Who Do You Hope to Meet?

Conferences are one of the best ways for us to meet new people familiar with the donor relations and stewardship profession. Furthermore, these gatherings provide an opportunity to explore what we know best in the company of others who share our vocabulary, experience and objectives.  And, if all goes well, we encounter folks with new ideas or positions that challenge our own.  In doing so, we learn and gain confidence in our own understanding of our profession.

When you attend a conference, who do you hope to meet?  Is it the person who works in the same type of organization as you, a person in your region who you might contact more regularly, or an industry superstar who will be presenting?  Are you the type to plan every minute of your agenda before you arrive or go where the mood takes you?

I find myself to be a bit of both.  One thing I know for sure:  I am a conference junkie.  I love them.  Luckily, my work allows me to attend half a dozen or more per year and I choose from a broad array of styles and topics.  Sometimes I present, sometimes I exhibit, sometimes organize.  Sometimes I do all of the above.  And every once in a while, I just attend.

Such was the case at this year’s Association of Fundraising Professionals international conference in Baltimore, Maryland.  It was a mega-conference, 4000 attendees including the exhibitors.  And it was big names – keynotes included Whoopi Goldberg, Seth Godin and Isabel Allende.  Adrian Sergeant, Tom Ahern, Karen Osborne, Penelope Burk and all the other starts were there.  Everything about it was enormous and a bit overwhelming. And I’m really glad I went because a huge realization came to me while I was there:  very few understand donor relations and stewardship like we do.

This was a gathering of the brightest minds in fundraising, yet over and over again, I heard stewardship referred to as a response not a fundamental principle.  And when I took a deeper dive with individuals there, I found that there was a surprising lack of shared vocabulary.   I realized that I have been focusing inwards, looking to others “like me,” all the while missing the other players in the non-profit industry.  As a consultant, I caught myself being guilty of singing to the choir.

So, I am setting a new goal:  with my next client meeting, at my next conference, with the next blog I read, I am going to make it a point to meet the people who are around the work I do but somehow separate from it.  In doing so, I hope to expand the impact of my knowledge and challenge myself with new ways of thinking.  

As you go about your day, or when you attend that next meeting or conference, who do you hope to meet?