When an Event Truly Educates

Posted: April 1, 2016

If you’re new to my blog, here’s an important bit of information about me – my first career was in teaching. I worked with special education students in the Bronx. That’s how I was introduced to Astor Services for Children and Families, where I’ve long served as a board member, and eventually to my present work as a consultant. But the educator in me has never retired. I’m dedicated to professional development and to ensuring that I’m on top of – better yet, ahead of – trends that impact nonprofits.

That knowledge of the now helped give me a seat on a panel discussion of “Fundraising in an Ever-Changing World: The Latest Developments” at the recent New York Nonprofit (NYN) Media FundCon event in Manhattan. I also presented at the 2015 NYN Media conference on marketing. But FundCon was a different experience for another reason. I invited two young members of the Astor development staff, both in their 20s, to attend. Seeing the conference from their perspective offered refreshing insights into what makes for successful events where attendees feel energized by what they learn.

In Tune with Attendees

I spoke on crowdfunding. This open-to-all funding strategy has gained a high profile from lots of press. Yet when I asked how many in the room had launched a crowdfunding event, few hands went up. So I offered a very how-to outline on crowdfunding. Still, I was prepared to alter what I shared to fit the audience – if they knew more, I’d leave out the basics.

And I wasn’t alone in my effort to provide a meaningful presentation. One element of a strong event is including panels that work to be in tune with participants. My Astor colleagues confirmed this perception with praise for the presentations they attended and appreciation for presenters who lingered post-session to talk or mingled during breaks and at lunch. Featured speakers and panelists are resources and as much as schedules allow should be available beyond their slotted time in the program. That’s what elevates the educational value of an event – when sessions are engaging, questions that come to mind later can still be answered, how-to advice can be sought.

Spreading Can-Do Spirit

Large conferences have their purpose, but so do small events like FundCon. There are benefits to more intimate settings that make networking easier and more comfortable, especially for novice attendees. My colleagues summed up their day with a flood of new ideas to try. They’d each heard diverse panels offering fundraising strategies presented with can-do assurance. Both left the conference eager to return to Astor and begin sorting through strategies to decide which to apply first. As one said to me, “This is what I need every couple of months to keep me excited about my work.”

In my classroom days, nothing delighted me more than when I saw my students respond with enthusiasm to learning. I felt a similar satisfaction in sharing FundCon with these two very capable development staffers. Kudos to NYN Media for organizing an event that was truly educational. As they say of teachers, one never knows where the influence will end.

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