ADRP President's Message

October 2019

Michal Shaw
AVP of Donor Relations
Oklahoma State University Foundation

Greetings ADRP Community:

Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your 2019 – 2020 ADRP President. If you were able to join our immediate Past President, Jen McGrath, and me for the Annual ADRP Membership Meeting Webinar on Friday, September 20, you heard Jen share highlights from the past year and talk about many of the opportunities and new ideas your Board of Directors will pursue in the year ahead. The initiatives Jen emphasized point us toward our “Big Hairy Audacious Goal” (BHAG) of being universally recognized as the authority on donor engagement for the philanthropy profession, and it is my privilege to lead ADRP as we continue that pursuit.

I became a member of ADRP in 2009 and owe much of my professional growth to the Association and to YOU, ADRP’s members. I look forward to using my 15+ years of fundraising experience to lead us through the development of a comprehensive strategic plan that will help us identify common goals, set priorities and agree on intended outcomes and results. If you were unable to join us for the Annual Meeting (and are an ADRP member), you may view the recording online.

Before I turn my focus to the 2019–2020 year, I want to celebrate the incredible week we spent in Miami with more than 600 donor relations practitioners. WOW. What an incredible team of volunteers, sponsors, keynotes, and professionals! THANK YOU to everyone who made our week in Miami possible. A special thanks to the 37 international attendees who joined us from Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, and the United Kingdom!

Something I always encourage my squad to do when returning from conferences and attempting to digest all they have learned is to reflect on and summarize their key takeaways. While my takeaways were too numerous to include in one column, I would like to share two themes that resonated with me.

  1. Embrace AI – The first day of conference, ADRP launched its first-ever [email protected], a conference-within-a-conference designed by and for executive level donor relations leaders. This one-of-a-kind opportunity brought together qualified senior donor relations professionals and thought leaders from across all sectors, and across the world. [email protected] attendees had the opportunity to hear from Nathan Chappell, President of Futurus Group, who spoke about the impact of Artificial Intelligence on our world and our profession. 

    We discussed what we, as donor relations professionals, know to be true: people engage because of how they feel. And people give because they are engaged or inspired – or because they want to be. Wealth is only one (very small) giving indicator. The morning was chock-full of ideas on the use of AI and its relationship with the donor experience. It was a fascinating conversation about engagement metrics – one that continued with our members across all experience levels during the [email protected] Insights session on Friday. To read more about [email protected], be sure to check out Mark Lanum’s insights below.

    My favorite quote (I’m a quotation junkie) shared during [email protected] was from General Eric Shinseki, former United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs, who said, “If you don’t like change, you are going to like irrelevance even less.” In other words, if you resist or wait to incorporate AI into your fundraising and donor relations shop, you may have a hard time catching up with those that do.

  2. Vulnerability – In her book, “Daring Greatly,” Brené Brown describes vulnerability as “uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure.” It's the insecurity we experience when we step out of our comfort zone. I had the privilege of attending two sessions with speakers that modeled vulnerability and connected deeply with their audiences, which ignited dozens of small group conversations during and after their sessions.

    Among peers, we engaged in discussions about personal limitations, career paths, and teachable moments. Even Friday’s keynote, Robert Osborne Jr., Principal of The Osborne Group, Inc., focused his talk on the idea of being radically transparent with our donors. Generally, we tend to under-report to our donors. Robert explained how this can generate a lack of trust and contribute to an abysmal donor retention rate. Robert went on to share that our donors understand that success isn’t a straight line, and they connect with vulnerability.

This is just a small sampling of what the 2019 conference offered to attendees. We missed those of you unable to join us and hope you will mark your calendars for next year’s 2020 conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico, September 23–25!

I am both humbled and honored to serve as your president for the year ahead and encourage you to stay in touch on LinkedIn and Twitter (@michalmichelle). I look forward to hearing your ideas, insights, and comments (and favorite quotes).

With deep gratitude,

Michal Shaw