When I was first approached about attending (and speaking at) The Salvation Army Social Services Conference, it gave me pause.
Yes, The Salvation Army is my client. Yes, I understand the vital role that social services plays in helping the clients that The Salvation Army serves.
My question was, however: How will it benefit me in my role as Account Director to be at this conference?
Lindsay Sparks, Stacey Schwab (author), and Claire Waiksnoris at the National Community Relations & Development Conference.
After spending a week with The Salvation Army in Kansas City, MO, I discovered 5 reasons why attending industry events is important:
Email and phone connect me to my clients and my peers on a daily basis. There’s no substitution, however, for connecting live and in person.
Good conferences have opportunities for attendees to mix and mingle, form new relationships, and strengthen existing ones. Over coffee, lunch, and dinner — between sessions — you may make a connection with the perfect provider or prospect.
For example, I was able to meet Chuck Nutt, the Director of International Resource Development for The Salvation Army World Service Office (SAWSO). He has great insight into how The Salvation Army is improving the health, economic, and spiritual conditions of the poor throughout the world — not just in the United States. Some of his programs could spark ideas for how we can think about helping our clients here at home.
Without this conference, I might not have met him in person.
- Meet Experts and Influencers Face to Face
While not all conferences offer you the opportunity to meet your business idols, your chances are greatly improved when you’re sharing the same space.
Sometimes, it’s about sharing a business idea with someone you admire … or making a connection that can lead to finding your next mentor … or connecting clients that may not know each other.
At this conference, I had the chance to met Chef Timothy Tucker, who runs the Culinary Arts Training Program — serving the Dorchester/Roxbury community (Massachusetts) for students in need. And I was able to connect him to Chef Paul Fields, who runs the Napa Valley Culinary Training Academy in the Western Territory. It seems so obvious that these two chefs (who run similar programs) would have met, but they hadn’t — so our chance meeting connected them to share knowledge and ideas.
That could never have happened from an online conference.
- Learning More
I thought that I was aware of all the programs that The Salvation Army provides to their clients. This conference challenged that belief.
When we made our presentation at the Social Services Conference, one of the audience members asked about how they could share their success stories on missing persons.
In my five years working on Salvation Army accounts, I didn’t realize that they had this program in place.
For reference, this is a life-changing service that is instrumental in reuniting thousands of families each year. The Salvation Army Missing Persons office receives an average of 2,000 inquiries, and locates an average of 350 people, annually.
This lifesaving program is something we could reference in a Donor Newsletter (targeted at Salvation Army donors) or make our clients more aware of, should their Division need our help.
I likely would not have heard of this program had I not attended this conference.
- Sharpen Your Skills
Last but not least, you sometimes have to take a break from the “work” of your work to sharpen your skills. A dull ax won’t cut a tree nearly as effectively as a sharp one.
And stepping outside of your office, listening to innovative speakers, and interacting with clients and peers directly can help you do just that.
Conferences provide a unique convergence of networking, learning, and personal development into a single experience — the best reasons to attend a conference!
Want to catch up with TrueSense during a fundraising industry conference? Check out where we’ll be in the coming months.
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