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Creative Day

Thursday, June 15, 2023 (9:00 AM - 4:15 PM) (EDT)


Register for one of last year's most popular programs!


9:00 9:30 AMRegistration, Networking, Coffee, and One-on-one Package Drop off

9:30 – 9:45 AMWelcome and Opening Remarks

Speakers: Kathy Swayze, President & Creative Director, Impact Communications and Laura Jahn, Senior Manager Integrated Marketing, The Humane Society International

9:45 – 11:00 AMRoundtables

Moderator: Mathew Harkins, Director, The Engage Group
  • What Sets Mid-Level Creative Apart – Kathy Swayze, President & Creative Director, Impact Communications
  • Creative for Digital Advertising | What’s working now! – Janise Harris, Senior Graphic Designer, Lautman Maska Neill & Co.
  • Teaser, Subject Lines and Other Test Ideas for Acquisition and Renewals – April Dietrich, Digital Fundraising Associate, WETA
  • What’s Working in Acquisition? – Steve Fleshman, Founder/Creative Partner, DR2
  • Using the Right Words for Marketing Planned Gifts and DAFS – Meg Roberts, Director, Major Gifts and Gift Planning, AARP
  • How to Manage the Copy and Review Process – Genevieve Paul, Director, Individual Giving, Prosperity Now
  • Creative for Connected TV – Joanne Wilson, Vice President, Advancement Operations, The Humane Society of the United States
  • Planning Messaging Across Marketing Channels – Vila-Sheree Watson, Director, Annual Fund & Development, Philanthropic Initiatives, Corus International - Lutheran World Relief

11:00 AM – 12:00 PMCreating and Evaluating the Initial Donor Journey

Speakers: April Dietrich, Digital Fundraising Associate, WETA, Lori Held, Senior Director, Direct Response, National Park Foundation

The initial donor journey is the first step in a long and successful fundraising relationship. So you want to be sure you get off on the right foot! Learn how different organizations are finding ways to constructively communicate with new donors through their initial donor journey. There are so many approaches to this critical moment in the donor lifecycle, and you'll hear about new ideas and road-tested successes. You'll learn about:

  • The goal of a of a welcome series and how to map your donor journey.
  • Recommendations on cultivation touchpoints and unique ideas (like phoned thank you).
  • How complex and segmented your donor journey should be (and how to measure success).
  • And more!

12:00 PM – 1:00 PMLunch, Networking, and One-on-One Copy and Design Consultation

One-on-one with an expert. Bring your package or your latest copywriting or design challenge and meet directly with a copywriter or creative director with 10+ years of experience. Get all your questions answered.

Meet your Copy and Design Experts: 

  • Kathy Swayze, President/Creative Director, Impact Communications
  • Laura Jahn, Senior Manager Integrated Marketing, The Humane Society of the United States
  • Steve Fleshman, Founder/Creative Partner, DR2
  • Mathew Harkins, Director, The Engage Group
  • Julie Dixon, Creative Director, Copy Chief, CDR Fundraising

1:00 PM – 2:00 PMPowerful Messaging that Works Across Channels

Speakers: Sloan Cargill, Director of Annual Giving, Development and Alumni Relations, Howard University, Vila-Sheree Watson, Director, Annual Fund & Development, Philanthropic Initiatives, Corus International Lutheran World Relief, Shannon Benton, Executive Director, The Senior Citizens League

A multi-channel donor is your best donor. But getting your messaging consistent across multiple channels can be challenging. In this session, you’ll learn how three nonprofits have successfully messaged one of their campaigns in direct mail and email – and boosted response in both channels. You’ll also learn how they are tackling inter-generational communication challenges and getting creative to reach younger audiences. Multi-channel fundraising can be challenging, and these presenters will share the good, the bad and the internal hurdles they’ve jumped in order to communicate in one voice across all channels.

  • Learn why consistent messaging across channels is so important.
  • Gain insights on how to work across departments and divisions to achieve message consistency.
  • Ask questions about how you can improve your communications across channels.

2:00 – 3:00 PMDEI Inclusive Creative and Messaging: Are you doing it right?

Speakers: Erica O’Brien, Principal & Owner, Fuse Fundraising, Robin Benatti, Director, Philanthropy, World Food Program USA

In an industry where creating a compelling case for giving to donors is critical, there is a balance to be met to ensure that stories do not inadvertently evolve into oversimplified or overdramatized tales that position the donors and organizations as saviors without consideration of the most important part of the story: the incredibly strong and resilient people and communities who are building a brighter future for themselves. 

