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Your mission, should you choose to accept it: travel to DC, wade through coffee, cocktails, early mornings, late nights, panelists, breakout sessions, networking opportunities, questions, and notes to consume both educational and anecdotal data and bring back a concise, actionable, and ROI-driven plan to not only justify the expense of your mission, but make an immediate and measurable impact on your current fundraising plan.

I was all set to write a lengthy recap of the DC Nonprofit Conference, trying in vain to write down verbatim what I was hearing from panelists, moderators, and other attendees. That is, until I had coffee with Jill Burkhardt and Carol Marchesano of North Shore Animal League America. Senior Vice President of Development and Director of Interactive Web Marketing respectively, they shared their thoughts on why investing in these conferences is both a necessity and a struggle for nonprofits.

“Our mission is simple, we’re here to bring back ideas we can implement,” said Jill. “Some of these panelists come from nonprofits with bigger budgets or more manpower than ours,” added Carol, “so I’m constantly thinking, ‘how can we apply this to what we have?’”

“It’s not just the expense, it’s the time too,” said Jill. “As a nonprofit, you invest almost a week to be here (including travel) and you have to come back ready to implement a plan.”

With that said, I want to thank Jill and Carol for taking the time to give me some clarity and shaping the way I approached my assignment. So, instead of my 18 pages of notes (which I’m happy to share!) here are the 4 things YOU need to know coming out of the DC Nonprofit Conference:

  1. Data Security is a critical concern RIGHT NOW.
    As technology makes donations easier, the importance of securing donor data is of paramount priority to nonprofits. Did you know the Target data breach of 2013, which exposed thousands of customer credit and debit card accounts, started from a hack in their HVAC system? Understanding data security standards (DSS) and identifying your threats will help you be good stewards not only of donor dollars, but donor information as well. Use Nonprofitrisk.org for web tools and training to help you get started.
  2. Crowdfunding is as legitimate as direct mail; in fact it’s powered by it!
    In 2013 donors gave approximately $5 billion to crowdfunding projects and according to the 2015 Crowdfunding Industry Report, global crowdfunding expanded by 167% from 2013 to 2014. The Autism Society, a Federated nonprofit with more than 100 independent affiliates, raised more than $130k in its 24 hour “Big Give for Autism.” Here are 5 steps to help you do it too :

    • Invest in Pre-Planning: Ads, outreach, retargeting, direct mail, email communication, and securing matching funds all help boost awareness leading up to your deadline.
    • Find your Value Proposition and exploit it: Have an anniversary coming up? A milestone event? Emergency need? Critical funding gap? These are all value propositions that create a compelling case to donate.
    • Involve your Brand Ambassadors: Your staff is vital to the success of crowdfunding. Provide incentives for them to like and share your social media posts to help grow your organic reach.
    • It’s not over when it’s over: Post-event outreach is just as important as pre-event. Build this into your overall marketing campaign and don’t let the momentum die.
    • Be Focused and Simple: Crowdfunding shouldn’t be complicated. Communicate a single message or need to your audience, to make it easier for them to give across all your channels.
  3. Facebook can drive conversions, and conversions can lead to donations.
    According to Anthony Jones, Director of Digital Media & Marketing at Ducks Unlimited, growing your Facebook fan base is the first step in the process of turning fans into members/donors. By providing good content including photos and video, you grow an engaged fan base that will be more likely to donate. Defining your conversion goal is also key to success in advertising on Facebook, and unlike other advertising platforms, Facebook provides up-to-the-minute analytics and gives you the flexibility to change your ads based on how they’re performing. By identifying your conversion goal up front, you enable Facebook to put your ad in front of users identified as more likely to participate. In short, it does a lot of the work for you if you can clearly articulate what you’d like it to do. You can set your budget as low as $5 and adjust accordingly. Check out the Facebook Ad Help Desk for comprehensive tools to help maximize your investment.
  4. Set your email to Autopilot.
    • Develop a Welcome Series: New online donors who may have come to you from an event or campaign are good candidates for an email welcome series. These can be set in advance and targeted toward the event or cause that brought them to your organization in the first place.
    • Leverage Smart Lists: Many email and CRM platforms allow for ‘smart-lists’ that grow as new members sign up or are added directly. These lists can be as targeted as you need them to be, and triggers can be set to automatically send an email to a new member.
    • Direct People to Specific Actions: The more specific you can be with online audiences the better. Attention span is short— give your audience a clear call-to-action and a one-click path to take that action.
    • Put in the Overtime: If you’re purchasing ads on Facebook, keep monitoring them even after business hours and on weekends. This will give you better insight on where to focus your pay-per-click dollars.

A very special thanks again to Jill and Carol of North Shore Animal League for their help in crafting this recap and all the fundraisers who made the DC Nonprofit Conference a Success. I hope to gain insights from more of you at the 2016 Bridge to Integrated Marketing Conference this July!