Another amazing Bridge Conference is over and, as always, it delighted and informed, stretched our minds, and brought new and old friends together. Most importantly, it helped all of us in the fundraising community in the D.C. region and beyond examine key issues and cutting-edge thinking impacting our industry today. This year’s theme, The Art & Science of Fundraising & Marketing, captured the essence of what we do every day—balancing tangible things such as data, social media strategies, events and annual giving schedules with the less tangible but no less important.

Things like: telling a compelling story, understanding the psychology and emotional responsiveness of donors, building an effective web site landing page, creating a true culture of philanthropy, and understanding the relationship between branding and fundraising.

At Schultz & Williams, we constantly examine issues and trends in our industry so that we can bring creative and timely solutions to our clients. S&W involvement with the Bridge Conference goes back 12 years, to when the AFP, Washington D.C. Metro Area Chapter (AFP DC) and the Direct Marketing Association of Washington (DMAW) first joined forces to launch the conference. We continue to support this wonderful educational forum because of its focus on bringing together the bests minds to think creatively about the intersection of fundraising and marketing.

As the Bridge Conference education committee co-chair representing AFP for the past two years, it has been my privilege to help shape the educational content of the conference. This job has given me a new understanding of the vital importance of finding ways to work more closely with our colleagues on the direct marketing side of the business—which is what the Bridge Conference is all about. But we have a long way to go.

We all recognize the primacy of building peer-to-peer relationships with our donors. The future of relationship building lies, in part, in understanding the increasingly important roles new media and technology play in the ways people manage and maintain the relationships that give them meaning. As traditional fundraising and direct marketing both continue to embrace technology and new media as legitimate tools to build and maintain close relationships with donors, these “two sides of the bridge” are inching closer and closer each year.

As the only fundraising conference that looks at our industry through this lens, the Bridge Conference is fast becoming one of the most sought-after fundraising educational programs in the country, and beyond. With more than 2,400 people from 47 states, China, Singapore, Austria, the United Kingdom, Canada and Switzerland, this was the largest and most successful Bridge yet.

I have been given the honor of being the AFP’s co-chair of the 2019 Bridge Conference. This new responsibility will give my co-chair from DMA, Dennis Lonergan, and myself the opportunity to carry on our predecessors’ amazing work and to find new ways to engage our industry in the big questions we all face. The two sides of the bridge are indeed getting closer. I hope to see you all at next year’s conference with creative new ideas and the enthusiasm and spirit that defines our profession!