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Learnings from Bridge 2017

My name is Nicole Shaia and I am the Donor Engagement Manager with Action Against Hunger. In my role, I focus on the stewardship and engagement of our Mid-Level donors, Monthly Giving Program, and Peer to Peer Fundraisers. As a first time Bridge Conference attendee, I was amazed by the magnitude of knowledge and expertise at this year’s conference. Upon entering the conference center for my first session, I was excited and inspired to be in the presence of so many passionate, driven, and accomplished individuals in the field. 

Two days later, I am not only walking away with practical examples and take aways that I can implement, but I also had the opportunity to collaborate with many colleagues who understand the challenges and keys to success from firsthand experience. The theme of this year’s conference was: Think Big, Think Bold, and Take Action, which is a call to action that I feel empowered to uphold post conference.

My first session, titled: “ Startup or Tune Up: Get What You Need To Make the Most of Your Monthly Giving Program” provided me with helpful tools and resources that I’m able to use as I work to build our monthly giving program and expand our donor base. Hearing the two presenters speak about their program in a way that related to the goals and challenges that we also have was an incredible shift for me in terms of how I approach our assessment and data for our monthly donors. With fresh strategies and new ideas, I am ready to tackle our challenges and grow our program to a whole new level. A major topic of the discussion was the systems in place to manage the program, which has been my focus. Something that I take away from that is to develop a solid foundation of your donor flow which includes our onboarding of new donors and engagement touchpoints. Having the opportunity to learn about the tactics that have and have not worked for other organizations, has equipped me with the right tools to take action with our program.

Another session that I attended was the session titled “How Would Your Favorite Brands Steward Your Donors.” This session challenged me to think critically about our points of engagement with our donors. A few strategies I have taken from this session are to first, develop our stewardship plan with the donor experience in mind and to look at the longevity of the relationship a donor has with our organization. It’s about the connection, it’s about the relationship, and ultimately it’s about the “Why” from the donor’s perspective. Peeling back another layer of a donor’s inspiration to give to our organization, it’s also about the overall experience that they have with our organization. In a world where commercial brands are offering top notch service for loyalty (Gap, Zappos, Apple to name a few!), it’s critical for organizations to embrace the same approach and craft a unique experience from the first point of interaction to a donor’s first point of taking action.

In conclusion, my experience at the 2017 Bridge Conference was an invaluable experience. The speakers at each session provided insider knowledge about real strategies and tactics that have demonstrated results. I also found the keynote speakers to be profoundly moving and inspirational. I have always been a firm believer that the art of storytelling is an important component to fundraising success and their perspective confirmed that! Lastly, what is most valuable to me is something that was unexpected. I feel as though I am walking away with immense knowledge and a forum of amazing resources that I can return to throughout the year. This would not have been possible without the support of the DMFA and I am incredibly grateful to have had this opportunity. Thank You! Nicole Shaia, Donor Engagement Manager Action Against Hunger USA

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