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.