Lessons from My Three Favorite Sessions at the Bridge Conference

Last week, I (and bazillion of my nonprofit industry peers) made the trek down to the Disneyland-of-conference-venues, Washington’s National Harbor. Seriously, the Gaylord Conference Center is a behemoth. The mecca of industry events.

The Bridge Conference, for anyone new to the scene, is a 2-day affair hosted by The Direct Marketing Association of Washington (DMAW) and Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP). It brings together, you guessed it, direct response marketers from around the country. And while the Bridge has a long history of attendance from the Direct Mail world, this year we had a tremendous showing from BOTH sides of the aisle! In other words, dare I say it, the digital divide appears to be becoming a thing of the past.

We’re starting to break down those silos, y’all.

The following 3 sessions did an outstanding job of showcasing holistic strategies and integrated case studies. These sessions showed us how to merge online and offline worlds so that we can activate new supporters in meaningful ways and steward new donors in the channel(s) of their choice.

1. Acquire. Act. Repeat. Create Messaging that Drives Conversions.

Ever wondered how to cultivate your online advocates into online donors? Sara Thomas, of World Wildlife Fund, Evan Parker of FreeFlow Digital and Melissa Wyers of EveryAction know the secret sauce. Kicking off with the brain science behind altruism and charity, this crew took us through tactical examples of online engagement and shared their universal overarching strategy.

The key takeaway? A truly integrated advocacy and fundraising program is key to success when building high-value relationships with new supporters. (Check out the graphic below for an illustration of what that means in practice).

It starts with a scalable strategy to generate interest with your new supporters. Loop them into what your organization is doing to make an impact in the world - get them to watch a video, read and share your Facebook posts, etc.

Then, move them up the ladder of engagement with an advocacy call to action. Ask them to write their Congressman, make a call to their Senator’s office, or draft a letter to the editor. After they’ve taken the time and effort to DO that, let them know the outcome. How did their letter make an impact? Has there been a resolution, or does more work need to be done? It’s okay if the “report back” isn’t an overwhelming cry of victory - be honest and let them know if there’s more they can do to help!

Now, you have interested, motivated activists who are eagerly waiting to hear about more they can do to help your mission. These supporters are primed to be asked for a donation. And no, they may not donate UNLESS you ask them to. So, what are you waiting for?!

2. Digital Attribution: How to Measure Success in the Digital Channel

Despite its misleading title, this session actually presented an overview of how to track performance of both your online and offline programs including DRTV, Direct Mail, Radio, and your website.

Elliott Wilkerson of Russ Reid and Jana Waterworth of Women for Women International presented in a way that screamed, “EEK! I HAVE TO GET MY GOOGLE ANALYTICS UP TO PAR.” Which according to the response of the audience, seemed to be a message we needed to hear.

Key takeaway here: Google Analytics eCommerce tracking FTW! With a Google Analytics account, a bit of Javascript and a few customization tweaks, you can begin to track your website visitors’ interactions and assign corresponding values. To do so, you have a few Google Analytics options:

  • Last interaction: (This is the Google Analytics default). In this model, the user’s last campaign interaction is tracked as the source of the credit.
  • First interaction: 100% credit goes to the interaction that brought-in the user’s first visit
  • Position based: A blend of first/last.
  • Linear: All touch-points are given equal credit along the way of a user’s interaction pathway.

There’s so much data at our fingertips these days that we must start leveraging to strengthen our online and offline programs.

3. Closing Keynote: Adam Braun, Founder & CEO of Pencils of Promise

Let me put it this way, I went home and bought a copy of his book for each of my team members (and myself).

One of my favorite takeaways: The three  M’s of career motivation. After sharing a very personal story of the many contributing factors that put him on his current path of working in a “for-purpose” organization, (his grandmother’s appreciation for education, his brief stint(s) in the world of high-finance, and ultimately, his travels around the globe to some of the most impoverished places), Adam left us with with his philosophy of what tends to drive people in their career paths. These three components can be summed up as:

  • Mastery
  • Money
  • Meaning

Adam’s recommendation - spend your first 10 years of career development focused on Mastery. Get to be an expert in your field.  The Money will follow. Find Meaning in the work that you do - how you give back to the world and the type of legacy you’ll leave behind.

This guy is inspiring. Look him up.

Kudos to The Bridge Conference!

Lastly, let’s just say that The Bridge was walking-the-walk AND talking-the-talk with their mobile app. Merging an in-person event with mobile technology, social networking, digital note taking, and feedback capture. Bravo.

Amanda Luther is the Lead Client Manager in the Change.org DC office. She is currently reading Adam Braun’s book, The Promise of a Pencil: How an Ordinary Person Can Create Extraordinary Change.