Tuesday, November 14, 2017

National Philanthropy Day: Advancing the Greater Good

Our lives are defined by community. After all, our successes, achievements, challenges and opportunities are often determined by others in our lives. As the saying goes, no person is an island, and very few of us can claim that we are "self-made" or found success all on our own. Almost always there has been someone—or many "someone’s"—who have contributed to our accomplishments.

That’s why it’s so hard to look away when someone is in need. That’s why we see problems and want to step up. Being in a community demands that we help because not only is it the right thing to do, but also because it’s an intrinsic part of us. We need to help, however we can.

Like all of you, I’ve always wanted to help others and contribute to the greater good.  I feel I have been blessed in my life and want to provide opportunities for others.  I decided the best way for me to do this was by taking my management and financial skills and experience and supporting those that are on the front lines. That’s why I’m excited to be leading AFP—doing my part in the most effective way possible.

To me, that’s what we’re celebrating on National Philanthropy Day: each of us, doing our part for the greater good and supporting the communities that are so integral to our lives. And we’re not doing our work in a vacuum either. Philanthropy brings us together and unites us, so our collective impact is greater than anything we could do on our own.

Whatever issue you’re dedicated to—among the millions of causes that our nonprofit sectors represent around the world—and whatever role you play—fundraiser, donor, volunteer, corporate or foundation funder, nonprofit employee—let me simply say: Thank you!

Thank you for everything you do to support the greater good. Thank you for not turning away from people in need. Thank you for coming together through philanthropy and charities, and dedicating yourself to improving communities around the world.

There will be always be issues to address and causes to support, but we have already made an indelible impact on our world through philanthropy. On National Philanthropy Day, let’s remember and celebrate what we’ve accomplished—together—and recommit ourselves to doing our part to advance the greater good.


Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Leading into the Future

Special Guest Post 
Ann Hale, CFRE, Chair, AFP

Ann Hale
MA, CFRE
Chair, AFP
By now, you’ve hopefully heard the announcement that Mike Geiger, MBA, CPA, will serve as AFP’s new president and CEO starting today, Nov. 1.

Helping to select a new leader is one of the most important things any volunteer board can do, and it’s certainly the most critical thing that I have done during my time as chair of AFP.

It’s also a rare moment, as AFP has been blessed with stable leadership, starting with Patricia (Pat) Lewis serving from 1991 – 1998, Paulette Maehara through 2012, then Andrew Watt leading us until last year, and most recently Jason Lee serving as interim president and CEO for the past 17 months.

While I knew our search process would be long and comprehensive, I don’t think I realized how challenging, intense and emotional it would be. All of us on the search committee felt that way, because AFP is so important to us. We have all had moments where our membership in AFP, and our connections with AFP colleagues, made a huge difference in our career.

So, we wanted to get the selection right. With the help of a team from Campbell and Company, a leading association executive search firm, we determined the key qualifications, factors and criteria we would use to evaluate the candidates.  We evaluated 100 initial candidates, narrowed it down to 10 and then focused on a finalist group of six qualified candidates.

It was an all-encompassing discussion, and often we were challenged with different perspectives. But we were dedicated to having an inclusive search that would identify a final candidate that had the best set of assets and qualifications. We had a diverse search committee and a diverse pool of applicants. And in the end, the lengthy process and occasional struggles were well worth it, as we ended up with an extremely qualified individual who can lead us into the future.

Mike is a seasoned association executive and has a great array of skills and experiences that can lift the AFP community to the next level. He is not a fundraiser by training, but he understands, appreciates, and “gets” fundraising, having overseen fundraising in other programs and participated on development teams. He has strong financial expertise and deep experience in running a membership association, providing education opportunities, putting on conferences, advocating on public policy and ensuring members have the resources and knowledge they need to be successful. That’s the sort of leadership we need in our changing fundraising and association environments, and we’re very confident that he’ll do a great job.

You’ll learn more about Mike in the coming weeks as he introduces himself through articles and blogs. And hopefully you’ll get to meet him in person as he attends different chapter meetings and our International Fundraising Conference next year in New Orleans, April 15 – 17.

