The rush of year-end fundraising is months away. So what are our colleagues and partners in the nonprofit space up to in late Summer? They’re spending a few days at the annual Bridge to Integrated Marketing & Fundraising Conference with 2,200 of their closest friends in our industry.

The conference, held at the all-inclusive National Harbor, had everything: a beautiful conference center, hotels, restaurants, and oppressive mid-summer humidity. This was one of the first conferences I had attended, so I was very excited to meet subject matter experts and people who care about making a difference in the world. Plus, I knew I’d have company — several of my colleagues were also heading to the conference to speak on panels about building digital-first CRM programs and breaking down silos within fundraising organizations.

So were my Bridge dreams fulfilled? I’d say so! Here were three of my favorite lessons and observations from my time in fundraising wonderland, in no particular order:

1. Nonprofits can learn from the brand world.

At BSD, we believe that maintaining a purposeful mix of nonprofit and brand clients better equips us to help our clients connect with both customers and supporters. It’s no surprise, then, that one of my favorite panels was a session about the tactics that nonprofits can lovingly borrow from the brand world to step up their marketing and fundraising game. The presenters discussed how nonprofits could start to play with big retail moments like Amazon’s Prime Day and the advantages of leveraging newer channels like Facebook Messenger the way brands like CNN do to serve lifestyle content to targeted audiences. One nonprofit even referred to Facebook Messenger as their “favorite channel” for fundraising.

2. Nonprofits are “doing the Hustle.”

At Bridge, I found myself in tons of conversations about Hustle, the peer-to-peer text messaging platform for political campaigns. Many nonprofits, including some of BSD’s clients, are embracing Hustle’s capacity for engagement, mobilizing supporters on the ground, and reaching younger audiences. While we’re confident that community mobilization and fundraising through email will always be crucial to a successful long-term strategy, it was fascinating and energizing to see so many nonprofits embracing this new technology to augment their email and direct mail efforts.

3. Inspiration can come from unlikely places.

However, it was great to break up the day with lighter content, too. A fun panel on what nonprofits can learn from the world of stand-up comedy got the room standing, laughing, and chatting with everyone around us. Even if none of us envisions a life of open mic nights and hecklers in our future, it was a great reminder that fundraising (and any type of communication) relies on creative thinking and working the crowd.

These were just a few of the panels and breakout sessions at Bridge, led by some of the brightest, most passionate minds in our industry. I couldn’t help but notice nonprofit leaders jotting down notes about the insights they’ll take back to their programs. It may be hot and muggy right now, but winter is coming — it’s time to think about how to implement best practices into your fundraising program.

Nina Klopfer is a Business Development Associate in our New York office. 

No need to wait until next year’s conference to chat with us about fundraising — get in touch with us today