Keynote Speakers

Opening Keynote

In November 2016, the New York Times called Tom Ahern “one of the country’s most sought-after creators of fundraising messages.”

He specializes in applying the discoveries of psychology and neuroscience to the day-to-day business of attracting and retaining donors. He’s authored six well-received books on that topic; his latest is What Your Donors Want…and Why! Each year, he trains thousands of fundraisers internationally through conferences and webinars.

He is an award-winning copywriter and journalist. His recent clients for direct mail, capital campaign case statements, audits and training include the Anchorage Museum, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Chabad on Campus, Connecticut Forest and Park Association, Friends of the Mississippi River, Lollypop Farm (animal rescue, NY), Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford, Sharp Healthcare (nonprofit hospital system in San Diego), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (USA) … and dozens more, large and tiny.

He works with Prof. Adrian Sargeant and psychologist Jen Shang, principals at the Hartsook Centre for Sustainable Philanthropy, Plymouth University (UK). Tom sits on HCSP’s advisory board. HCSP includes among its many outreach activities the world’s top fundraising think tank, Rogare (Latin: to ask).

Tom Ahern has a BA and MA from Brown University and a Certificate in Advertising Art from the RI School of Design. He lives with his wife, nonprofit consultant and author Simone Joyaux, in Rhode Island and France.

  • Click here for a downloadable PDF, “20 Questions: The Donor Communications Test”
Day-Two Opening Keynote


Fifty Shades Grayer – From Dating Donors to Building Lasting Relationships

Todd Gray has been the Vice President of Financial Development, YMCA of the USA since 2016 and has more than 25 years of experience in all facets of fund development and marketing. A Virginia native, Todd served the YMCA of Greater Richmond in marketing and development from 2007 to 2014. This presentation, a sequel to his popular breakout session at last year’s VFRI, will expand upon his humorous approach to dating, engagement, and marriage as a metaphor for donor-centered moves management. Todd will share his own experience of meeting donors, getting to know their interests, sharing an organization-related journey with them and building lasting relationships. Whether it’s the first date or your 10th anniversary, his message will allow you to revitalize your donor relationships by applying rapport-building tools for everyone – staff and volunteers!