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Driving the “Why” at the 2019 ANA Chicago Nonprofit Conference

Katherine Gouldin Katherine Gouldin Brand Communications Associate

Two weeks ago, hundreds of marketing and fundraising professionals joined together in Chicago to share ideas, and get inspired. The festive location in the middle of the Windy City, set the stage for this perfectly sized and easy to navigate conference where great connections amongst industry leaders and colleagues were made. So, what was the conference all about?

The three-day event kicked off with the Professional Development track (proudly sponsored by Production Solutions) with sessions such as “The Culture Club: The Connection Between Culture and Our Ability to Thrive in Fundraising”, and “Lead from the Heart to Unleash Your Team’s Potential” led by our very own President, Ben Harris, and John Perell, Director of Strategy and Member Experience at the Smithsonian Institution. Other tracks followed including sessions focused on Mid-Level Giving, Classic Direct Response and Program Analytics.

One of the most meaningful takeaways of the conference this year was the emphasis on purpose. “Whether it was engaging employees within your own organization or engaging donors to your cause (acquiring new donors, upgrading one-time donors to sustainers, etc.), there was a consistent focus on communication to drive the ‘why’,” says Drew Wilson, Production Solutions’ Senior Vice President of Operations.

Focusing on purpose is crucial in marketing and fundraising.  Long-term, loyal donors resonate with organizations that have a clearly communicated purpose, and younger generations find purpose and meaning to be a motivating and engaging factor. Many found the dialogue about organizational purpose and culture as a key and necessary metric for success to be especially inspiring.

The conference fostered innovative marketing and fundraising ideas between remarkable people, and is significant for the nonprofit community because it is tailored specifically for their needs. “It’s a conference where attendees will leave inspired and come back with new ideas to test both professionally and personally,” says Leigh Janis, PS’ Director of Sales & Brand Strategy.

Our clients are under pressure from their donors and for their missions to deliver improved results while simultaneously navigating disruption and regulation in the fundraising sector.  Lightening our clients’ load is the cornerstone of our purpose, our culture and the direction with which we will continue to upskill the PS team. Ben Harris, PS’ President shares, “I plan to continue to work with our company to make all employees aware of the challenges and struggles that nonprofits are going through – to balance the very difficult challenge and polarity of having to raise more money, and increase donor levels, while ensuring their staff and team members are being invested in, along with a reasonable work and life integration… The more the industry comes together and discusses important and timely needs and challenges, the better chance the industry has for innovation and growth.”

Meg Ferguson, a Business Development Director at PS, says, “The keynotes, largely from nonprofits, were extremely inspiring and each offered a unique perspective (such as St. Jude’s, Girl Scouts, United Way) and supported the need for the organizational culture to be communicated, embraced and adhered to.” The conference contributed to making our industry better through education, networking and bringing the community together as a whole, and the most movin g part of the conference was the collaboration. “Nonprofits and their partners are willing to share what worked (and what didn’t) for their programs so that others can take back those ideas and adjust their plans. People’s willingness to be vulnerable was inspiring,” says Leigh Janis.

This conference is the place to be for nonprofits! PS encourages everyone to attend the 2020 ANA DC Nonprofit Conference next year (held Wednesday, February 19  – Friday, February 21) at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C. We’ll see you there!