IGNITE 2018: Connecting, Learning, Recharging

April 2018

Lori Solyom

“IGNITE is so energizing, affirming, and inspirational, and I am privileged to be able to attend every year!,” said   Christine Zrinsky, Senior VP for Development and Government Relations at Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago.

The ALDE annual conference, IGNITE, aims to fuel development and communications professionals for success. According to attendees of IGNITE: Minneapolis 2018 this past February 28-March 3, it did that very well.

“What really stood out to me was just how willing the presenters and other conference attendees were to connect and share ideas and experiences. I was able to gain more confidence in my work and experience with the support of my fellow ALDE members. It was a memorable time and I have pages of new ideas to try,” said Jessica Pelnar, Mission Advancement Coordinator at St. Marcus Lutheran Church & School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

 Many who attended focused on the networking and relationship opportunities that IGNITE provides.

“IGNITE has been a great place to connect with others in my field. I get just as much from the sessions as I do talking to someone in the hallway or at lunch. The networking opportunities definitely bring me back year after year,” said Ashley Wiehe, Communications Manager at Concordia Lutheran High School in Fort Wayne, Indiana. “I would recommend IGNITE to anyone in the development and marketing field!”

It’s not all about the social interaction and peer support, however. IGNITE has proven to be a highly-targeted educational experience. Development and communications professionals have opportunities to learn from top-notch practitioners and consultants how to maximize fundraising, marketing, communications, and nonprofit leadership.

Classes target a variety of experience levels, addressing those who are new in their field as well as those who have been in the business for decades.

Zrinsky has years of experience behind her, yet she always learns something new at IGNITE.

“One of the most important things I learned at this year’s IGNITE was not to confuse being busy with being productive,” she said. “Although I learn something each year, I found this caution to be most applicable to my daily work. So many priorities and tasks can get in the way of building and enhancing donor relationships, and this was a great reminder not to let the urgent get in the way of the important!”

Breakout sessions provide both theoretical and practical information and keynote presentations aim to motivate and inspire. The rich selection of curriculum sessions includes an optional master class track for those who want to dig deeper.

IGNITE provides time to interact with other professionals by career affinity and by geography. IGNITE also offers specific learning and networking opportunities for young professionals.

Above all that, the core of IGNITE is faith. Minneapolis-based recording artist Jonathan Rundman and his band, including family members on fiddle and accordion, led music for two worship services.

“This has always been a great conference for keeping me grounded in the importance of faith with my work,” said David Friesen, Gift Coordinator - Central District with Lutheran Foundation Canada in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

One of the highlights of IGNITE was the penultimate night, when attendees gathered for the Annual Banquet and Awards Celebration. A complete listing of award recipients is available at www.alde.org/awards.

“IGNITE was awesome!,” said Jennifer Hellie, Director of Development at Lake Wapogasset Lutheran Camp in Amery, Wisconsin. “The keynote speakers were both so amazing. I came home with so many good ideas and practical inspirations. I was also able to connect with a bunch of folks I didn’t even know would be there ... those connections are so valuable."

You can experience these connections and all the inspiration when ALDE celebrates its 40th anniversary during IGNITE: North Texas 2019, January 31-February 3, at the Gaylord Texan Resort and Convention Center in Grapevine, Texas. Save the date and watch for updates at www.ignitespark.org.

Lori Solyom is Director of Development at Voice of Care in West Chicago, Illinois.

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