Using stories and testimonials are a powerful way to convey the mission, work, and impact of nonprofit organizations through the lens of those who are served. The most compelling stories evoke compassion, empathy, and generosity from donors. But by sharing stories through our fundraising creative, we must not forget the responsibility that comes with sharing the truth of the experience and the dignity of the protagonist. 

As we craft the stories of our constituents, we must ask ourselves: are we empowering them or exploiting them? Is the language we are using inclusive? This session will provide tips when it comes to approaching storytelling with the intention of conveying the protagonist’s agency with an understanding of the harm that misrepresentation can cause. We'll share thoughts on ethical storytelling along with some tips on how to “do right” in our creative – both throughout messaging and visual imagery.

  • Identify unethical and ethical creative elements from a messaging and visual imagery standpoint.
  • Describe how to collect and gather information from featured individuals to ensure resources are sufficient to tell their stories in an ethical manner.
  • Develop creative that incorporates inclusivity, agency, and dignity to make a strong case for giving.

3:15 PM – 4:15 PM
AI 101: Generating Creativity, Content & Opportunity

AI is here! Everyone is talking about it, but how do you use it? Join us for an introduction to AI in marketing. We’ll cover what AI is and how it can be used to develop content and spark creativity for your next campaign. We’ll share real examples of AI-based content (the good, the bad and the ugly), advantages, disadvantages and limitations to using AI, and what to consider if your organization plans to use AI in the future.

  • A basic understanding of what AI is and how it works.
  • How to use AI to jumpstart creativity and generate content for copy and graphic design.
  • How to write a prompt to effectively generate content using AI (using Chat GPT as an example).
  • Leave with confidence to start experimenting with AI applications!

Speakers: Laura Jahn, Senior Manager Integrated Marketing, The Humane Society of the United States, Robin Perry, Vice President Design & Strategic Innovation, Lautman Maska Neill & Co.

Full participation in Creative Day is applicable for 5.25 points in Category 1.B – Education of the CFRE International application for initial certification and/or recertification.





Robin Benatti, Director of Philanthropy, World Food Program USA

With more than twenty years of experience focused exclusively on connecting caring individuals with causes that inspire them to act, Robin has dedicated her career to helping organizations meet their financial goals through direct response marketing. Robin has held leadership roles at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and at Nexus Direct, an international direct response agency. Robin is an active volunteer within the direct marketing industry, including having served on the Program Committee of the DMAW.

Robin received a B.A. in Art History from James Madison University. She lives in Alexandria, Virginia with her husband Charlie, two daughters, Ella and Sylvie, and their 175 lbs. English Mastiff named Bodhi.

Shannon Benton, Executive Director, The Senior Citizens League

Shannon Benton is the longest-serving employee of The Senior Citizens League, having joined its staff in 1999. She currently serves as Executive Director, where she is responsible for the overall day-to-day operations of the organization.

Ms. Benton has appeared extensively in the media, appearing on CNBC's Power Lunch, writing an op-ed piece in USA Today, quoted by The Washington Post, Associated Press, Denver Post, Houston Chronicle, San Diego Union-Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, Miami Herald, and dozens of other media outlets.

Prior to working for The Senior Citizens League, Mrs. Benton had a 12-year military career where she served as a medical corpsman in the U.S. Army.

Sloan Cargill, Director of Annual Giving, Development and Alumni Relations, Howard University

Sloan Cargill is a seasoned development professional with over a decade dedicated to making access to higher education more equitable and affordable for all. She is currently the Director of Annual Giving for Howard University in Washington, DC. In this role, Sloan leads a team of annual giving fundraisers supporting the University through print + digital campaigns, reunion giving, leadership giving, and more.

Prior to Howard, Sloan held development roles at Johns Hopkins University, John Carroll University, and even as a student fundraiser at Colby College, her Alma Mater. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Sociology with a minor in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. When not advocating for increased investments in higher education, Sloan can be found championing her hometown of Cleveland, Ohio, travelling, and visiting as many museums as she can.

April Dietrich, Digital Fundraising Associate, WETA

April Dietrich is the Digital Fundraising Associate at WETA, the primary public broadcasting station for the DC area. She loves how fundraising lies at the intersection of creative communication and measurable results, and is passionate about finding new and better ways to communicate with WETA members. She earned a BA in International Relations from American University and a Master of Science in Business from the Catholic University of America. 

Prior to her two years at WETA, she held internships at the National Museum of Women in the Arts and Americans for the Arts. She currently resides in Washington, DC and is a certified yoga instructor. In her free time, she loves traveling, trying out new recipes, and of course, watching the best new shows from PBS!

Janise Harris, Senior Graphic Designer, Lautman Maska Neill & Co.

