“Social is Coming”: The Future of Advancement Services from AASP 2014

My colleague Courtney Camps and I spent last week in Chicago for the Association of Advancement Services Professional’s annual summit, AASP 2014. The event is the foremost advancement services conference. For us, it offered a chance to see old friends and develop many new relationships. A lot has changed since our visit last year.

As autumn winds swept across the city, there were more than a few “Winter is Coming” references from HBO’s Game of Thrones. In that vein, if there were a Game of Thrones-inspired theme for AASP 2014, it would have been “Social is Coming.”


According to AASP, advancement services professionals “gather, organize, manage and disseminate information to guide the sound and effective advancement and overall business decisions of not-for-profit organizations.”

But as the information needed to guide sound and effective decisions has shifted from legacy databases to external social platforms, many advancement services professionals are embracing social donor management (SDM) principles.

At last year’s conference, attendees were brainstorming ways social insights and mobile technology might support existing advancement objectives. This year, it felt like we were at a tipping point—many participants were sharing stories of their successes with social and mobile.

The University of Washington’s Chris Sorenson shared his perspective on the way visualization and analytics can streamline core advancement activities. And there was a lot of buzz about the upcoming DRIVE/conference (Data Reporting Information and Visualization Exchange Conference), which he developed.

We were excited to see some of our customers joining the conversation. Kathy McCann shared Union College’s plan to strategically build its donor pipeline by leveraging social insights. With this information, Kathy can illustrate “quick wins” to her team to garner additional support from advancement leadership as she and her team work to bring SDM to the core of Union’s advancement strategy. And Oregon State University’s Mark Koenig was roving the conference floor demonstrating the power of having powerful donor insights at your fingertips.

In addition to absorbing the social buzz at AASP 2014, I had the opportunity to spend time at Facebook’s Chicago office. Courtney and I demoed EverTrue’s Facebook integration and received excellent feedback on our product roadmap. Not surprisingly, many Facebook employees are involved with their alumni boards and other local nonprofits. It was a great environment to brainstorm ways for-profit success can be applied to the nonprofit sector.

With Facebook’s feedback and a few AASP conferences under my belt, I have some predictions for the status of advancement services at AASP 2015:

  1. Leading advancement organizations will budget for social channels in the same way they have for traditional communications channels.
  2. ‎Sentiments of risk aversion towards cloud technologies will be tempered as more success stories emerge.
  3. Big data in advancement will move from marketing buzz to actionable insights.


Many attendees acknowledged the challenges of driving change within their organizations. One individual wrote me a followup note and said, “I just want to start changing their mindset” in regards to his senior leadership’s negative view towards social and mobile. The only way to start that change is to start small. Share success stories and prove to senior leadership why it’s inevitable: Social is coming.

EverTrue and Union College at AASP 2014

Update: We’re excited to see you at AASP 2015! If you’d like to set up time to meet with us there, please contact sales@evertrue.com.

Brent Grinna is the CEO and co-founder of EverTrue. Connect with him on Twitter @brentgrinna

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