Finally, I’d like to thank Jason Lee for all his work leading AFP over the last year and a half. Jason stepped in at a very challenging time and helped to stabilize the organization on many levels—solidifying our financial base, refocusing our efforts on member value, building important partnerships, and re-energizing staff and volunteers. He’s done so much, and I can’t express my appreciation and gratitude enough for his leadership, support and dedication.

We’re excited about the future of AFP with Mike leading us, and I hope you are too. If you have any questions about the search process, don’t hesitate to let me know.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Time to Act is NOW!

I’ve been talking a lot about public policy throughout 2017, pointing to later in the year when a couple of key moments in the U.S. and Canada were going to occur.

Those moments are now. And your action is needed!

In the U.S., a tax reform bill has finally been introduced, something we’ve been waiting for all year. The plan, called the GOP Tax Reform Framework, isn’t great news for charities. While the charitable deduction remains intact (one of the few deductions that does), the plan would likely lead to a reduction in giving because the standard deduction would be doubled. That change would cut the number of taxpayers who itemize (itemizers account for 82 percent of all giving) from 33 percent to just 5 percent—or in real numbers, a loss of 30 million itemizers!

Just how bad would the impact be? Research by the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and Independent Sector found that doubling the standard deduction would reduce giving by $13 billion annually. That figure represents a significant decrease—more than 6 percent of all individual giving—that would dramatically affect charitable program and services across the country.

Fortunately, there’s a solution: the universal charitable deduction. That same research shows that adding in a universal charitable deduction to the increased standard deduction results in increased giving of almost $5 billion. The powerful effect of the universal charitable deduction is enough to overcome any loss in giving when the standard deduction is doubled.

What can you do? Right now, Republican House leaders have set up a public survey to get basic feedback about the Framework. I urge every AFP member to go to the survey and submit your comments about concerns about the impact. Consider using a few of the talking points here.

It’s critical that our voice is heard while changes to the plan are still being considered. Please submit your comments today!

Meanwhile, in Canada, we are approaching our Day in the Ridings Event, where chapters across the country are going to meet with their Members of Parliament (MPs) in November. While we’ve been very active in Canada on specific federal and provincial issues, this is the first time we’ve ever held such a massive grassroots event.

I’ve been very excited to see the enthusiasm with which our chapters have been volunteering for this initiative. Toolkits and other materials are being prepared for each meeting, and chapters will be discussing a variety of issues with their MPs, as well as introducing themselves and offering to be a resource for legislation and policies related to fundraising and philanthropy.

If you are interested in participating, contact your chapter president and see how you can get involved. Many thanks go to the Canadian Government Relations Committee, and especially the chair Dan Brunette, for their work in putting the event together.

Fall is always an important time for fundraising, and this year it’s turning out to be doubly so with these important public policy moments. Whether you’re in the U.S. or Canada, I encourage you to participate so we can ensure that our laws and regulations support our work and the countless missions that our organizations represent.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Expanding our Diversity and Inclusion Resources

As the largest community of professional fundraisers in the world, our role is to bring people together and reflect the communities that we represent and serve every day.

It is, therefore, critical that AFP takes a leadership role in championing diversity, equity, and inclusion. One of the five key pillars of our new strategic plan for 2017 – 2019 affirms that we will promote inclusion. Two key strategic objectives within that pillar state that we will “engage diverse nonprofits and chapter leaders in creating an AFP vision and core principles for diversity and inclusion” and “create a welcoming environment for diverse fundraising professionals.”

A guiding principle in the strategic plan expounds that AFP will “work to address the needs of a diverse society [and] welcome and support a diversity of individuals and offer pathways for them to succeed.”

AFP’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee is working on three important projects that are going to the Board in October that will help strengthen our commitment to diversity and inclusion and expand the diversity resources and efforts of our chapters. These include:

  • Evaluating the current definition of diversity and inclusion at the national level and providing tools for chapters to define it in their communities.
  • Developing a chapter-to-chapter mentoring program focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  • Developing a survey designed to identify effective support services to chapters as they work on their diversity and inclusion initiatives. The results of this survey will be tabulated and presented, with recommendations of resources in accordance with member and chapter needs, to chapter and association leaders.

