The 2015 ACDN Annual Conference at the MotorCity Casino Hotel in Detroit, MI offered an action-packed weekend of learning, connecting, and recharging for ACDN member organizations. Representatives from fifteen non-profits from across the country joined together in late October and were hosted by ACDN Member, Jackets for Jobs, Inc. The ACDN National Conference is one of the most important events of the year for our member organizations. It provides our members with the opportunity to network and learn from each other, as well as gain new insights, techniques and tools from local and national nonprofit experts. The knowledge gained and connections made are key to the viability, continued growth, and success of these independent, community-based organizations.
“[The] information shared, collaborative sessions, receptions, and networking opportunities were so enlightening”. - 2015 ACDN Annual Conference attendee
Day one highlighted professionals from both Detroit, as well as a few of our own ACDN members. Didi Capers, Senior Marketing Manager of The Detroit Lions & Ford Field, offered an interactive presentation on building brand equity and how to demonstrate brand effectiveness to potential partners so that your brand wins. One ACDN Member commented, “[I received] very practical skills and tools, as well as resources, to assist our organization update our brand. The insights Didi shared were very helpful and easy to understand.”
Keynote speaker, Tonya Allen, President & CEO of the Skillman Foundation in her “Results & Relationships” presentation emphasized how intentional, metric-based work and thoughtful, strategic alliances can create synergistic partnerships that can help women and men move out of poverty and on to a career pathway. It was helpful for our conference attendees to see both sides of the funding process so that they can best frame their fundraising appeals. The Skillman Foundation invests $17 million a year, backed by nearly half-billion-dollar endowment, in six investment areas: Education, Safety, Social Innovation, Neighborhoods, Community Leadership, and Youth Development.
Bridget Hurd, Director of Community Responsibility at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan – Michigan’s largest health insurer and state’s largest healthcare network - shed light on understanding corporate philanthropy and effectively communicating your organization’s mission and impact. Hurd shared the do’s and dont's for establishing and maintaining relationships with companies and the different factors in corporate philanthropy decision-making. Members cited that Hurd provided “great insight into corporate thinking” and “great ideas about how to engage corporate giving.”
Jackets for Jobs CEO and founder, as well as 2015 Conference co-chair, Alison Vaughn shared a volunteer management workshop that focused on the top five things volunteers love and hate. She also shared tips on recruiting volunteers and how to write a volunteer manual.
Saturday evening’s highlight was a tour of the host member, the Jackets for Jobs, Inc. followed by a reception at the Charles T. Fisher Mansion in Detroit’s historic Boston-Edison neighborhood. Our conference attendees were treated to a true taste of Detroit with samples of Better Made Potato Chips and Faygo soda at Jackets for Jobs, and hometown hospitality of Mr. Andrew McLemore at the Fisher Mansion. The mansion was built in the Tudor revival style and designed by architect George Mason. Charles T. Fisher was the president of Fisher Body Corporation.
Day two highlighted our member’s expertise in resale and program expansion. The Selling for a Cause session showcased best practices for resale inventory, operations, merchandising, marketing and social media, as well as resale databases and e-commerce. “Our organization does not do resale but will use some information to improve our boutique.” These “excellent ideas [will] help our organization move to expanding regular "fundraising" sales.”
Gineyda Diaz from Bottomless Closet, New York City offered an excellent and relevant presentation on what it really means to be social and how to create a social media strategy for your organization. “Gina did a great job of presenting a lot of digital resources and best practices on how to use them,” stated a conference participant. She provided a wealth of resources that ACDN members could return to as they establish their nonprofit’s social media presence.
The Program Expansion session offered “very informative, diverse selection of information and engaging speakers”. The information ranged from Career Wardrobe’s decision to pilot and implement a menswear program, Desert Best Friend’s Closet’s perspective on serving male clients and their process of becoming a service provider for Department of Rehabilitation to Prep Institute DBA Image and Attitude’s success and challenges as a service provider program. It was evident in this session that ACDN organizations have expanded their programs to enrich their clients’ experiences and stay true to their missions.
The Brag & Steal sessions of ACDN Annual Conference have been cited as the “most useful and integral components of the conference”. After each session, the Brag and Steal time offers conference attendees the opportunity to ask questions and share ideas of success they have had at their own organizations. These ideas and inspired solutions are captured and shared with the whole ACDN post-conference.
“As always the conference educated and recharged me.” As ACDN members digest and work to implement new ideas from 2015, we also look forward to the next opportunities to reconnect. ACDN does this via our Quarterly Membership Meetings and we also look toward the 2016 Annual Conference to be held in Jefferson City, MO and hosted by ACDN Member, Dreams to Reality, September 16-18, 2016. Join us!
Contributed by Carrie H. Veurink, Managing Partner, Alliance of Career Development Nonprofits. Check out the 2015 Annual Conference Photos.