underestimated by wealth screening tools. Five-year capacity ratings may not make sense for orgs asking for one-year cash gifts. Minorities get undervalued because assets and philanthropy are often held and given differently. Despite these shortcomings, wealth screenings are currently the best tool available to assess giving potential from a large group of records. Predictive analytics and machine learning might change the dynamic. For now, those tools are typically limited to bigger budgets and bigger data. There are 3 steps to harness wealth screening results and bridge to major gifts: Segmentation, Research and Tracking/Reporting. Research looks at RFM, which means recency, frequency and monetary value of giving. Best prospects have high affinity and high RFM. Some people don’t screen well because of hidden wealth, being in a minority or they just have never been approached, but if they are frequent lower dollar donors, they should still be considered good prospects. Building on wealth screening and segmentation, there are five profile building blocks from which you can build profiles. Researching online is fraught with risk and must pass the CRAAP Test to identify good and bad sources: Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, Purpose.

    Wait Don’t Go: Retaining Young Professionals and Building Your Organization’s Future

    The loss of a Millennial employee could cost up to $25,000. A panel of Millennials will give managers practical ways to attract, encourage, and retain loyal Millennial fundraisers. For young professionals, we will give you practical advice on considerations you should make before deciding to jumpstart your job search.

    Recap: Millennials, or anyone born between 1981 and 1996, already make up a large segment of the workforce and will be the dominant group soon. Though painting generations with a broad brush oversimplifies, there are some trends among younger generations that need to be addressed to both attract millennials and retain good young talent. A panel of millennial fundraising professionals shared why they chose philanthropy, how they define success, what young people look for in a job, and how to reduce employee turnover.

    The path to philanthropy seems for most to be an emotional decision, and to attract top talent organizations must lean into that. Though pay scale is important, most are drawn by the capability to serve and see an immediate impact of their work. They also look for an empathetic culture that isn’t necessarily bound to a 40-hour work week, but instead toward clearly defined success. For many, the number of hours worked is less important than empowering staff to do the best work of their lives every day. By providing opportunities for career advancement, self-advocacy, and immediate impact, organizations can not only keep the talent they have but find new, energetic team members who can contribute to a culture of philanthropy.

    DAY THREE:

    Uncomfortable Conversations with Donors

    Ever dread calling a particular donor out of fear that they might make an inappropriate comment about race, politics, or gender? This has happened to many of us, and there is no avoiding these uncomfortable conversations. Learn some key takeaways and how to identify a potential conflict from this discussion.

    Recap: In this session, the panelist addressed questions folks had submitted around how to approach certain challenging/uncomfortable conversations around topics of social justice and personal boundaries within the context of fundraising work. Whether it’s addressing a disparaging comment a donor made, or advocating internally at your organization for more resources/trainings, the panelists suggest setting personal boundaries, finding like-minded colleagues who you can team up with for support, and entering conversations with a curiosity mindset in order to reframe discussions about race, gender, or politics. We can’t always be perfect, but showing up imperfectly is better than not showing up at all.

    Major Gifts: From Concept to Close in 100 Days

    Alignment with the donor’s decision-making process is key to both successful and efficient major gift solicitations. This session discusses key principals of aligning your cultivation and solicitations with the donors’ decision-making process as well as how to recruit and organize the rest of your team to best support your efforts.

    Recap: Preexisting fundraising models lead to inefficient cultivation cycles with lengthy close times - raising less than you could. The Development Officer is the single biggest differentiator in whether a cultivation is successful or not they should align with the prospect's decision-making cycle.

    The questions they should be asking are: What's the problem? What's the vision? Can they close? What's our plan to address the problem? Can our organization execute? Focus on the prospect’s pain – The development officer that understands and address the prospect pain gets the most committed donors and donations.

    Donor Love: Brain, Data, and Experience to Supercharge Your Donor Retention

    Have you ever wondered what "donor love" means in practice and how to measure it?  With the help of neuroscience and real fundraising cases from around the world, this session will show how to engage donors using science, experience, and data to supercharge the lifetime value (LTV) of donor.

    Recap: Presenter Francesco Ambrogetti is the author of two books: Emotionraising, which explores how to astonish, disturb, seduce and convince the brain to support good causes and Hooked on a Feeling, which explores how passion and devotion for a good cause becomes part of one’s memories and forms one’s identity. Giving during the pandemic was higher than ever, and everyone has the same question: will Covid-19 donors stay and continue to give? In terms of future campaigns, Ambrogetti advocates for a mindset shift from ROI to ROM, that is, return on memory, or ROE, return on experience. How people positively experience and remember an organization will be a greater determinant of future giving. People only give when they are emotionally engaged, but emotions are ephemeral. How we remember will determine whether donors will give again. As much as the experience of giving is personalized, authentic and human will deliver greater fundraising results. Start with how to improve the supporter experience, and then build the next campaign from there.

    Curious to see how AI is helping nonprofit organizations all across the country reach and exceed their fundraising goals ahead of this year's conference? See a Gravyty demo today and learn about what we bring to philanthropy:

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