Tidbits from BBCon 2015

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I just got back from BBCon, Blackbaud's annual conference for nonprofit fundraisers. I've been attending these since 2008, back when it was the Convio Summit, a fast-growing user group of new technology advocates. 

It was a great conference. Sure, there were a couple sessions that didn't appear to be what I expected; but in both cases I found a ready replacement from the jam-packed agenda.

There's no way to do justice to all the specifics. But some of the over-arching themes that struck me ...

1. Not all supporters are created equal.

There has been growing awareness that new donors aren't the same as more loyal supporters. Organizations that are doing it right are taking this much further. Major donors, sure. Mid-level donors, increasingly. And the leaders are identifying transitional donors as well - i.e., transitioning into or out of mid-level and major (velocity, the term being coined for that, and Target Analytics, a division of Blackbaud, has some great success stories about identifying those constituents). 

More organizations are focusing on sustainer programs. Higher frequency not only indicates higher revenue, but also greater loyalty (higher retention). More are also responding to generational differences, recognizing for example, that while millennials may not represent immediate revenue, there is value in building loyalty now. More are considering ethnicity as well. (And, as one presenter said, "The fundamentals are the fundamentals.")

2. No one approach works for everyone.

Awareness of the differences among supporters only matters if you're willing to respond to their uniqueness. This may take a little effort and creativity, both in message and format. It should go without saying that it must also be genuinely reflective of the organization. 

One case focused on The Children's Center in Detroit, with specific emphasis on how they targeted their year end campaign to include millennials. A contest to post photos of coasters on social media. Pop-up dinners. Posters in coffee shops and other hangouts. Not high cost items. And not high revenue goals – in fact the close was not an ask for money, but an ask to Take the Tour. The campaign also included billboards, direct mail to current supporters, and a less-than-successful text-to-give component.

3. Online fundraising is growing up.

I don't just mean more gray hair in the audience (although that was the case!) 

For perspective, in 2008 the newly unveiled benchmark report covered 30 clients across six vertical segments. This year's report reflects activities of 685 clients across 18 verticals. (But more about those comparisons in the next week or so, when the full current report is released.)

What may have been geekdom then is more likely mainstream now. Organizations aren't considering whether to try this new channel, but how to maximize it as a part of a multi-channel approach. How to be more strategic. It's no longer the IT department and programmers setting the pace, but the development department and relationship managers. 

And that reflects well for the future, I think. For all of us in fundraising. Here's to our continued growth!