Building a Stronger Bridge: Conference Volunteer, Tiffany Neill Looks Ahead

If you came away from this year’s Bridge Conference refreshed, refocused and reenergized by the new approaches and technologies that will help you and your clients achieve your missions, you’re not alone. And while this year’s show is behind us, the Bridge Conference is never really over. The inertia and the momentum of the Bridge gains speed every year and the planning for Bridge 2014 is already in full swing. Committee chairs have been named, the call for speakers and breakout sessions is already out and volunteers by the hundreds are signing up for another tour of duty at Bridge 2014.

If you’re an industry veteran like me, you know that conferences are only as good as the people who put them together by sharing their time, talents and passion. Case in point: Tiffany Neill, CFRE, a partner at Lautman Maska Neill and Company, who sat down with the Right Hook to talk takeaways, turn out and taking on another new volunteer role at the Bridge.

RH: The Bridge Conference owes a lot of its sell-out success to the Marketing Committee this year. As co-chair of the committee this year can you tell us what went into creating such a successful buzz?
TN: It was just a good team effort. We were really trying to get new audiences and new folks who may not have experienced the Bridge before. I was in one session where the speaker went around the room and had everyone say where they were from and there were people from nonprofit organizations all across the country. That was very gratifying.

RH: You were a volunteer and a speaker, but you were also an attendee. What did you get out of going to the Bridge this year?
TN: The sheer volume of people was tremendous. Because the conference was sold out, we had a great dynamic audience of people who came this year. I’ve always liked the Bridge Conference because you get to catch up with people you’ve known a long time – it’s good to see old friends. I also met some new folks who are doing interesting things in different parts of the nonprofit world. I was able to talk with people from universities and learn how they’re using some of the new technologies and new approaches to fundraising. I thought that was great.

RH: What are your takeaways from the Bridge? How do you take what you learn back to the office and put it to work?
TN: We try to be very strategic. We send a lot of our staff to the Bridge to make sure that the education content gets to everybody. This year we held an all-staff breakfast after the Bridge. Everyone who attended sessions provided the highlights to the staff. I also come back with some new vendor partners to try.

RH: What sets the Bridge apart from the other conferences and tradeshows you attend throughout the year?
TN: The other conferences focus so laser sharp on marketing or on fundraising or on technologies. As a result, you sometimes miss how these things interact to make nonprofits much more effective in accomplishing their missions. The Bridge Conference has a really great way of saying, “Hey! There isn’t one channel, there isn’t one technology, there isn’t one approach. This is how you’re putting your organization out there to the public and everything needs to be working together.”

RH: How do you feel about the educational aspect of the Bridge?
TN: The education at the conference is great. It’s evident by the fact that a lot of the attendees have been doing this a long time. I’ve been in this business for 20 years now and you never know everything. You really need to find out things like who’s having success with certain technologies, what are people finding works in both short term and the long term? At the Bridge you find a very honest exchange of information, emerging techniques and emerging approaches. We need to know where people are finding success and growth with emerging approaches. In the end it means you’re better at your job and at the end of the day we all want to be better at our jobs.

RH: As we look ahead to Bridge 2014, what would you like to see next year? Will you be volunteering again?
TN: Next year I’m co-chair of the Education Committee. I want to see a lot of people submitting a lot of sessions. The call for sessions for 2014 is already out and they are due October 4th. People need to submit! Overall, I’d like to see more case studies and more nonprofits talking about how they have been using different techniques.

Thank you, Tiffany!

Tiffany is a great example of how direct marketers and fundraisers can use the Bridge Conference – and its endless opportunities to connect, learn and grow – to the fullest. If you’ve never attended a Bridge Conference, I encourage you to reserve your seat for Bridge 2014 early and plug into the educational tracks. If you’ve never spoken or volunteered, I encourage you to take your Bridge experience to the next level and get connected in ways you never imagined possible. Let the momentum of the Bridge and the spirit of industry engagement elevate your game, supercharge your career and inspire the work you do. I hope Tiffany’s experience is the “right hook” to get you to Bridge next year.

The Bridge has done all that and more for me and watching it enrich the work and careers of my colleagues had been one of my greatest professional joys. My heartfelt thanks to everyone who has made the Bridge Conference the go-to sell-out show of the summer and to everyone working now to make next year even better!