Live From Bridge: Change Is The Standard

Markets are transforming, the lines between business, philanthropy and government are blurring, and even these current changes will be completely different a decade from now. Sonal Shah opened the 10th annual Bridge To Integrated Marketing & Fundraising Conference on Tuesday morning with a keynote focused on the only constant in life – change.

More than 1,700 fundraisers and direct marketers descended on the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Md., for the opening day of sessions at the 10th annual gathering organized by the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) Washington, D.C. Metro Area Chapter (AFP DC) and the Direct Marketing Association of Washington (DMAW).

The founder and executive director of the Beeck Center for Social Impact and Innovation at Georgetown University, Shah presented a flurry of examples of shifting industries in her 30-minute remarks, entitled “Fundraising Disrupted: The Role of Technology and Innovation in Giving.”

“Markets are transforming around us, not just in the nonprofit industry but everywhere,” Shah said, whether it’s television and Netflix or Hulu, taxis and Uber, hotels and AirBnB, among others she said.

“Change is the standard. Everything is changing. They may not seem like dramatic shifts but we’re seeing them move from sector to sector over a period of time. What seemed like just media or just one market, is happening everywhere.”

The changing markets present a real opportunity for new business models, according to Shah. New norms will force people to “figure out what the new playbook looks like,” or even better — an opportunity to rewrite the playbook,” she said.

“This playbook in a decade will look dramatically different than today; that’s how quickly things are shifting on a regular basis,” Shah said.

While there are fundamental shifts in society, much of them driven by technology, people also are moving from a linear way of thinking to networked thinking, she said. No longer are problems just a public sector problem or private sector problem, but all sectors are collaborating. Just as organizations are moving away from a siloed to collaborative approach, Shah said people – and especially Millennials – want to participate and operate in an open environment.

“Technology has created democratization, people want to be engaged in solving problems,” she said.

Shah implored attendees to allow Millennials to be part of the movement. “They don’t just want to give but want to engage,” she said. “This is a generation that does not believe government is government, business is business and nonprofit is nonprofit – they’re going to be moving around those sectors constantly,” she said.

All these shifts have allowed things that used to take months to occur in just hours or days, Shah said, pointing to last summer’s viral “Ice Bucket Challenge.” Technology has allowed that shortening timeline but people also are paying attention – and in a networked way.

“Change is rapid and change is constant, and it’s happening on a regular basis.”

People want purpose. “If you don’t think that, look where corporations are going,” with impact investing, she said, suggesting attendees think about how they message that as they talk to different audiences.