Development Conference hosts 400 fundraisers and nonprofit leaders

Record-breaking attendance, inspiring speakers and intense learning

Everence welcomed a record-breaking 400 attendees at its bi-annual Development Conference Oct. 8 -10 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

This year, Everence was pleased to partner with Mennonite Schools Council which also met at the gathering, bringing many staff leaders and board members from educational institutions.

“We’ve been holding this conference for 20 years to support our significant partnerships with nonprofits and faith communities that want to inspire generosity, fund their missions and learn the best tools to help donors,” said Bill Hartman, Vice President, Organization and Congregation Services, who led the conference planning team.

The gathering began with a preconference session on self-care for fundraisers led by Dave Warren, Everence Vice President National Markets, and Les Horning, Donor Relations Specialist, Mennonite Central Committee. Sharing what keeps them up at night, attendees named their top stressors, including asking donors for a gift, finding a mentor and not be able to control outcomes of their efforts.

The conference featured three dynamic plenary speakers:

  • Joseph Manickam, Ph.D., president of Hesston College.  In his talk, Embracing vision: A walk on thin ice, Dr. Manickan challenged attendees to consider the basic question of “What does it mean for you to work for a Christian agency?” He also challenged them to embrace risk with “I pray that you are placed in places where the ice is thin and that you have the confidence to walk out there where God is calling you.”
  • Penelope Burk, president of Cygnus Applied Research. Burk brought a wealth of data to attendees about fund-raising patterns, in her presentation, Being Donor-Centered in Changing Times. “Two-thirds of donors don’t give as much as they can when they give for the first time, and only give once to an organization.” She encouraged attendees to consider research discoveries about fundraising and how to apply those insights to continue long-term relations with donors. 
  • Ted Swartz, founder and leader of Ted & Co. Fundraising often involves sharing a story of someone whose life was changed thanks to the good work of a nonprofit or church. In his talk, Telling a good story well, Swartz used his trademark humor to reveal a behind-the-scenes view of how he approaches storytelling, explaining, “laughter means you’re in a safe place.” For attendees, who represented primarily faith-based organizations, he spoke about a story’s “AHA moments are when we see the divine.” 

More than 20 diverse workshops featured expertise from seasoned fundraising executives, senior nonprofit and church leaders on nurturing generosity to invigorate their organizations’ missions.

Another high point of the conference was Story Slam, when four people shared meaningful stories from their organizations, including:

  • Kevin King, Executive Director, Mennonite Disaster Service
  • Gabriel Wang-Herrera, Development Officer, Timoteo Sports
  • Eric Landrum, Pastor, Lititz Church of the Brethren
  • Jess King, Chief of Staff, Lancaster City Mayor, and past Executive Director, ASSETS Lancaster

"We already look forward to offering this conference again in 2021,” said Hartman. “Everence wants to do everything it can to help equip and inspire fundraisers and leaders who are passionate about long-term sustainability for their mission-driven organizations.”

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