top of page


NOVEMBER 1-3,2023

Join the Donor Relations Group in Toronto
for a 3-day Conference Experience!

Join us for our 3-day, 4 Pillars Conference to gain a comprehensive training in all aspects of donor relations  — from fundamentals and best practices to new trends and innovative next practices. Our core team of industry-leading experts will educate and inspire you as they bring our key concepts and proven strategies to life. No other conference will teach you how to create amazing donor experiences like this. 

During this 3-day event, you'll take a deep dive into the 4 Pillars of Donor Relations and have the chance to workshop your own acknowledgments and reports. Then, you'll learn how to create a winning communications strategy and elevate your messages to donors with the 4 Pillars of Donor Communications. On the final day, we'll show you how to take things to the next level with the 4 Pillars of the Donor Experience.

The 4 Pillars Conference is an unrivaled and invaluable professional development experience for anyone interested in enhancing their donor relations efforts. You'll leave this conference equipped with new knowledge and a clear path forward to elevate the donor experience, improve donor retention, and ultimately raise more money for your organization

Conference Overview

You can purchase one day, two days, or all three days of this conference:


Day 1: The 4 Pillars of Donor Relations

The first day of the conference is based on the first half of Lynne Wester's book, The Four Pillars of Donor Relations. This interactive learning experience is perfect for anyone new to donor relations or the experienced professional. Filled with fresh content and real-life examples, day one of this conference will teach you the basics of donor relations as well as next practices and new industry trends.

We'll dive into the first two, must-have pillars of the Four Pillars of Donor Relations—acknowledgment and stewardship—to help you assess your current program and identify where and how you can advance your efforts. We'll also provide you with time to workshop your own acknowledgments and impact reports.


Lynne and her team of experts will bring each topic to life as they share personal stories of tragedies, triumph, ridicule, and redemption. You’ll leave inspired and energized, equipped with tangible ideas that you can implement immediately with any size staff or budget.

Day 2: The 4 Pillars of Donor Relations + Communications Workshop

Morning Session | Recognition & Engagement

We'll kick off the second day by wrapping up the final two pillars of the Four Pillars of Donor Relations—recognition and engagement. You'll learn why and how nonprofits are moving from dollar-based to behavior-based recognition programs, the importance of crucial conversations around gift agreement policies and procedures, and see examples of ways donors really want to be recognized and engage with your organization. (Hint: It's not a giant check or a rubber chicken dinner in a ballroom.) You'll return to your organization ready to create amazing experiences that will surprise and delight your donors.

Afternoon Session | The 4 Pillars of Donor Communications

One of the most crucial keys to retaining donors is creating an effective donor communications program that resonates and engages your audience. So how do we go about creating dynamic donor communications? How do we create messages that truly resonate? How do we write for both persuasion and gratitude at the same time? How do we meet the demands for print, video, and social content that answers everyone’s needs? And where do we start?

During this presentation you'll learn:

  • How to effectively tell your story using the 4 Pillars of Donor Communications

  • How to create communications donors want to consume and share

  • When to use certain types of communications over others

  • How to advocate for change and attain buy-in with internal constituencies

  • How to eliminate communications that aren't working

  • Simple changes to transform a bad communication into a good one 

  • Tests to run on your current communications efforts to evaluate effectiveness

  • How to make the donor the hero of your work!

  • And much more!​


We'll inspire you with samples of amazing communications, teach you the same proven strategies we’ve shared with clients all over the world, and equip you with the tools you need to create and implement a winning donor communications strategy at your nonprofit.


Day 3: The 4 Pillars of the Donor Experience

The Four Pillars of the Donor Experience, or the DX, is built upon the foundation of the Four Pillars of Donor Relations, but goes beyond the tactics that guide our work and instead applies to a living philosophy that guides the why behind our fundraising practices.


Put yourself in the donor’s shoes—they don’t want another lapel pin or bumper sticker. They want to know they make a difference to your institution and are valued. Donor appreciation is not expensive, but neglecting it can be. Research shows that it is 7 times more expensive to acquire a new donor than to keep the ones you already have. The solution is simple: put the donor first and consume yourself with the DX—their experience, not yours.


The final day of this conference begins with an evaluation of your current practice based on mechanics, communication, strategy, and culture to give you a clear idea of where to focus your resources and efforts. From there, each session is dedicated to breaking down the 4 Pillars of the DX—knowledge, strategy, culture, and emotion—and teaching you how to elevate the donor experience at your organization.

