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?

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The State of Our Profession: Highlights from AFP’s Latest Compensation and Benefits Study

Today AFP is releasing its latest Compensation and Benefits Study, which covers data and trends in both the U.S. and Canada from 2016.

You’ll find a lot of great information that you can use for yourself and your organization, and there’s a lot more covered in the survey than just salaries.

I’m especially excited to see the slow but steady growth of respondents over the years who are coming directly into the fundraising profession from school or university (from 11 percent in 2005 to 20 percent last year). That trend demonstrates how our profession is evolving and becoming a viable and prized career opportunity by many young people, and that we have a solid educational base of information and skills necessary for an individual to start a career in fundraising.

I do remain concerned about the salary gap that both the U.S. and Canada figures continue to show. The difference in average salaries for men and women fundraisers this year was $12,000 in the U.S. and $14,000 in Canada.

The AFP Diversity and Inclusion Committee is looking at the salary gap issue and will be creating a working group to develop messages, talking points and actionable items that chapters and members can use in their communities and organization to help eliminate the salary gap for fundraisers. AFP will also be reaching out to our sister organizations and others in the nonprofit sector to see how we can work together. I also encourage you to read this very good article by Mark Pittman about “Gender Equality in Salaries Starts With Us.”

I’m encouraged that three-quarters of respondents believe that inclusiveness is a priority for their organizations. Large majorities of fundraisers in both countries also believe that fundraising is understood and valued in their organizations, and are confident that their organization’s fundraising is effective.

The survey shows a strong, dynamic, and vibrant fundraising profession. We have challenges to face, but do so armed with much optimism about the future and the impact we can have.

I urge all of you to download the main survey here (free of charge), read the overviews at the beginning of the report (a lot of great information there), and use the charts and tables to help you plot your career moving forward. There also are detailed mini-reports you can buy that focus on specific job titles as well.

As always, let me know if you have any thoughts or comments you wish to share with me!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

San Francisco 2017: A Community United, Inspired and Engaged

I’m always excited after one of our International Fundraising Conferences, but San Francisco felt special this year. We were blessed with great weather, some tremendous educational sessions and two outstanding keynote speakers Shiza Shahid and Cleve Jones, who both reinvigorated us with their endless energy and unwavering spirit and left us feeling inspired about the work of fundraising and philanthropy.

Hearing Cleve end the conference with his call to action (“It’s never over!”) was incredibly moving (I’m not sure if there was a dry eye left in the room) and one the highlights for me. So was getting to meet Archer Hadley, our CARTER Outstanding Youth Philanthropist (and a fellow Texas Longhorn as well!), who gave an impassioned speech while accepting his honor.

You can read more about the conference and all the things that happened in San Francisco here, here and here!

There was such a strong sense of community everywhere you went throughout the conference and around San Francisco, a sense of togetherness that we want AFP to represent. It was great getting to meet everyone, and thank you to those of you who came up to me, said hi and talked about AFP and your conference experience. There are so many diverse and amazing voices in our AFP community, and I learned a lot with each conversation.

I couldn’t meet everyone, of course, but the conference app helped fill that gap and strengthened connections and engagement during the event. Attendees weren’t just keeping us filled in on what they were learning and experiencing at the conference, but keeping up updated on their adventures out on the streets and everywhere they went in the city. It made for a richer and more engaging experience.

We also had more young people attend the conference than we have had in the past. We have offered the Young Professional membership rate for a few years now, and we’re seeing more people enter the profession while still in college or right after graduation. Those factors are encouraging younger fundraisers to attend, and it’s given the conference a much different feel and energy.

This year, we also started a modest mentoring program to link International Fundraising Conference ambassadors (individuals who’ve attended at least 10 previous AFP conferences) with AFP young professional members. We encouraged all mentors and mentees to connect at least once before the conference, and at least once on-site in San Francisco. We’ve received a lot of positive feedback about the program and may try to expand it in future years.

We also had some great delegations and attendees from around the world—33 different countries were represented at the conference in total. Hearing their experiences and challenges—and seeing the commonalities that we all face (as well as the triumphs and victories we can all appreciate)—demonstrates how connected and united the profession truly is.

There’s nothing like being a part of nearly 4,000 fundraisers, gathered together for three days of networking, sharing and learning. If you didn’t make it to San Francisco, I hope you’ll get a chance to join in us New Orleans, April 15 – 17. You’ll leave inspired and reinvigorated about your place in the fundraising community and the work you do every day that makes such a difference in the world.