Giving our chapters—and then ultimately our members—tools to use in working on diversity is critical, especially when issues, approaches and programs may differ from region to region.

AFP also can exponentially enhance our diversity and inclusion work by collaborating with and learning from others. I’m proud to announce that we are now an official partner with Lean In, giving us access to programs and resources that help women develop critical skills and organizations to counteract gender bias.

AFP is also the first organization to take the ASAE’s (American Society of Association Executives) newly revised Association Inclusion Index to measure our diversity and inclusion efforts. We’ll be receiving an assessment from ASAE later this year and we will share the results with you through various avenues.

There’s much more to come as we move forward, as diversity and inclusion are an ever-evolving element of our work. AFP is committed, long-term, to ensuring that our profession is representative of the communities we serve and is welcoming and responsive to fundraisers of all backgrounds.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Charlottesville

I sent a message on Monday to all the AFP staff regarding the horrible news from Charlottesville. As the situation has continued to develop, I wanted to share that statement and expand on it for all of our members, partners and supporters.
Good afternoon, everyone. I hope that you had a good weekend. It obviously was a very eventful news cycle with the somber news coming from just down the road in Charlottesville. I want to be clear that individuals who preach hate and intolerance, like those seen in Charlottesville, will never be welcome at AFP. That repulsive stance has no place here. 
Our recently approved vision statement affirms that AFP will “stimulate a world of generosity and social good.” Per the strategic plan’s guiding principles, to help accomplish that goal, we will “welcome and support a diversity of individuals and offer pathways for them to succeed.”
As a staff team, we can take pride in our diversity, whether that be our ethnicity, orientation, background, political beliefs, etc. Our strength is that we all bring very different talents and perspectives to the table while accepting and embracing those differences. Our strength is that we are inclusive, not divisive.
The very core of fundraising is all about bringing people together, regardless of differences. Working together, we can better understand each other and through that understanding, make our communities and our world better places for all—even if we don’t agree on everything.

The role of AFP means that we have individual and organizational members representing causes that may be opposed to other missions. We draw membership from individuals across many spectrums who do not see eye-to-eye on numerous issues. But we disagree with respect and tolerance, because we know that philanthropy means working together and respecting every member of our society. This is an issue that rises beyond politics or partisanship and is not bound by geography. There is no room for hate or intolerance—anytime, anywhere.

AFP is firmly dedicated to the ideals of diversity and inclusion, and the worth and rights of every individual. Anything less is a failure of our profession and our sector.


Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Moving Fundraising Forward in the UK

Ann Hale
MA, CFRE
Chair, AFP
Special Guest Post 
Ann Hale, CFRE, Chair, AFP

I had the privilege of attending the Institute of Fundraising’s 2017 Fundraising Convention in London earlier this month. It was a wonderful conference, and you can read some of the highlights from the conference here.

There was an upbeat feel to the conference and attendees were very positive. However, it’s clear that a lot of fundraisers in the UK are still feeling the effects of the past two years and the relentless criticism of the profession and the sector (and a lot of it unfounded).  A popular theme was “it’s been a tough two years, but we’re moving forward and better for it in the end.”

I’d have to agree with them. If you’ve been following the work of the Commission on the Donor Experience, which was created in response to the controversies affecting the sector, you’ve probably seen some of the excellent work that’s come out of some very honest, sharp, insightful discussions about our profession and our responsibilities to our donors. Fundraising in the UK is going to be even more effective—and more responsive to donors—because of the Commission’s work, and there’s a lot that fundraisers around the world can learn from the tools and papers that have been developed. I encourage you to read the highlights of the Commission’s report, then look at the full resources on the SOFII website.

