Two weeks ago, many of us left the comfort and routine of our daily lives to trek to Pittsburgh and forge the future of donor relations at the ADRP 2016 International Conference.

The City of Bridges didn’t disappoint. From the Welcome Reception on Tuesday night to the last session on Friday afternoon, those three days were jam-packed with learning, professional growth, networking, and perhaps most importantly, fun.

On Wednesday morning, Amy Herman spoke to a packed house about the art of perception, “Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change.” This was a recurring theme that weaved throughout many of the sessions, to be good at what we do, to be effective communicators, collaborators, and storytellers, we need to take a step back and re-evaluate what we do, how we do it, and why.

The highlights of the conference were many, including: 

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Penny, your local Pittsburgh contact here again. It’s hard to believe, but you’ll be in Pittsburgh very soon; so I wanted to give you a few more tips and tricks for while you are here.

I don’t know if you’ve heard the exciting news, but Pittsburgh doesn’t just have Uber, we have DRIVERLESS Uber – while still in the testing phases, you might just get to ride in one of them! Read more about the driverless experience here.

Speaking of Uber - taxis, Uber and Lyft are your best bet to make your way into town from the airport. The airport is about 17 miles from the hotel, so depending on arrival time, your commute could be 20-40 minutes. The ADRP Conference website also provides transportation options.

Don’t panic if you left something important at home, or if you need something while in Pittsburgh – we have a lot of amenities within walking distance of the Wyndham, and you can find everything from our adult beverage stores, to the closest pharmacy and Burlington Coat Factory for any last minute needs here.  Need a bank, chiropractor or a good nail salon close by? Try looking here.  Not feeling well? NO worries – Pittsburgh has an abundance of hospitals and clinics, and Allegheny General Hospital and Mercy Hospital are less than a mile away.

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For ADRP’s 13th Annual International Conference, the conference committee wanted to deliver an intuitive and interactive platform that would provide attendees with easy access to conference information as well as a way to interact with other attendees. This year’s mobile app sponsor, Guidebook, has allowed us to do just that!

To access the ADRP app:

  • Go into your app store and search for “Guidebook.”
  • Once you download the Guidebook app, open it
  • In the search bar that reads “Find a guide…” below the header, search for “ADRP 2016: Forging the Future.”
  • After downloading ADRP’s conference guide, you’ll have all of ADRP’s conference information at your fingertips.
  • Simply tap on the menu in the top right corner to navigate.

The schedule module contains all of the sessions for the conference sorted by date and start time. Tap on any session to get more information or add the session to your personalized schedule.

Adding a session to your personalized schedule gives you the option to set a reminder before a session begins. When you click into a session, you’ll be able to view session and speaker details, provide session feedback, discuss the session in real-time, download the session presentation, and see the location for the session. When viewing session details, you’ll also see the option to open a blank page for taking notes on that specific session.

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The Sheryl A. Blair Scholarship committee selects ten recipients annually that embody passion for our profession.  In carefully reviewing each application, we consider the impact this conference will have not only on that individual, but also their ability to transform the work of others. Here are two stories of success from past Blair Scholarship recipients.

I was so fortunate to receive the Sheryl A. Blair Scholarship in 2013, as it enabled me to attend the International Conference for the very first time. It was, quite simply, an eye opening experience. The breadth of material that is covered, the quality of the speakers, and the ability to make connections with others working in the field cannot be matched. For me, it was not only educational, but also inspiring. I felt empowered professionally, and was motivated to become more involved with ADRP so that I can help make such a rewarding opportunity possible for others as well.

Jacqueline D’Ercole, Ursinus College

When attending ADRP conferences, I always set a goal of bringing back at least one “golden nugget” that can be implemented immediately, and often there is more than one. I keep a binder of information and tips from the conferences and I refer to it often. My favorite conference experiences involve the informal learning—at the affinity tables at meals, in the Café Connections room, during networking breaks. The greatest impact on my work has been the number of people who have become good friends, to whom I can turn when I need information, a kick in the pants, or a shoulder to cry on.

