It started off with a bang, literally. The John H Reagan Soul Train Drumline replaced our espresso shots with beats – How else should you set the tone for a conference dedicated to world-changers and philanthropic visionaries?

But that was only the beginning…

From major keynotes and Big Idea Sessions to deep-dive learn labs and new product announcements, it’s safe to say that the first day of #bbcon did not disappoint.

Here are a some of lessons from day 1, thanks to some of #bbcon‘s biggest fans:

Embrace the Change.

Mobile phones. Donor’s customer service expectations. The impending transference of wealth. The rise of Donor Advised Funds. People fundraising for you – with or without your knowing. These are just a few of the topics traversed by the Future of Fundraising Panel – Ted Hart, Rachel Muir and Donna Wilkins.

Some of these topics are relatively new and still emerging (people fundraising for you), others seem to be exploding (Donor Advised Funds) and some have already passed a lot of nonprofits by and are here to stay (like how we use the mobile phone). And in each case, organizations have the choice to dig in their heels and fight to resist these changes or jump on board and figure it out.

Donor Advised Funds is a great example of this dilemma. While they continue to rise in popularity, assets under management and usage amongst donors, they have not been seen to increase total giving and many fundraisers find them annoying and difficult to manage relationships with DAF donors. Ted Hart’s suggestion was along the lines of ‘these are great, they are here to stay so figure out how to make them work for you’ and I think that was a common angle taken by the experts when discussing these future trends.

Finally, Rachel Muir talked about the 5 things donors want and stressed the importance of not just asking and thanking but also reporting back. This completes the ‘ask-thank-report’ cycle that keeps it simple for any organization to follow (shout out to shampoo bottle instructions everywhere…). And this cycle and serving the needs of donors will only increase in importance as customer service expectations of donors continue to increase – not just when giving but for all transactions and interactions with brands.

Don’t resist change. Embrace it. It will be okay.

Take a Risk. Drops in a Bucket Add Up.

Nicholas Kristof brought out a few tears (at least from me) in his keynote session that covered everything from the value of storytelling, the struggle of partisan politics, Random Controlled Trials (RCT’s), the role of media for causes, demining rats, deworming children and teenage pregnancy rates in the Us compared to Europe.


Nicholas KristoffThe thing that struck me most was his change and challenge to take a risk. That in the face of overwhelming odds and a feeling that our acts may just be ‘drops in a bucket’ it is these simple things that we all can do that have ripple effects.

Mr. Kristof told the story of a young man growing up in Alabama in the 1950’s who, embarrassed to read in public for fear of his image, had to steal books from the library and read in secret. And as he read, and stole, more books his life took another path which took him out of a tough upbringing in a segregated society to the Judge’s bench in the state of Alabama.

But that wasn’t the story – as amazing as it was. This story was really about Mrs. Grady, the librarian at his school, who not only knew he was sneaking out books and let it slide but would drive to Memphis, some miles away, and buy more books, with her own money, by the same author in the hope that this young, troubled boy would continue to go down this new and alternate path.

A small act. A huge ripple. And when we all inspire small acts through our work and take those risks ourselves the total impact can be immense.

Focus on them and your shared values and beliefs.

In the final Big Ideas session of the day, storytellers Sean Sheridan, Vanessa Chase Lockshin and Marc Pitman share their experience and expertise on how story, through photo, video and writing, can better connect causes to supporters and create connections amongst people.

If we can take our ‘fundraiser hats’ off, as Vanessa Chase Lockshin suggests, and focus more on how we connect with other humans – through shared beliefs and values and common experiences – we can better connect with our donors. Who, by the way, happen to be human. They are not just donor ID’s, giving segments and email addresses.

And if we can use the power of photo to show the hard work, memorable images can be ingrained in people’s minds that can last years or even decades. Pictures like ‘The Kiss’ in Times Square in World War II, ‘Tankman’ in Tiananmen Square and “Ayan’, the Syrian refugee who washed up on the shore and was able to move a groundswell of support like weeks of politics and bickering could not.

Your organization stands for something. Your organization believes in something. And so do your supporters. Use your stories to connect with them around what they, and you, both believe and ask them to partner with you in making that become a reality.

Learn Labs

Our nonprofit do-gooders joined our instructors for hands-on training and got to mingle and learn innovative product tips and new practices from each other. With 34 Learn Lab sessions throughout the three-day conference, attendees have many opportunities to discover methods to improve the way they use Blackbaud technology.


If you’re at bbcon 2015, be sure to stop by the Blackbaud University booth and meet our representative. While you’re there, test your product knowledge and pick up a few swag items!

Today was insightful for our Raiser’s Edge customers. They were especially thrilled to join our Learn Lab, Raiser’s Edge Tools for the Busy Fundraiser because we’ve never met a fundraiser who isn’t busy! Attendees learned how to maximize their home pages with Dashboard panels, and how to link to helpful reports and queries. Most importantly, they explored how the Giving Score Query can create a workspace to identify key prospects and track efforts and results.

If you don’t measure it, it doesn’t happen. Spent time in the hands-on Learn Lab session Track What Matters Most: Basics of Building a Blackbaud CRM Dashboard, building charts, thermometers, and tickers. Ready to go make things happen.

Did you know many nonprofits leave money on the table by not making gift amount suggestions in their solicitations? Raiser’s Edge calculates suggestions for you, based on prior giving. Learn Lab is taking me to the next level of Mastering the Art of the Ask with Targeted Solicitations in Raiser’s Edge.

We’ll be highlighting more about all the goodness that’s happening at #bbcon over the next few days, so stay tuned!


Madeline Turner is the Online and Social Marketing Manager at Blackbaud. Prior to running Blackbaud’s social media and thought leadership blog npENGAGE, Madeline worked as a Managing Editor for Blackbaud’s Content Marketing program. It is her goal to create content and share ideas that challenge the status quo of the nonprofit industry. When Madeline isn’t tweeting or writing blog posts, you can find her drinking coffee out of her ‘Crazy Cat Lady’ mug, wearing giant headphones and singing off-key.

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