Wednesday, September 19, 2018

AFP Canada: Committed to Long-Term Growth and Success

By AFP Chair Ann Hale, CFRE and AFP President and CEO Mike Geiger, MBA, CPA

Earlier this year, we attended the Canadian Leadership Retreat in Edmonton and came away so impressed by the progress that has been made in such a short time. It was just over a year ago that we changed the course of our community and of the fundraising profession in Canada with the creation of AFP Canada.

AFP Canada was the realization of several years of thinking and consideration as to how AFP could best serve the fundraising profession across the country. A lot of tough, but important questions were asked: What is AFP in Canada? Is AFP the best voice for the profession in the country? How important is it that the fundraising profession in Canada be connected to a larger community of fundraisers around the world?

The association heard from members and chapters from coast to coast on these questions and many more. The result of that very deliberate process and debate led to the creation of AFP Canada and the AFP Canada Board, chaired by Scott Decksheimer, CFRE. Following that was the creation of several committees to guide our work in Canada, and then shortly after, the hiring of Lisa Davey as AFP’s new vice president for Canada.

AFP has gained so much new momentum in Canada now, and between the AFP Canada Board and the AFP Foundation for Philanthropy – Canada, we are poised to have great and lasting impact. We are grateful to the work of everyone involved on the board and the foundation, as well as to our chapter presidents and to all our members who provided input throughout this process.

AFP is still evolving in Canada, and how we operate in a few years may look differently than how we operate now. But we want every member of AFP in Canada—and everyone in the fundraising profession—to know that we are committed to the long-term growth and success of AFP and fundraising in the country.

AFP Canada will have its unique systems and operations—how can it not, working in a country with such a vibrant and varied culture and so many different voices and customs? We are excited about the development of the AFP in Canada Strategic Plan that, although under the umbrella of the AFP International Strategic Plan, is unique to the country.

That is the sort of relationship we envision, with AFP International working with AFP Canada to set goals and create programs that reflect the global fundraising profession’s needs and challenges but are tailored to the Canadian experience and environment. At the same time, we will continue to learn from each other. We are all part of the AFP global community, and we all gain strength, understanding, knowledge and perspective from those connections.

In an increasingly inter-connected world, we see more clearly that the challenges of one country are often similar and/or related to those of another country. But together, as one global community, we can address and overcome these challenges, even as we work to advance fundraising and philanthropy in our own areas.

Thank you for being a member of AFP and for your commitment to ethical fundraising. We’re excited to work with all of you as we move forward into the future.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Changing Our Culture, One Step at a Time

One of the things I’m committed to at AFP is change. If you are not changing, odds are, you are falling behind.

Ever since I came to AFP, we’ve been going through a whole process of change—reviewing everything we do, every program we offer and every resource we provide.

Some of these changes will be more obvious and affect some of our well-known programs, such as the new website we’ll be unveiling later this Fall. We’re also in the process of revamping our entire educational programming—you may have seen our recent Request for Proposals for new educational ideas and content. You’ll also see a lot of changes to our upcoming Leadership Academy in Toronto and our 2019 ICON (International Conference on Fundraising) in San Antonio.

Other changes may not be so obvious but are just as important. Recently we just changed policies regarding our employment process. When we post jobs at AFP, we will always be including the salary range for the position. For applicants, we will no longer ask for salary requirements and will begin accepting work or other appropriate experience instead of a college degree.

I’ve also just instituted, through an outside firm, an anonymous staff hotline for reporting violations of conduct at AFP. The purpose of this service is to ensure that any employee wishing to submit an incident report can do so anonymously and without fear of retribution. Any reported incidents will not be sent to me, but to two board members, Scott Decksheimer, CFRE and Vivian Ann Smith, CFRE, for further investigation.

I want AFP to be an effective, innovative, ground-breaking and future-looking organization, with its work grounded in a culture that incorporates the values that we all share: transparency, integrity, respect, cooperation, equity, inclusion and many more. We need to demonstrate our values and principles in everything we do, whether it’s putting on the largest conference of fundraising professionals in the world or having a one-on-one phone call with a member.

