Revitalizing Your Donor Relations Program

Revitalizing Your Donor Relations Program

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Improve the effectiveness of your stewardship efforts.

Develop a comprehensive donor relations strategy for each of your donor segments to improve the effectiveness of your recognition, engagement, and cultivation efforts. This conference will allow you to explore the four pillars of a sound donor relations strategy and help you:

  • Assess strengths and weaknesses of your current program
  • Combat challenges faced when writing to donors
  • Leverage data and reports to inform stewardship activities
  • Develop a plan that is scaled to your institution

This program is facilitated by donor relations experts Angela Joens (University of California Davis), Sarah Sims (University of Florida), and Lynne Wester (Donor Relations Guru).

This event is designed for those who need to breathe new life into their donor relations programs. Come learn from our expert instructors and walk away with actionable items that can be implemented immediately.

One of Academic Impressions' Best Rated Events

“This is the best conference I've been to in my years in Donor Relations. I appreciate the smaller attendee size and the more in-depth discussions. It's nice not to have to choose between two sessions because they occur at the same time. I feel fully equipped to tackle my stewardship challenges head-on. Couldn't recommend a better conference.”
“This conference provided a great balance of big picture strategy and actionable details I can take back for immediate impact.”
“Thank you, faculty! Wow! The knowledge and expertise shared and openly given is so amazing. Academic Impressions conferences are where growth and impact occur.”
“Being new in the field of Fundraising, Donor Relations, and Stewardship, I have really learned industry best practices to remain ahead of the trend.”

Full-Day Pre-Conference Workshop: The Foundations of Donor Relations

If you are new to donor relations, we strongly encourage you to attend this full-day workshop. You will learn the foundations for a successful donor relations program and examine the four key pillars of donor relations:

  • Stewardship and Impact Reporting
  • Acknowledgements
  • Donor Recognition
  • Events and Engagement

You will leave this pre-conference workshop equipped with best practices to leverage in your everyday work.


Who Should Attend

Advancement professionals and teams looking to build or revamp their donor relations program cannot miss this conference. Our expert instructors will provide useful advice and industry insight, whether you are new to the field or have worked in advancement for several years. Sending a team? Check the registration row below to see details on teams discount!


Day 1 | November 20, 2019

Pre-Conference Workshop registration includes breakfast, lunch, and refreshments and snacks.


Pre-Conference Workshop: The Foundations of Donor Relations

The donor relations field has grown and evolved tremendously over the last few years. If you are new to the field, this one-day pre-conference workshop will provide you with the foundations of a sound donor relations program. Highlighting the four key pillars of donor relations, there will be sessions covering:

  • Stewardship and Impact Reporting
  • Acknowledgements
  • Donor Recognition
  • Events and Engagement

You will leave this pre-conference workshop equipped with best practices to leverage in your everyday work and the foundational knowledge to get the most out of the main conference.


Day 2 | November 21, 2019

Conference registration includes breakfast and lunch on both days, as well as refreshments and snacks throughout the program.


Registration, Opening Comments, and Introductions



The Four Pillars of Donor Relations

Recapping the pre-conference workshop, this opening lecture will outline the critical components of a sound donor relations program: stewardship and impact reporting, acknowledgements, donor recognition, and events and engagement.



Assessing Your Donor Relations Operations

This working session will allow you to explore and document the strengths and weaknesses of your existing stewardship strategy. Considering your relationships with your entire advancement shop and the four pillars of a sound donor relations program, you will work through an audit of your current donor relations practices to assess what you are doing well and identify where you can improve and implement change.

Resources include:

  • Donor Relations Program Audit
  • Endowed Funds Audit Glossary



Writing for Donor Relations

In a combination of lecture and working time, this hour will equip you with examples of successful strategies to combat the challenges that donor relations professionals face when writing to donors, such as:

  • Writing in someone else’s voice (e.g., president, vice president, etc.)
  • Multiple acknowledgment letters to the same donor from different people
  • Working with institutions’ communications groups
  • Varying your writing style based on communication method and outlet



Gift Agreement and Fund Stewardship Best Practices

This hour will focus on the basic, but often overlooked, tenants of stewardship – crafting solid gift agreements, ensuring donor intent is honored, and ensuring maximum fund utilization. Our faculty will explore how we tackle this complex issue internally within your organization through identifying key partners and data needs as well as the role Donor Relations professionals play in this arena. This key topic must be addressed before future asks, compelling reporting, and targeted engagement can take place.



Behavior-Based Donor Relations

Donor retention should be one of your core metrics as a donor relations professional. But, do you understand how to segment and scale your donor relations strategy for your annual donors? You will learn why this group of donors is vitally important and how to partner with your annual giving counterparts to ensure they are appropriately recognized. Specifically, strategies will cover appropriate recognition and engagement through events and targeted communications.



Networking Reception
This informal reception is your chance to decompress, have some refreshments on us, and expand your network of connections. Our programs are intentionally designed for smaller groups, so this is a great time to catch-up with attendees and speakers whom you may not have connected with yet.


Day 3 | November 22, 2019


Roundtable Discussions



Fund Reporting

Reporting on scholarships and other endowed funds is an essential function to do well. And, developing creative reports that deliver information to donors beyond that traditional means is where we want to head. This session will walk you through the latest and greatest reporting tactics that involve campus partners and better engage donors.



Donor Relations for Top Donors

This session will focus exclusively on donor relations strategy for your institution’s top donors. These donors represent less than 10% of your supporters but contribute to more than 90% of your gifts. Our expert facilitators will share a framework for:

  • Engaging top donors through events
  • Communicating with these top donors
  • Developing an ongoing engagement strategy
  • Creating customized stewardship plans



Leveraging Technology for the Four Pillars

Now that you know how to develop your efforts across your donor populations, we will guide you through using the technology and systems at your disposal to better systemize and complete your stewardship and donor relations plans.



Keys to Success in Revitalizing Your Effort

You are now armed with an audit of your current shop and many good ideas to implement, but now what? Whether it is building better relationships across campus (e.g., marketing, financial aid, faculty, etc.), developing buy-in, or managing up within your organization, this session will help you put together everything you have learned and develop an implementation plan for when you head back office – armed and ready for exciting growth and change!



Final Faculty Q&A, Conference Wrap-Up, and Evaluation


Angie Joens

Angie Joens

Assistant Vice Chancellor of Development Outreach, University of California Davis

Angela has extensive management, development, and stewardship experience. In her current role, she supervises annual giving, donor relations, research and prospect management, proposal services, marketing and communications, and development recruitment.

Read Angie's full bio here.

Sarah Sims

Sarah Sims

Executive Director of Donor Relations, University of Florida

Sarah has been responsible for building new and innovative donor relations programs from the ground up at three different higher education institutions and now heads the donor relations team at the University of Florida as they embark on the University’s first $3B capital campaign.

Read Sarah's full bio here.


Lynne Wester

Donor Relations Guru

Using her hands-on approach, Lynne works with many organizations to help them keep their focus donor driven, technology savvy, strategic, and always with a splash of good humor. She received her undergraduate degrees from the University of South Carolina and is a loyal gamecock alumna, donor, and fan. She holds a master's in strategic fundraising and philanthropy with an emphasis in higher education.

Read Lynne's full bio here.

Can't Attend? Buy the Conference Binder

Purchase the conference binder, which includes all presentation slides, worksheets, action plans, and additional resources.

Note: Conference attendees do not need to purchase materials separately.

Questions About the Event?

Gwen Doyle Herbert
Senior Program Manager, Academic Impressions

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