Southeast Donor Relations Professionals Mini-Conference / Charlotte, NC

July 31st, 2009

Today a dedicated group of donor relations professionals met at Davidson College to consider the implications of the current economic challenges on donor stewardship.  Most years, the Southeast Donor Relations Conference (SEDRC), a regional subgroup of the Association of Donor Relations Professionals (ADRP), gathers for a three-day conference with 50 or more attendees.  This year’s full conference was canceled because so many attendees’ budgets have been slashed.  During the one day mini-session, presentations and conversation carried a consistent theme:  the need for improved coordination and communication.

A wide range of ideas were presented by these donor relations pros, ranging from top level changes in priorities and perspectives to specific hands-on money- and time-saving ideas. Throughout, the suggestions offered reiterated the need for clear and consistent communication, both with donors and between divisions within the organization.  Furthermore, there was an emphasis on the need for planning, coordination and self-evaluation… the very hallmarks of the donor recognition standards and guidelines we advocate.

The attendees included several clients and soon-to-be clients, so it was easy to weave indicators of the benefits of documented policy, procedures and budgeted design standards into the conversation.  In general, we found folks still a little shell shocked and focused on day-to-day details, but preparing for good times ahead.

This is a sampling of the ideas shared:

• Be sensitive to donor and public perception by keeping all donor stewardship activities simple and straightforward, but without compromising quality

• Look for opportunities to coordinate donor events with other activities on campus; eliminate redundancies that cost the organization time and money

• Evaluate time-honored traditions (which might best be called habits) and look for new cost-saving alternatives including electronic communication

• Add meaning and sentimental value to donor recognition activities (storytelling is key!)

• Communicate from the heart by using faculty, staff, students and/or physicians to inform and motivate donors

• Reuse, recycle and re-purpose – everything should be revisited with an eye for cost savings and sustainability; cut out waste (including paper!) whenever possible

• Invest in communication options (including donor recognition displays) that facilitate flexibility and growth

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