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When setting out to design and create this conference for you, our attendees, the planning committee spent a great deal of time designing an immersive three-day donor relations experience for you – all the way down to the industry partners we sought to join us in Pittsburgh. We know everyone has different needs, different size budgets, and varying number of people in your shop in order to get it all done.

What has resulted is a dynamic, diverse and comprehensive Marketplace where we can all connect to industry experts, gather samples and ideas, and even brainstorm the solutions we might need to accomplish our organizational goals.

We are so proud to present our incredible 2016 sponsors and exhibitors to you. This year, as you wander the Marketplace with breakfast or a cocktail in hand, you will find video production services, e-gratitude solutions, beautiful permanent recognition solutions, unique donor gifts, data and metrics solutions, special event partners, and on and on.

So, do yourself a favor this year and truly immerse yourself in the Marketplace and open yourself to connections with our corporate partners – you won’t want to miss what they have to offer. To see a complete list of partners, please visit

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Next year, the movie Moonstruck will turn 30 years old. Like any classic film, it has stood the test of time. Everyone remembers the scene where Cher slaps Nicolas Cage after his declaration of love and tells him to “Snap out of it!”

Every once in a while we need someone to tell us to snap out it.

If you join me in my session, I promise not to slap you, but I will help you snap out of a dangerous practice in donor relations: our regular, routine way of thinking and doing things. We’re going to learn how to snap out of formulaic donor communications that talk more about our organizations than our donors. We’re going to learn how to write sincerely and genuinely.

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Hello Fellow ADRP members,

I’m so excited to see you all in my hometown of Pittsburgh this fall. If you haven’t been to the ‘Burgh before, I thought I would highlight a few things for you to consider while you are here for the ADRP International Conference, as we have a lot to offer you during your stay.

Pittsburgh has been on the rise for quite some time now and you’re coming to a city that has been on many ‘best of' lists. So if you are a foodie, enjoy a good live sporting event, the arts, or like a nice bike ride to take in the scenery – you are in luck!

While Pittsburgh is quite vast, everything you need can be found within steps of the conference downtown. We have great restaurants, bike rentals, trails, shops, theatres, parks and more. I have the great fortune to work downtown and thought I’d give you a quick tour!

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The “hero” label tends to get used a bit too casually. But when CNN names you as one of its Top Ten Heroes of 2015, as they’ve done with Pittsburgh’s Dr. Jim Withers, people around the world take notice.

For 23 years, Dr. Withers has been making house calls to the homeless. As founder and medical director of Operation Safety Net, part of Pittsburgh Mercy Health System and Trinity Health, he and his staff and volunteers bring healthcare to the homeless where they live—under bridges and overpasses, in alleys, and along the rivers. It’s “street medicine,” a term he coined which is now universally used, including for the Street Medicine Institute, an international group he helped found. He's going to help us understand the core needs of a nonprofit through his eyes and help us embrace the good work he does with the citizens of Pittsburgh. Prepare to be inspired.

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Some of you might be thinking, “Pittsburgh? Really?!” I know I did at first. But the truth is, you will be pleasantly surprised by all the Steel City has to offer during ADRP’s 2016 International Conference!

This September, donor relations and stewardship professionals from near and far will once again convene to celebrate our work, share best practices, learn from each other and grow within our amazing profession. The 2016 planning committee listened to your needs and created a conference that will be one of a kind… and one you won’t want to miss. With three fascinating keynotes, an incredible line-up of 40 educational sessions, a plethora of networking opportunities, and some seriously good fun – Pittsburgh will be rockin’ this year!

In the coming months, we will use this blog to share exciting conference announcements, explore our host city, discover our speakers and keynotes, and help you get prepared to fully maximize the 2016 conference. So put in your budget requests, book your hotel, and stay tuned... we are getting ready to FORGE THE FUTURE!

— Sarah Sims, 2016 International Conference Chair