ADRP Conference and Providence, RI

October 3rd, 2013
Waterfire, Providence

Waterfire, Providence

ADRP Conference chose Providence this year for the annual meeting of Donor Relations Professionals. Both the conference program and the city of Providence exceeded my expectations.

Best of the conference for me was the story-telling segment that highlighted RISDiversity.org. The presenters were Candace Baer, VP of Human Resources at The Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and Adam Mastoon, author of “The Shared Heart”.

Mastoon has perfected the binding power of story-telling through his own artful photography, as well as his own compellingly, likeable persona. It was his idea that RISD tie his artistic specialties into the University’s yearning to celebrate and document the diversity on that campus, which they believe make RISD so significant among “art schools”.  Though it was Mastoon who approached RISD with the idea, Baer, the University and the program’s participants embraced his unique, and even risky idea wholeheartedly. The result is a skillful coupling of his photographic skills and the self expressions of those volunteers who dared to share their own singleness with the world. The results? Powerful stuff!

While I’ve been advocating for just such story-telling focus as motivators within donor recognition efforts since I first used it to bring donors to life in 1990 within the Alper Jewish Community Center in Miami,  I am thrilled by the ubiquitous occurance of that idea in fundraising now. Fundraisers today simply MUST bring their donors, as well as their own organization’s personality and needs, to life through such methods. The philanthropy marketplace is increasingly competitive and the choice to use traditional expressions of “thank you” as outlets for such compelling messaging makes perfect sense. Done well, viewers (prospective donors) WILL be inspired.

Story-telling as means of engagement is not my idea, nor even a new idea, but I am so pleased to see the methods for such proactive story-telling popping up as a part of “Best Practices” within educational conferences like this.

Why, even today I received an invitation to a story-telling workshop, “The Deep” by Pride Philanthropy,  a fundraising consulting firm. Within  heir announcement they touted: “The Deep” will explore how we use the power of stories to create a deeper level of emotional engagement with donors and volunteers, our organizations and the communities we serve.”  Good things are happening.

And good things are certainly happening in Providence! As a city founded on tolerance, acceptance and hope, it remains warm, walkable and inviting.  Like it’s founding father, I came to feel that it was indeed by the providence of God that I had been led there. While enjoying the experiences of the city, I also learned of the state’s continued respect for the freedom of thought and religion, for the continued separation of church and state. Those beliefs are mine, still. Heck, I even came home wondering if, and wishing that I were related to Roger Williams, it’s founder….now he was a true “thought leader”.

Written by Robin E. Williams


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