Vivanista Summit Will Teach Fundraising Skills to America’s Volunteers (And Nonprofits Too)

I’m delighted to be joining a distinguished group of experts at the first-ever Vivanista Fundraising Summit, scheduled in San Francisco on November 10-12. The three-day event will teach Vivanista’s community of volunteers critical practices in branding, media relations, corporate sponsor sales, ROI-based events and how to maintain sustainable audiences. The mixed format includes a day of boot camp with workshops, a day of keynotes, panels and breakouts, awards announcements, and special programming around building communities of young professionals.

One of the most interesting things about the Summitand Vivanista overallis its audience crossover. While volunteer fundraisers and organizers will make up the larger portion of attendees, nonprofit workers will also strongly represent, making the Summit one of the few events in the year that recognize how much overlap there is between the needs and goals of determined volunteers and the needs and goals of those who work daily at nonprofits.

Recently I spoke with Vivanista founder Layne Gray about what nonprofit professionals can learn from volunteer fundraisers, and vice versa.

Q: You are describing the Summit as disruptive of traditional nonprofit conferences, especially because you’ll be introducing the kinds of strategies that successful companies use to brand, market, and leverage tools for engagement. Do you see your audience mixvolunteers and nonprofitsas disruptive as well?

Yes, disruption happens when you put various constituents together to share ideas they wouldn’t necessarily think about without such a forum.  In fact, we’ve developed several activities to encourage such disruption, such as our “Speed Mentoring” session based on the speed dating concept.  Unique, creative ideas come when you mix people together.

Q: I love the event’s focus on sustainability in fundraising. Can you describe what that means to readers?

Well thank you; there are actually two focuses when it comes to sustainability:

  1. Attendees will learn sustainable fundraising techniques so as to better understand who their donors are, why they donate, and how to keep them committed to the cause.
  2. We focus on sustainable communities so attendees learn how to invest in future generations of donors – young professionals and “phlanthro-teens” alike.  Moreover, we want our audience to hone their ability to keep Sustainers and Emeriti involved. Friday, November 11th, will focus on fundraising whereas Saturday morning’s sessions, November 12th, will address sustainable communities.

Q: Have you been surprised at how many nonprofit professionals are connecting with Vivanista’s platform?

We actually are a bit surprised, but pleasantly so.  Our mission is primarily to help volunteer groups, often the unsung heroes, to learn ways to improve their fundraising and to have fun while doing so!  Because many of those techniques are re-purposed from best corporate practices, nonprofit professionals have become much more engaged.  We are able to serve both audiences without watering down our messaging or purpose.

Q: When should volunteer fundraisers go it alone to raise money for a cause, versus partnering in advance with a nonprofit?

We are of the strong belief that there should be a partnership between a volunteer group and a nonprofit if all funds raised go directly to that nonprofit specifically.

The benefit of coordinating efforts is multi-fold: It provides consolidation of lists, it reduces overlapping campaigns and, hence, sending mixed messages to donors, and it strategically drives the type of campaign(s) that will reap the best return on investment.

There are, however, many types of volunteer fundraising groups who raise and distribute monies to several nonprofits i.e. Junior Leagues.  Usually their fundraising campaign success is driven by donors supporting that organization’s overall good work rather than one particular cause.

Q: The Vivanista website just got a bit of an update. What features and tools can your community expect to see next time they log in?

In addition to our blog, training sessions and social event calendar we launched a vast resource library of original templates, guides, cheat sheets and pre-packaged fundraisers members can download.  For example, several budget templates are available for both large fundraisers and small that include realistic line items based on past events – they even have analytics that help determine quantifiable success.  We are proud of the new site and the experience members have when coming there.

The Vivanista Fundraising Summit takes place November 10-12 in San Francisco. Learn more at

VolunteerMatch participants get $100 off the 3-day pass (Before Oct 7th) with the discount code VOLMATCH-VIP at