This week, CGP sat down with Gordon Smith, Associate Vice President of Development, Planned Giving, for National Jewish Health and this year’s Conference Chair, to discuss conference planning and his vision for CGP Conference 2018 in Las Vegas.
When did you attend your first conference and what keeps you coming back?
I believe 1996 was my first conference. I keep coming back because it's the best conference for planned giving in the country. It is set apart from other professional conferences by being the most comprehensive. As a person with planned giving responsibilities, It's been extremely helpful to learn from others that have been in the trenches for many, many years. Even after you feel that you've heard it all before, the reality is that hearing it again from somebody new in a different way is incredibly valuable. CGP Conference is where all of the top planned giving practitioners go. It has the best programs, the best presenters, the best opportunity to learn and network of all the conferences.
As Conference Chair, how do you hope to leave your mark on this year's conference?
Number one, I want to make sure that there are really stimulating programs and presentations that provide professionals at all different levels of planned giving – from beginner to expert – the opportunity to learn. I also want to provide a lot of wonderful networking opportunities for people to engage with and learn from each other. I think the Affinity program provides a really unique and wonderful opportunity to engage with others that work in the same arena, which is very useful and worthwhile.
What new and exciting things or programs can we expect this year?
Similar to previous years, we have a really good conference structure: beginning with a wonderful keynote speaker Wednesday evening, Affinity program the next day for people to get a chance to get to know each other in similar groups, through to the closing luncheon.
We have secured two great keynote speakers so far and we're looking forward to securing the third, as we get closer to conference date. We will choose this speaker depending on what is the most compelling at the time. We strategically selected the education tracks in a format to attract professionals from all levels and positions. And we look forward to selecting great Breakout Sessions after we close the Call for Presentations on March 1.
Plus we look forward to having some fun and incorporating the Las Vegas theme into a little bit of the entire conference!
What’s great about this year's venue and city?
We've never been to Las Vegas before and we are very excited to bring people to a new venue. The conference facilities at the Paris Las Vegas Hotel are fabulous. The facilities are very well organized to handle the Exhibit Hall, Breakout Sessions and Plenaries all in one convenient layout. The Paris Hotel is also at a great location in the city – providing easy travel to and from the airport and it is near tons of restaurants.
Las Vegas is second to none for the entertainment it has available, which provides a great opportunity to have spouses and family join you before or after the conference to enjoy the city.
What advice do you have for people planning to attend their first conference?
My advice is to take the time to think through what programs you want to attend and try to read the papers in advance because you'll get a lot more out of the presentations. Once you get to conference, it's super busy and it's difficult to find the time to sit back and plan what presentations to attend. Plus the better you plan, the more time you have to meet people. I really suggest engaging in the opportunities to meet other people - starting with the first night cocktail party. Make an effort to meet people, talk to people and learn from people. All the sponsors and exhibitors are bringing really good products and services. Take time to meet with them, take time to meet colleagues and engage with colleagues. The more you put in, the more you're going to get out of the conference.
When I leave, I'm exhausted from absorbing so much information and talking to so many different people. It's a great experience.
CGP Conference is a great opportunity to interact with most of the top planned giving practitioners in the country and a chance to learn what they're doing, how they're doing it, and to get ideas. It's a lot of fun and also a very collegial environment. The connections made at the conference will last for years to come. When something comes up down the road and you don't quite know the answer, you will have somebody you can call and ask, or that can connect you to someone that does. Those contacts are invaluable.
Learning planned giving is kind of like learning a language, you have to continually practice it and if you don't continually practice it, you lose it. And one of the best ways to practice it is by attending the best conference of the year, the CGP Conference.
Gordon P. Smith, MBA, CFRE, was born and raised in Denver, Colorado. Before going into planned giving, Gordon worked as a financial consultant, where he obtained experience in estate planning, business succession planning, insurance, and investment management. This provided a wonderful springboard to planned giving and the work he does for National Jewish Health where he has been since September of 1995.
As the Associate Vice President for Development, Planned Gifts, Gordon is responsible for planned and major gifts. This includes cultivating relationships from marketing through stewardship with expertise in the areas of charitable trusts, gift annuities, bequests and gifts of complex assets and he works with supporters throughout the country.
Gordon has been a long time member of The National Association of Charitable Gift Planners and currently serves on the Board as Conference Chair.