In several of the sessions, I was struck by how advanced charities in the UK are with regards to branding and marketing to the general public. One of the sessions mentioned a recent study in the UK which found that 80 percent of bequests left to charities were made by people the charity didn’t know! People in the UK seem to know and trust charity brands more than in North America, perhaps with the exception of the largest charities. I left the conference thinking that if my own organization could do more with our branding and marketing, merging it with our fundraising efforts, we would be more successful, especially with acquisition fundraising. One more item to put on my to-do list!

There was also a lot of focus on street fundraising, telemarketing and special events—raising many small gifts from many different people. It was interesting to see the differences in the types and numbers of sessions that were offered compared to the ones presented at a typical AFP conference, something which speaks to the unique experiences and strengths of fundraisers in different regions of the world.

On the other hand, there were a number of popular sessions that mirrored well-attended sessions at the AFP International Fundraising Conference. For example, sessions about ethics, building a culture of philanthropy, and storytelling were very popular. Another prevalent topic was change management—how we address and respond to changing donor attitudes and desires, and how we can better report the impact of our work and their contributions. Creating diversity in the profession and attracting a diverse workforce were also common themes.

The fundraising profession in the UK has experienced more than its fair share of turmoil lately, but is clearly on the way back up, thanks to the work of the Institute of Fundraising, the Commission and hundreds of committed fundraising and charity leaders. Their work over the last two years is a model for nonprofit sectors around the world, and I encourage everyone to see what the UK has done with the Commission and other projects.

Thanks to IoF’s president, Peter Lewis, its chair, Amanda Bringans, and everyone at the Institute for their great hospitality and an outstanding conference.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Summer Reading—For Work and Fun

Hi, everyone. I hope you’re having a great summer so far.

While fundraising rarely leaves much downtime anymore, summer is still a great time to catch up on reading, both professional and personal. I just finished up two books. The first is The Go Giver, which I recently re-read after it was initially loaned to me by AFP member Derek Fraser. It’s a short(er) “business” book about The Five Laws of Stratospheric Success, which are good principles to aspire to in all aspects of life. It espouses selflessness and connectivity. It’s definitely well worth your time. Thanks for the recommendation, Derek!

The second was Ride of Your Life, which is the memoir of Lyn St. James, the second woman to race in the Indy series (after Janet Guthrie and before Danica Patrick). I love racing, and not only is the book an inspiring read about the challenges she faced, but it also gets into the aspects of fundraising that she had to learn in order to obtain sponsorships and funding to run a team. St. James founded the Women in the Winner's Circle Foundation in 1994, a 501(c)(3) charity dedicated to professional development for talented, up-and-coming young women race car drivers.

If you’re looking for other things to read this summer, don’t forget that key groups have released a lot of great research about fundraising, giving, and volunteering. A few weeks ago, AFP released its latest Compensation and Benefits Report (U.S. and Canada data), and the Giving USA Foundation announcing the release of Giving USA 2017. During our International Fundraising Conference in May, both the Nonprofit Research Collaborative and the Fundraising Effectiveness Project published important new research about giving.

You might check out some fascinating studies about how generous donors are compared to how generous they think they are, giving trends by Millennial donors, and how charities are ignoring mid-level donors in their communications. You can also catch up on some interesting reads from Blackbaud and its latest npEXPERTS release on building a culture of philanthropy; and KCI’s latest Philanthropic Trends Quarterly on how much Canadians are giving.

Being a professional and a successful fundraiser means keeping up—and understanding—the latest research. We’re all busy, but it’s worthwhile to make the time to understand the dimensions of our profession and the sector we work in—why our donors give and respond to different types of messages and solicitations and where we should focus our efforts to get the best return on investment.
The research studies I mentioned above, and countless others, can provide insights into issues that can spell the difference between fundraising success and failure. Sometimes they might give us new ideas and innovations to consider—other times they may just reinforce what we already know and do.

Regardless, we aren’t fully serving our cause and the people who depend on us if we aren’t taking the time to keep up with new research, current trends, and other data that captures our ever-evolving profession.

What are you reading this summer, both personally and professionally, and what would you recommend to your AFP colleagues?