CFRE Eligibility: This conference has been approved for 15 CFRE points in Category 1.B – Education of the CFRE International application for initial certification and/or recertification.




November 1, 2023

The 4 Pillars of Donor Relations Pt. 1

$550 USD


November 2, 2023

 The 4 Pillars of Donor Relations Pt. 2
+ Donor Communications Workshop

$550 USD


November 3, 2023

The 4 Pillars of the Donor Experience

$550 USD

Full 3-Day Conference Experience
November 1-3, 2023

$1,500 USD

Lunch is included with the price of your registration each day. Please note any dietary restrictions at the time of registration. 


Meet Your Speakers


Lynne Wester

Founder & Principal


Matthew Helmer

Consultant & Strategist


Angela Joens

Consultant & Strategist


Sarah Sims, CFRE

Consultant & Strategist


Rave Reviews


One of the best conferences I've been to. The mix of practical advice, statistics, best practices, and humor left me eager to return to my team and begin rethinking how we do our work.

Taking Meeting Notes

The Four Pillars Conference was a phenomenal experience. It was one of the most rewarding investments in my career, and I hope to share how my organization benefits in the near future. This is a must for all Donor Relations professionals.


 I was grateful to dive deeper into industry trends, changes and challenges, and gain real-life suggestions and applications of how to push forward and navigate changes successfully... If you're looking for a stuffy presentation, this is not for you. If you're looking to escape survival-mode and jump start revival-mode with your teams, DRG are your people.


This conference didn't feel like a conference---it was an experience! The DRG Group clearly applied what they know about donor relations to every piece of the conference. It was personal, memorable and valuable. Thank you to the entire team for a great three days.


Conference Schedule

Day 1: Wednesday, November 1

The 4 Pillars of Donor Relations

9:00 AM ET | Introduction: Roadmap to the 4 Pillars

9:15 AM ET | Pillar One: Acknowledgments

A good acknowledgment is about more than just saying, "thank you." In this session, we'll teach you how to craft expressions of gratitude that will surprise and delight your donors. We'll discuss gift acceptance and receipts, thank you letters, pledge reminders, behavior-based thank you's (e.g., first-time donors), and more.

10:30 AM ET | Break

10:45 AM ET | Pillar One: Acknowledgments (cont'd)

12:00 PM ET | Lunch Break

1:00 PM ET | Pillar Two: Stewardship and Reporting
Discover unique ways to show donors the true impact of their generosity. Demonstrating transparency and remaining donor-focused are key. We'll discuss broad-based and individual impact reports, how to prioritize your work based on audience and resources, and the components that go into an effective report.

2:15 PM ET | Break

2:30 PM ET | Pillar Two: Stewardship and Reporting (cont'd)

3:45 PM ET | Wrap-Up & Q&A

4:30 PM ET | Day 1 Ends

Day 2: November 2, 2023

4 Pillars of Donor Relations (Part 2) and Donor Communications Workshop

9:00 AM ET |  Pillar Three: Recognition

Events, giving societies, public displays—there are many ways to recognize donors (even some you should avoid). We'll discuss what to keep, what to leave behind, and how to create meaningful experiences that will make lasting impressions, and leave donors wanting more.

10:15 AM ET | Break

10:30 AM ET | Pillar Four: Engagement

A donor is engaged once they are emotionally invested and committed to an organization. In this session, we'll show you what it takes to get them there. We'll share examples and ideas that you can implement at your organization to connect donors to your mission and turn them into loyal supporters.

11:45 AM ET | 4 Pillars of Donor Relations Wrap Up/Q&A

12:00 PM ET | Lunch Break

1:00 PM - 2:15 PM ET | Donor Communications Workshop Pt. 1 - Gratitude & Impact

2:15 PM ET | Break

2:30 PM ET | Donor Communications Workshop Pt. 2 - Persuasion and Information

3:45 PM ET | Wrap-Up & Q&A

4:30 PM ET | Day 2 Ends

Day 3: Friday, November 3

The 4 Pillars of the Donor Experience

9:00 AM ET | Introduction: The 4 Pillars of the Donor Experience

9:15 AM ET | Pillar One: Knowledge
Knowledge is power. Knowledge of our donors, their preferences, and their experiences isn’t strange or unnerving — it’s expected and mutually beneficial. Imagine how much more could be accomplished if there was an overall understanding and mindset that encourages consistent and positive data behavior.

