AFG Presents First Ever Chicago Conference

News | November 29, 2018

By: Kathryn Dattomo, MNA, CAE, CFRE, Executive Director of the ASGE Foundation

Chicago is “My Kind of Town”. It is AFG’s kind of town too, with many of our AFG colleagues working for association foundations headquartered in Chicagoland. On October 17, AFG held its first ever conference in Chicago. The half-day format gave attendees the opportunity to spend the morning connecting and learning with fundraising leaders and then get back to their offices in the afternoon energized and ready to execute new ideas.

I was joined by my colleague, Linda Tyler, Senior Director of Sales & Business Development at the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy (ASGE), to share our winning “Strategies to Raise Unrestricted Funds”. Our mantra is “no margin, no mission”. Yours can be too!

  • Build trust with your donors. Make a compelling case for unrestricted giving that clearly communicates your vision and impact and educates donors on the real cost of results.
  • Encourage donors to allocate their donations to a program area (e.g. education), rather than to a specific program (e.g. a scholarship). You’ll maintain some flexibility and your donors support your mission in a way they are most passionate about.
  • It’s not just about the Annual Fund. Promote unrestricted major and planned gifts too. And why not consider offering special recognition for donors who make unrestricted gifts?
  • Think beyond grants when it comes to support from industry. Consider fee for service models, advertising and co-branded partnerships that drive unrestricted margin that your association can reinvest in its mission.

In her presentation, “Finding a Needle in a Haystack and Turning it in to Gold”, Sandi Smith, the Director of Advancement at the AMA Foundation, shared case studies and knowledge garnered from a decade working in prospect research, managing the Annual Fund at Northern Illinois University and more recently in her current role at the AMA Foundation. Sandi knows her stuff and her results are impressive!

  • Are you yielding the results you want? If not, “the way you’ve always done it” isn’t working. Start from scratch. Ask questions. Trust your gut, but let your data tell you a story that guides your fundraising and engagement strategies.
  • All donors are not equal. Mass fundraising appeals with a generic message and standard asks are expensive and an ineffective. Get focused. Use data to segment your donor audiences and send the right message that asks for the right amount to the right donor in the right way.
  • Look to your data to show you what your typical donor looks like and then select like individuals from your non-donor pool as your best acquisition prospects. Focus on quality, not quantity.
  • Data analytics and utilization is an investment, but, the results are worth it.

We may be fundraisers, but we are also in the content business. Hilary Marsh, Founder, Chief Content and Digital Strategist at Content Company got us thinking and talking about content strategy and its role in fundraising and engagement during the optional luncheon “Content as Connection” session.

Many thanks to Association Development Solutions for sponsoring the AFG Chicago Conference, and to Barnes and Thornburg for hosting this event in their Chicago Offices.

I hope to see you in Washington, DC on May 15 for more education, networking and professional development sessions at the AFG National Conference.

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