Janise Harris is a Senior Graphic Designer at Lautman Maska Neill & Company with a passion for design and a heart for social change. She has been working in the field for five years, focusing on designing fully-integrated direct response campaigns for both local and national nonprofits. Janise believes that design has the power to inspire audiences to take action, and she uses this knowledge to create impactful campaigns that deliver results.

Janise has a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Drawing & Design from Old Dominion University. When she's not busy whipping up logos and illustrations, you can find her exploring the city's concert scene or scouring the streets for the tastiest tacos in town!

Lori Held, Senior Director for Direct Response, National Park Foundation

Lori Held is Senior Director for Direct Response at the National Park Foundation. She oversees NPF’s digital and direct mail low-dollar (<$1,000) fundraising programs. Prior to joining NPF this past July, she held similar roles at Trout Unlimited and American Farmland Trust. She enjoys developing compelling solicitations, testing, tracking results, and learning from her successes and failures. Lori is a graduate of The George Washington University. She is married with three grown sons and a labradoodle named Hero. She resides in Annandale, VA, but her heart lives in the Adirondacks, further north in Ontario and, of course, in our nation’s magnificent parks.

Erica O’Brien, Senior Director, Direct Response, National Park Foundation

Erica O’Brien, Co-Owner of Fuse Fundraising, has worked within the marketing and non-profit industry for over twenty years. Before joining the Fuse team, she worked at Chapman Cubine & Hussey for nearly a decade, where she served as Principal & Senior Vice President. With over 25 years in the marketing and nonprofit industry, Erica prides herself on helping clients create and leverage multi-channel strategies that maximize revenue, donor engagement and organizational brand power.

Robin Perry, Vice President Design & Strategic Innovation, Lautman Maska Neill & Co.

Robin is an award-winning graphic designer and marketing professional who serves as part of Lautman Maska Neill & Company’s Leadership Team. She spearheads the marketing efforts of the company and oversees Lautman's in-house design department.

Robin has worked in design, production and management for over 40 years. She built Lautman’s in-house Art department into a team of seasoned professionals skilled at designing for fundraising in both print and digital. Together they create innovative design solutions to nonprofit fundraising challenges. Robin believes that — along with copy — design is an integral part of the success of any marketing program. She takes pride in designing campaigns that engage the audience … are accessible … inspire donors … guide people to action … reflect each organization’s brand and values … and above all get results!

Robin is actively involved in the industry — as a speaker, a judge and a volunteer — and holds memberships in the DMAW and AIGA. In her spare time, Robin enjoys painting and hiking the coast of Maine.

Vila-Sheree Watson, Director, Annual Fund & Development, Philanthropic Initiatives, Corus International - Lutheran World Relief

Vila-Sheree Watson is a multifaceted leader, fundraiser, and content creator, known for her dynamic and soulful approach to creativity and social justice. Born in the South and raised in Oakland, California, Watson's upbringing was deeply influenced by the vibrant arts and culture scene that surrounded her. From a young age, she was drawn to the power of words and storytelling and found solace and inspiration in poetry, art, and music.

Watson's passion for the arts eventually led her to pursue a degree in Communications at Oakwood University—an HBCU in Huntsville, Alabama, where she honed her skills as a storyteller.

But it wasn't until Watson discovered iNGOs she truly found her passion and what would become her life’s work. She has had every job from graphic designer, writer, content gatherer, event planner, and now fundraiser. As Director of Annual Fund and Development at Corus International, a Baltimore-based iNGO, she focuses on the omnichannel direct response program for the Lutheran World Relief Brand.

In addition to her work as a fundraiser, Watson is also an accomplished writer and author, having published several books on topics ranging from social justice to personal growth and spirituality. Her writing is characterized by deep empathy and a fierce commitment to justice, as she uses her words to uplift and empowers marginalized communities.

For the last 25 years, she has led a national sorority for Christian women that encompasses women ages 18 to 80.

When she's not writing or performing, Watson can often explore the world and travel with her husband, Paul. She has been to over 60 countries and says, “Beauty is not a singular concept, but a tapestry woven from the diverse threads of the world. The unique expressions of culture, the rich hues of diversity, and the endless capacity for love make our world a masterpiece worth cherishing.”

Watson's commitment to justice and her passion for creativity are a testament to the power of stories to inspire and uplift communities. Her work is a reminder that in a world that often feels divided and chaotic, there is still beauty and hope to be found in the voices of those who refuse to be silenced.

Service Employees International Union (SEIU)

Washington, DC 20036 United States
Event Contact
Angelica Sullivan
(703) 689-3629
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Thursday, June 15, 2023 (9:00 AM - 4:15 PM) (EDT)
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