Just when we thought #bbcon couldn’t good any better, Tuesday’s announcements, Big Ideas, and deep-dive learn labs blew us away.

The theme of yesterday’s opening session? Modern. Integrated. Open: Introducing Blackbaud SKY

The face of philanthropy is changing at breaking speed. We want to arm you with the ability to take advantage of technology in new ways.” – Mary Beth Westmoreland, Blackbaud CTO

And that’s what this conference—this convening of 2800 world-changers— is all about, right? Working together to innovate and reimagine the way we do things in order to do more good and have greater impact in this world.

And speaking of working together to innovate, here are some of the big ideas that came out of #bbcon day 2:

Millennials Aren’t Quite Here Yet In Terms of Money But Sure Are For Data

Millennials and Gen Y came up a lot in both sessions which makes sense given the sessions were on Your Future Donor and The Future of Nonprofit Technology. Alia McKee of Sea Change Strategies suggested that we not forget about Boomer’s and Matures, who still give more than any other age group, but start extending an ‘expandable welcome mat’ to younger donors by showing, not just telling, impact, offering more ways to get involved beyond giving and being intentional about messaging to Gen Y.

Tom Matthews, from Microsoft, shared stats on the mind-boggling growth in data over the past 20 years and provided insights into how Microsoft is using their data-servers to support this explosion in ‘the cloud’. And the reason for this explosion? Largely us. And Millennials. Streaming services, content creation and location services, used in social media and other apps, are only possible because of the cloud but as Millennials continue to shape the way we create and consume media, the data needs, and how we engage with them, will continue to rise in importance.


Millennials are different and we need to start thinking differently if and when we want to start actually engaging with them – through fundraising and technology.

Underinvestments—time, money and energy—Are Not Helping Nonprofits Overcome Significant Challenges

Under investment, mostly money, was a theme at the Future of Nonprofit Technology session in the context of % of budget spent on technology. Amy Sample Ward from NTEN shared, from their recent Nonprofit Technology Staffing and Investments Report that only 4% of an organization’s budget, on average, was devoted to ‘technology’.

Over at the Your Future Donor session, under investment in the form of time, effort and focus was a commonality across the speakers as they discussed Generation Y, the role of women in giving today and a lack of diversity amongst donors and boards. Monica Maldonado Williams urged the audience to avoid tokenism when it comes to board selection and put in the effort of applying the good work done in fundraising towards caucasians (understand them, appeal to them, test, learn, etc.) to other ethnicities like Hispanics – the fastest growing ethnic group according to Blackbaud’s recent Diversity in Giving report.

In each case of under-investment, experts like Robert Machan from St. Jude’s and Ali McKee suggest an ‘agile’ approach to starting today, where you are at, and getting to work updating old systems, implementing scrum, getting out of the office to talk to supporters to better understand their needs.

Underinvestment will always be a challenge, but putting off getting started only compounds the problem.

People Are The Focus. And Women in Particular.

Una Osili, one of three women on the Future of Your Donor panel, shared some of the latest research from Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy on giving and the role of women and giving to programs supporting women and girls. The role of women in the decision making process is increasing, 75% of american households make their charity decision making jointly, and women are generally more empathetic, spontaneous and generous when it comes to giving. And a staggering 45% of American donors said they gave to an organization that was helping women and girls – a movement that could be ‘catalytic’ for women in the philanthropy space across the world.

Ali McKee discussed who Millennials are, what they like to give to and, more importantly, why – for impact. Monica Maldonado Williams talked about the challenges in recruiting new support from under-asked ethnic groups – for boards or as donors – but suggested that a starting point has to be an understanding. Of different cultures. Of different traditions. Of different holiday calendars even. If we can’t understand more about the people we are trying to reach then connecting with them and engaging with them becomes incredibly difficult.

And much of the discussion around The Future of Nonprofit Technology started with people. Amy Sample Ward talked about human connections as the starting point for expectations on technology. Tom Matthews shared a real story of ‘connected cows’ where wearable tech and data helps farmers raise their income through bigger herds and Robert Machen started his tips on technology with people, followed by process and tools, on purpose. Technology and the tools we use are built by people for people to solve people’s needs and that has to remain the focus for how we build it, use it and implement it.


Learn Labs

Day two at bbcon 2015 was packed with exciting Learn Lab sessions, and we couldn’t pick just one to share with you!

Grant Management from A to Z in Financial Edge kicked off the Learn Lab sessions this afternoon. Our Financial Edge gurus led a discussion on the proper setup of grant records, invoicing from Accounts Receivable, and best practices in grant reporting. If you were unable to make the Learn Lab session, no worries! Head to Training Central to sign up for our three-hour instructor-led Financial Edge: Grant Management class.

Luminate Online customers got social in our Learn Lab Configuring Luminate Online for Social Media, where they learned how to configure Luminate Online to target messages to their audience! Instructors and learners offered creative tips and tricks about using various networks such as, Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook.

Sitting in on the Writing Engaging Thank You Letters Learn Lab. It’s all about seeing the results. Good reminder that Thank You letters must share how each individual’s contribution helped achieve a greater good.

You can check out postings from our Learn Lab sessions and share your own by using #BlackbaudU.

And there was only one way to close out a day packed with such so much goodness…

Thanks to the Friendly Savages for helping us recharge for Day 3! We can’t wait to hear what Ashley Judd has in store for us. Come back tomorrow and we’ll give you the scoop!



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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