This article is more than 5 years old.

Last week Stephen Edwards and I attended the annual ALADN Conference in Boston. ALADN stands for Academic Library Advancement and Development Network and it was the first time either of us have attended one of their meetings. The primary audience is library development and communication staff, but many deans and library leaders attend as well. And as many of the attendees are public relations professionals, I have to say it was the friendliest first-time conference I have ever attended. It was hard to quietly slip into a corner to check your phone during without six people stopping you to chat!

The opening keynote speaker was Lynne Wester, a donor and fundraising expert who advises numerous universities and got her start as a chef at Disney. Her talk was like nothing I have ever heard at conference — at different times I was annoyed, offended, amused, and by the end had learned a lot. The best way to describe Wester is that she is the Roseanne Barr of fundraising. I never drifted off during her talk! Here are some of my take aways:

  • Donor retention is key — should have multiple contacts per year
  • Donors are over-solicited — not all contacts should include a giving request
  • Don’t print donor lists in publication
  • Keep track of your “ask” to “thank” ratio; NEVER mix a thank-you with a request for funding
  • Tell the donors what you did with their gift — more likely to give again
  • Communicate with donors in their preferred mode — if they contact you by email, respond with email; if they donate online, send them an electronic receipt
  • If anyone at Disney ever tells you “Have a Magical Day,” you have done something stupid or annoying

I went to several interesting sessions and especially enjoyed learning about Purdue’s student video contest. My favorite example was this one. I also went to a session and learned how the UC-Davis Libraries was using their archives to connect with alumni. This was especially gratifying to me as I had served as a consultant for their archives in 2013. The University of Kansas gave a great talk about their use of social media. They shared this hand-out (which I can’t seem to rotate):


The closing keynote was Kenneth Feinberg, a UMAss Amherst library donor and expert legal mediator who administered recovery funds for the Boston Marathon victims, the 9/11 Fund, Sandy Hook victims and the BP Oil Spill — just to name a few. He talked about his experience working with victims and then described his experience working with the UMass Amherst Libraries to donate his papers, fund an archivist and later a media center.

Stephen and I didn’t spend all of our time locked in conference sessions. We meet with regional donors and Stephen got to Fenway Park while I met with colleagues from Harvard and MIT. Great meeting and very helpful!