Four Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ coworkers, Arleen Peterson, Geoff Williams, Jessye Gilley, and Paul Mach, attended the Association of Fundraising Professions conference (AFPICON 2023), held in New Orleans in April. It was an opportunity for fundraising professionals to learn about the latest trends and best practices in the industry. All agreed that the experience was an eye-opener. 

The team members learned new techniques for raising funds and how to connect with potential donors in more meaningful ways through a diverse range of sessions and workshops, covering topics such as fundraising, donor cultivation, staff complacency, better leadership, annual campaigns, working with fundraising boards, digital fundraising, and moves management. Arleen Peterson, Executive Service Director, Relational Services who works closely with the Development team, stated, “I’ve been energized at how we can fundraise for our ministries in different ways. Future donors are changing in the U.S., and we must be donor centric in how we build relationships.” 

One session focused on donor cultivation and the importance of building relationships to create a sense of loyalty and long-term commitment. They also learned about the benefits of personalized communication and how to make donors feel valued and appreciated. Jessy Gilley,  Donor Relations officer said, “Development work is truly pivoting to a more ‘kind ask’ approach which consists of focusing on stewardship and cultivation as the driving factors that evolve into relationships that entice the donor to want to divert their giving dollars to your organization. This is in direct relation Saint Katharina and her charism putting us in an optimal position to grow our donor base and funding pool moving forward.” 

The session on staff complacency emphasized the importance of investing in staff development and creating a positive work environment. “It really opened my eyes to all the diverse opportunities available to us as an organization where we can engage with our supporters and constituency in a truly sustainable manner,” Geoff Williams, Executive Service Director, Ecological Services noted. Some takeaways for Geoff included the fact that there are over 600,000 millennial millionaires in the U.S. and engaging young people in our mission will build a sustainable future. 

The annual campaigns session offered new ideas for creating compelling fundraising campaigns that resonate with donors, especially the importance of storytelling, using data to inform decisions and to show the value of teamwork. The fundraising board session provided tips for engaging board members in fundraising efforts, emphasizing the importance of having a diverse board, setting clear expectations, and building relationships with board members. 

The digital fundraising session offered practical advice on how to leverage social media, email marketing, and other digital channels to reach new donors and engage with existing ones. They also learned about the importance of measuring results and optimizing campaigns for maximum impact. Finally, the moves management session focused on how to identify and cultivate major gift donors. They learned about the importance of understanding donors’ motivations and interests, creating personalized cultivation plans, and using data to track progress. 

“We were offered so many workshops, in some you walked out with more than you could ever want on the topic, like drinking water from a firehose. Though even if they weren’t the best of presenters, I always found a gem that I could use back here at Lindenwood to help us move forward into the future. It was so worth my time to learn this valuable gift of fund raising,” Lindenwood Director Paul Mach said. 

Overall, the AFPICON 2023 conference will help the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ minstries improve their fundraising efforts and build stronger relationships with donors. The experience was truly transformative, and they look forward to implementing what they learned in the coming months and years.