Education Opportunities for Non-Profit Executives

“I don’t have time to sit in a conference for three days.”

This is a common refrain from Executive Directors, CEOs, Board Chairs, Chief Development Officers and other non-profit leaders when asked why they don’t take advantage of educational opportunities in the industry. These leaders face tremendous pressures as they strive to fulfill critical missions with dwindling resources, and are cautious with their time.

Yet it is these individuals who often benefit the most from hearing about cutting-edge fundraising ideas and effective non-profit structure, and from having the opportunity to interact with other executives facing the same challenges. Conferences and trade shows can give these non-profit leaders ideas to make positive changes in their organizations.

When the Direct Marketing Association of Washington, DC, and the Association of Fundraising Professionals DC Area Chapter came together to plan the 2014 Bridge to Integrated Marketing and Fundraising Conference, they set out to build an education program designed to meet the needs of these non-profit leaders.

But what is meaningful to these executives?

To answer that question, two award-winning fundraisers and Certified Fundraising Executives (CFRE), Barbara L. Ciconte and Deborah Peeples, were selected to mold seven sessions at the Bridge conference focused on boards, volunteers, and non-profit management.

Ms. Ciconte and Ms. Peeples have put together dynamic sessions for the conference July 10 and 11th that will be well worth the time ofnon-profit executives.

We recently spoke with Barbara and Deborah to learn how they did it.

When you started to think through your sessions, who did you want to see in the audience?

Barbara Ciconte: We wanted to attract an audience that doesn’t usually attend the Bridge conference – CEOs, Board Chairs, Chief Development Officers and even Chief Financial Officers. These non-profit leaders typically don’t attend a conference like Bridge devoted to integrated marketing, fund raising and development.

What do you think that audience has to gain from attending?

Deborah Peeples: I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this, and I think there is a knowledge gap happening at non-profit organizations. As part of obtaining CFRE status, fundraisers need a great deal of continuing education and to really learn about best practices, emerging techniques and winning approaches.

CEOs and CFOs, not to mention Board Chairs, do not have that same information and often these three key components of non-profit leadership are not operating with the same knowledge base. This is one reason for the well documented frustrations between boards, executives and development professionals. We designed this track at the Bridge Conference to fill this knowledge gap.

So what kinds of non-profits are bridging the knowledge gap? Are you featuring any of them in the sessions?

Barbara Ciconte: There are a lot of non-profits who have gone through a rigorous process of examining their management approaches and tactics to better fulfill their missions. Those are the kinds of groups that executives want to and need to hear from. For example, we put together a session titled “Leading our Organizations to Greater Success,” which will be moderated by Marshall Ginn from Capital Development Strategies. This is going to feature two non-profit organizations — Good Shepard Housing and Family Services and The Reading Connection — who went through a rigorous process of change to better fulfill their missions. In

Are there particular speakers you are looking forward to hearing?

Deborah Peeples: We have selected some top-notch consultants with rich backgrounds who can synthesize what they’ve learned from the breadth of non-profit organizations they have served. Good consultants have the ability to take time and really think through what they’ve seen as they aren’t living it day in and day out with one organization.

For example, Scott Schultz has a tremendous reputation and I’m looking forward to hearing him speak about the role of fundraising professionals in non-profit management. He will be bringing several other non-profit leaders. I think senior executives who attend the Bridge Conference will benefit greatly from hearing sought after consultants like Scott paired with organizational leaders

Barbara Ciconte: And Kelly Andreae who was formerly the Director of Development at Carpenter’s Shelter. Her development experience at this well-regarded non-profit organization now informs her as Executive Director of Back on My Feet D.C. Experienced leaders like Kelly have a lot to teach other Executive Directors.

I have to say, we were really impressed at the quality of the submissions. There were a lot of leaders from notable non-profits who stepped forward.

You are both very experienced fundraising professionals and have held executive leadership positions with non-profit organizations. What has drawn you to conferences like this before?

Deborah Peeples: I can honestly say that I’ve personally found the Bridge Conference has been extremely valuable in my professional development. Of all the dozens of conferences, I have attended, the Bridge Conference is among the finest in value, relevance and quality with a consistently high level of expertise. I keep coming back because I keep learning. I work with a lot of Executive Directors and CEOs and I know they can benefit.

Barbara Ciconte: I enjoy attending and having the opportunity to present. Last year I taught Fundraising 101 with a colleague and I learned a lot about what our profession needs in terms of fund raising fundamentals knowledge to help them achieve success.

For more information about the sessions in “Boards, Volunteers, and Non-profit Management” please visit