Reflecting on the 2018 Bridge Conference

A couple of weeks back, Monica and I made our annual pilgrimage to the Bridge to Integrated Marketing Conference. The theme for 2018 was the “Art and Science of Fundraising & Marketing.” 

One of our favorite events of the year, The Bridge Conference unites the fundraising and marketing communities. Lots of cross-pollination, innovative idea sharing and catching up with friends, clients & colleagues at the Gaylord in Washington, D.C. If you haven’t been to the Gaylord, it’s one of the largest hotels in the nation … I think it has its own zip code and maybe its own ecosystem. But I digress …

Team M&C hit some great sessions. Among the highlights:

  • At the opening session, Shankar Vedantam, host of the NPR’s Hidden Brain, delved into what really motivates giving. My takeaway: the human brain can’t handle challenges that seem insurmountable, so talking about the actual scope of a problem may be counterproductive. The feeling of being able to make a real and immediate difference is a necessity for donors.

  • Event-based fundraising has evolved way past the annual gala. In a fascinating case study, the founder of Tap Cancer Out described how he left his “day job” to create a nonprofit funded from tournaments held for Jiu-Jitsu competitors and community. Big learning: creating incentives to motivate increased peer-to-peer fundraising. Tap Cancer Out had a very sophisticated strategy with swag to inspire higher and higher levels of fundraising by event participants.

  • Too much choice in digital is counter-productive. In one session, we saw case studies with cold, hard statistically significant data proving that donors expect nonprofits to act as their “sherpa.” Too much choice—on donation forms especially—can cause them to abandon ship and take their contributions with them. Simplicity and elegance win every time.

Our overall takeway from the conference is that donors continue to be more discerning across the board. The bar is going up. Appeals focusing solely on emotion won’t cut it anymore. Donors want outcomes/proof that their money is doing good work. This is a drum we’ve been beating for quite a well … and the drum is getting louder.