What you will learn: 

  • Passive and active intelligence and data to further understand your donors

  • How to identify information gaps in your donor knowledge and techniques to fill these gaps

  • Techniques for defining your strategies and priorities both in the short- and long-term​

10:30 AM ET | Break

10:45 AM ET | Pillar Two: Strategy

Strategy isn’t simply a list of tasks that need to be undertaken in order to deepen the donor relationship. Strategy is charting a thoughtful path forward with the donor. Defining and outlining this journey is essential to success. Action with no strategy maintains the status quo.

What you’ll learn:

  • Strategies to increase donor retention such as ask-to-thank ratios, reporting impact of donations at all levels, and more

  • How to reshape communications in a donor-focused mindset using actionable intelligence

  • How to identify stop/start activities (what can stay and what must go) in order to reprioritize new efforts into your workload

12:00 PM ET | Lunch: Roundtable Discussions (Lunch is included in your conference registration)

1:00 PM ET | Pillar Three: Culture

Culture focuses on empowerment, excellence, and gratitude to help define your organization’s interactions with donors. An expectation of excellence is a behavior and application of a set of standards. During this session, we’ll uncover the startling power and dynamic of gratitude-based living. Living and practicing gratitude both internally and externally can transform relationships. It’s more than just thank you notes, it’s a lifestyle.

What you’ll learn:

  • How to create a culture of gratitude at your organization that will lead to both short- and long-term success

  • Healthy power dynamics and whose role it is to demonstrate gratitude at your organization

  • Best and next practices—as well as common pitfalls in gratitude

  • How to swap out traditional donor recognition for inclusive methods of gratitude that will ultimately affect the fundraising bottom line

2:15 PM ET | Break

2:30 PM ET | Pillar Four: Emotion

Emotions are at the center of the donor experience and are behind why donors give, why they remain loyal, and why they ultimately leave. There are many emotions that inspire donors to give—joy, sadness, anger, belief, nostalgia—the list goes on. The most successful nonprofits tap in to those emotions and convert them into action.

What you’ll learn:

  • How to infuse your communications with these same emotions for maximum impact and ROI in your fundraising and relationship efforts

  • Techniques for fixing a broken donor relationship and making it fruitful again in the future

  • How to craft extraordinary donor experiences that are one of a kind and allow a donor’s generosity to shine

3:45 PM ET | Wrap-Up & Q&A

4:30 PM ET | Day 3 Ends



Special thanks to our hosts at Humber College!


Note: In order to ensure our attendees have the best accommodations possible, we have secured a group rate at the Kimpton Saint George — about 18 km (30-45 minutes) from Humber College. We're providing shuttle transportation to and from the conference location for an additional cost of $25 per person per day. Your shuttle tickets can be purchased at the time of registration. 


Humber College

BMO Innovation Commons

Longo Centre for Entrepreneurship

17 Colonel Samuel Smith Park Drive

Toronto, ON M8V 1K8

Screenshot 2023-06-16 at 1.06.11 PM.png


Kimpton Saint George

280 Bloor St W
Toronto, ON M5S 1V8, Canada


Can't wait to dive into the content?

Grab your copy of the book that started it all—The 4 Pillars of Donor Relations—and discover why Lynne's 4 Pillars framework is the guide that every donor relations shop needs. A brilliant duet to the 4 Pillars Conference, this book contains a dozen examples of creative communications with donors from real institutions and 60 pages of appendices offering specific advice on everything from what to include in a gift acceptance policy to donor event management. Learn the framework during the conference, and keep the book as a reference for everyone at your organization for years to come!

4 Pillars Book 2023

Ready to take your donor relations to the next level? The 4 Pillars of the Donor Experience—knowledge, strategy, culture, and emotion—build upon the foundation of the 4 Pillars of Donor Relations, and let us understand the fundamental truths behind why donors continue to respond to our work, continue to give, and deepen their relationships with our organization. 


In the The 4 Pillars of The Donor Experience, Lynne breaks down the philosophy of donor engagement while providing concrete strategies, tangible examples, and a whole slew of images and samples from organizations across the nation doing great work. Now available in print or as an audiobook!


Our Sponsors

Our sponsors allow us to keep our prices low while still providing you with the best experience possible. Thank you to our friends who partner with us to make these conferences and workshops possible. We couldn't do it without you! Click on their logos to learn more about the incredible work they're doing. 

MSP Cultivate Logo.png
bottom of page