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Citygate 2024: Talent, tools and technology

Did you miss the news at Citygate 2024 and want to catch up? Check it out here:


The Citygate Conference 2024 was a remarkable gathering, bringing together over 1,200 professionals dedicated to life transformation ministries and rescue missions across the country.  

Our RKD Group team, including Glenn McKinney, Mike Davis, and Tamara Wheeler, returned full of energy and inspired by the event's discussions and connections. We gathered them for a quick video chat (see above) to share what they heard and saw at the event in Lexington, Ky.  

One of the highlights at Citygate was our big announcement of RKD and MDM Fundraising joining forces. This partnership was created to combine our strengths to better serve the missions we’re passionate about. Mike Davis, President of MDM Fundraising, noted the excitement among attendees about this collaboration, emphasizing the importance of experience and strategic execution in navigating the evolving industry landscape. 

Tamara Wheeler, SVP at RKD, shared the value of the informal interactions that such conferences facilitate. Conversations over meals and in hallways fostered deep connections and sparked innovative ideas. Tamara also added a fun element to our team's presence by suggesting everyone wear red Converse, symbolizing our unity and team spirit. 

The conference also shed light on the significant challenges missions face today. Tamara highlighted the need for the right team members and tools to address current issues effectively. However, amidst these challenges, a sense of hope prevailed. Mike observed the group's optimism about leveraging our collective strengths and innovative tools to overcome obstacles. 

Another key theme at the conference was the transformative role of data in fundraising and relationship management. Both Mike and Tamara emphasized how data helps personalize interactions, making large-scale engagements feel personal and relevant. This approach strengthens relationships and enhances the impact of our efforts. 

Reflecting on the conference, Glenn noted the powerful combination of people, purpose, and technology driving our mission forward. We are excited about the opportunities ahead and committed to supporting and uplifting communities through our mission-driven work. 



Interview with the Team 


Hi, I'm Glenn McKinney. 

I hope you're having a good day. I'm Senior vice president here at RKD working with our clients and I'm joined by Mike Davis, who's the president of MDM Fundraising along with Tamara Wheeler, who's SVP of Client Partnership. And together we just got back from the Citygate Conference where there were 1,200 folks getting together in services to people experiencing homelessness.  

We got together to talk about how that landscape is changing, especially with fundraising, and a big part of news at the conference was the fact that MDM and RKD are joining forces in service to these missions. And I wanted to ask Mike first, what was the feedback in the room? How did it go in terms of talking about RKD and MDM to come together? 


There's a lot of excitement toward it because there's a lot going on obviously, and there's a lot of changes in the industry. One of the themes that kept coming up a little bit is there's things that change and then there's things that don't. And really what comes down to some of the best things going on is just experience and putting together a lot of solid plans together and executing strategies really well.  

You know, when I think about RKD, I think about a lot of talented people that are being brought forth with a lot of experience with MDM. And I'm really excited about that. That was one of the things that really stood out to me about the week, about the coming together of these two teams and a lot of the energy that came forth from. 


That's awesome energy, Mike. Tamara, what was your experience? 


Yeah, I definitely agree. Better together. There's nothing like sharing a meal, having a chat in a hallway. Wow, what a gift and ideas and connection when you get a chance to be with one another. 


Yeah, it was a great time. Tamara, you had the idea for all of us to wear red Converse with Chuck Taylors. And when you talk about connection, it was a little scary putting those on in the hotel by myself. But then once we got together and we were all rocking the same shoes, it was really cool.  

It was a really fun point of connection, but we know it wasn't all fun and games. And so Tamara, I'm curious, what are the challenges in the mission space that you heard about at Citygate? 


I would say team and tools. I don't know one mission who doesn't have a new team member or who isn't looking for a next team member or who has a new leader. So, everyone is looking for the right folks and the right tools. Just solving the problems that exist today and having the right team and the right tools were so many conversations that I was a part of. 


Those are some big-ticket items. Mike, what did you hear? 


Well, sure, I was hearing a lot of the challenges, but what surprised me was the hope. And maybe that shouldn't have surprised me, knowing this group. It's a very joyful, hopeful bunch, but the hope of what's coming next, what's coming down the pipe for fundraising for this particular team. And of course there's challenges. There's always fundraising challenges, and that's what makes this kind of interesting. 

What I particularly enjoyed was this team coming together and saying, “Hey, you know what, there are challenges, and we're going to leverage our tools and strengths to overcome these challenges.” I really liked some of the conversations that followed from it, but I bet you got a question that's coming up about that, and I'm going to let you get through that. 


Well, you're a good reader of people, Mike. You can see my eyebrows get low when I'm focused on an opportunity.  

It's impossible today not to talk about focus and challenges and opportunities and not have that bring us to data. Data is playing such a big role in transforming the way we fundraise and the way we communicate and share with donors. Mike, how are you seeing that play out? 


Well, I find it interesting because having been doing this a little bit, a few years now, you get this idea that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Ultimately, what it keeps coming back to is relationships. The way that data is being used is ultimately, of course, just strengthening relationships. And the leverage and tools that are brought to bear by RKD are really interesting and open up some doors for us.  

What it comes down to it is the bigger data gets, the smaller things should feel. Meaning basically big data should be behind things. When I'm communicating with someone, it's like this. It's like you and me talking one-on-one. And if I'm gonna have a relationship with someone, I'm gonna send them a personal note that is relevant to them.  

Big data allows us to have that small one-on-one feel with a lot of people. It really helps us identify the audiences and give them messages that matter to them, that's what's really exciting about what's coming. 


That's really cool. Tamara, what are you seeing with data and the way that we're using it today? 


Yeah, it's such a great question and a big question just for any marketer in this era. And what Mike was saying about relationships is really the code cracking that we're doing to figure out trust. How do we inspire people to take any action through something like this tool? 

All roads lead to data for relationships. How does it feel personal that it's going straight to me? Tamara like a camera, not “female demographic, insert age and lives in San Francisco.” And so that shift is pivotal for, and convicting, honestly, in how we're stewarding the stories of life transformation and making sure that the right ears and eyes get to hear what's happening in real time as much as possible. 


That's great feedback. I know when we started talking, we were talking about people and connection and strengthening the connection between the people who want to help and the people who need help come into a mission and how data can just be a part of that. In this conference, it was about people, and it's a great through line through all this.  

So, I look forward to maybe doing this again in a year and hopefully it's helpful to you to hear this recap of what went on at the Citygate Conference. Thanks. 

RKD Group

RKD Group is North America's leading fundraising and marketing services provider to hundreds of nonprofit organizations, including hospitals, social service, disease research, animal welfare, rescue missions, and faith-based charities. RKD Group’s omnichannel approach leverages technology, advanced data science and award-winning strategic and creative leadership to accelerate net revenue growth, build long-term donor relationships and drive online and offline engagements and donations. With a growing team of professionals, RKD Group creates breakthroughs never thought possible.



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