In Their Words: Valuable Takeaways from Fundraising Day WI Scholarship Winners

This year, three ambitious AFP members won scholarships to attend Fundraising Day Wisconsin at Potawatomi Hotel & Casino on August 22. Presented by the Greater Madison and Southeastern Wisconsin AFP Chapters, this annual educational program brought together over 400 fundraising colleagues from around the state to hone their fundraising skills, network and learn from national and international fundraising superstars.

After the conference, the scholarship winners shared with us some of their favorite moments, takeaways or experiences.

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Description automatically generatedMikel Domnitz, Development Director, Safe Harbor Child Advocacy Center

2019 marked my second year at Fundraising Day WI. My third session of the day provided an unexpected whirlwind of emotions. Storytouring, presented by Tammy Zonker, stood out as my favorite session of the day. Not originally scheduled to attend this session, I stood in the back of the room after a strong recommendation from my Executive Director that I attend Tammy’s presentation.


Struck by Tammy’s presence, experience and passion, I quickly found myself drawn into her narrative and obvious love for teaching fundraisers how to find and convey their own passion for the cause they work to advance every day. I loved how she used her personal experiences in both work and her private life to illustrate how we can all discover our connection to our work and figure out how to use that passion to attract and cultivate donors.


Here are a few take-aways from her Storytouring session that resonated with me:

  • The urgent need is always the people we serve and the gap in services in the community.
  • Donors cannot understand the hope they can provide/facilitate unless that can see/understand how dark it can be for the people your organization serves.
  • No one can make a fresh start, but you can start now to create a new ending.
  • In equating a first donor meeting with dating: Don’t tell everything on the first date or you won’t get the 2nd date.


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Description automatically generatedMax Nguyen, Communications Manager, Society of St. Vincent de Paul

The first session I attended was by Jeff Schreifels from Veritus Group on Creating and Sustaining the Best Major Gift Program Ever:

  • Are they getting stingy? - Donor Value Attrition: This is a case where donors give less than they did the year before. This is crucial in looking at retained donors and the overall success of your program. Most development teams look at the total money brought in and do not look more specifically at what retained major donors contributed compared to the year before. Even though you may have brought in more money overall, it is not uncommon to see retained donors give less than the year before. New donors help boost the overall bottom line and cover up that some retained donors did not give as much as the year before. 
  • They are going to get a boat load of money - Thanking donors: Not tough, just have to do it! Jeff told a story about a big college football donor in Texas. He built a $1.5 million Wide Receiver coaches room at an unnamed school and all he heard back was a simple thank you note. When he scheduled his own tour to see the facility, a freshman showed him around and he didn't meet anyone else. He didn't give any more gifts to the school. He then gave over $2 million to a veterans center, also in Texas. They sent him five TY notes (CEO, board member, and 3 veterans) and invited him and all of his family to the opening of the facility so he could be honored for his gift. To this day, the CEO calls him monthly to update him on the organization. He has given multiple gifts and he said he will leave so much money in his will, they won't know what to do with it all. 
  • Plan, plan, plan! - Goals and strategic plans for each donor: Have a revenue goal for each donor. Then schedule out a 12-month plan that includes touch points like TYs, birthday cards, meet ups, phone calls, etc. It provides a plan for you to stay on track and also creates metrics that allow your CEO to measure your progress.

    Not just a numbers game: It's all about connecting and building relationships. Cold calls and face-to-face don't always mean it was a valuable connection. 
  • YMAD: You. Make. A. Difference. This is what they call their touch points! Well named and includes materials like TY cards, special mailings with an ASK, news articles on philanthropic subjects they are passionate about, etc. Find out their preferred way of communication!
  • My favorite thing, but it came from a different session by Julia Campbell! Stories are what move our nonprofits forward and allow us to communicate the good we do. A great reminder, especially for GOT fans too.












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Description automatically generatedElizabeth Spry, Membership & Development Associate, Olbrich Botanical Society

The final session I attended at Fundraising Day WI was The Art of Storytelling in a Digital Age with Julia Campbell, and it was a great way to end the day. The guidance Julia offered for storytelling was helpful and digestible — even for someone who has little direct experience with storytelling and social media/marketing. I left the session feeling motivated to put the tools I learned to use in my work with membership at my organization.