If you ever feel like we’re not living up to these values and principles, let me know! I want to hear from you. We might disagree, but I’ll always listen and then explain our views and why we’re doing what we’re doing.

This is how the best organizations move forward—listening, talking, debating and changing. This is the kind of organization and community I want AFP to be. Thanks for being part of it, and let us know how we can best serve you.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Delving Into the Latest Salary Figures: The Profession Moves Forward Slowly

A few weeks ago, AFP released its 2018 Compensation and Benefits Report, examining salaries and other job benefits from 2017. I hope you’ve had a chance to download your free copy if you’re an AFP member.  If not, you can purchase it here. It’s a great tool to use in your salary negotiations and looking ahead to where you want to be in the profession in the future.

Overall, we saw a decent year, with salaries increasing, on average, by 11 percent in the U.S. and by 16 percent in Canada. While our survey sample is a random group of members every year, a jump that large signals a general increase for the profession.

Of course, very high salary increases at one end can make the individual gains look stronger than they actually are. With nearly 70 percent of fundraisers in the U.S. (and 75 percent in Canada) only seeing salary increases keeping up with inflation, it’s clear that the strong increases were not across the board.

A better metric to consider is the median salary (that is, the middle figure in all of the salaries), which came in at $67,000. This is an increase from the median of $65,000 that we’ve generally seen in previous surveys.

So again, more evidence of the profession slowly moving forward on salaries.

Other interesting data: The number of years per employer (the turnover rate) increased slightly to 4.3 years. We also found that respondents averaged 4.7 years at their current employers, while 6.2 years is the average for the longest time at any organization.

Now, it’s always good to have stability in the job market for the fundraising profession, and I want to see all those numbers higher. But 4.3 years was the average for the U.S. across all professions, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. I’m not seeing a fundraising profession that is markedly different from other industries.

Do we have important concerns? Of course, such as the upcoming leadership gap resulting from Baby Boomers continuing to retire, leaving a void in nonprofit leadership without a clear and consistent pipeline of qualified up-and-comers to take their place. But I think our challenges flow more out of that issue than any job-hopping unique to the profession. This is a critical area that AFP has begun to focus on: helping our members prepare for further advancement within the field.

Finally, the gender salary gap. Again, salaries for male fundraisers averaged $20,000 more than those of their female counterparts. But beyond that, we don’t know a lot more—does the gap emerge at certain times during a typical career? Are there particular factors or characteristics that either exacerbate or alleviate this gap?

Because of the relatively few number of male responses in each survey, digging deeper into the data is difficult. This is another area where AFP is going to do more work.  We are planning to go back and conduct detailed statistical analysis on the data from our last several Compensation and Benefit Reports.  Through this process, we can begin to learn where we need to focus our efforts on closing the gender salary gap.

We plan to have this analysis ready by the end of the year. Until then, I hope you find the Report useful as a guide for looking at your own career and ensuring you are compensated appropriately for the amazing work you do every day. Thank you for all you do and for letting AFP be there by your side!

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Overall Giving Increases but Challenges Remain

If you haven’t seen the latest Giving USA 2018 numbers covering giving in 2017, I encourage you to look over the materials here (and remember that AFP members get a 20% discount on all Giving USA 2018 materials—you can find the code here behind the member wall).

There’s a lot of positive news from the report with overall giving increasing by more than five percent in 2017 to an estimated $410 billion. Almost every major category of giving that the study tracks increased; the lone exception was giving to international causes, which dropped by 4.4 percent. But beyond the big giving numbers, there are a few trends that are worth highlighting.

First, total giving remains at about two percent of the US. Gross Domestic Product. Historically, giving as a percentage of GDP has hovered in the 1.8 – 2.2 percent range. So, while the growth in giving was strong, we are still fundraising in essentially the same kind of environment we have been for the past several decades.

Second, the growth in major gifts and even mega-gifts (which Giving USA 2018 defined as more than $300 million) continues unabated. That’s very positive—if you have a strong major gifts program. At the same time, the report notes that individual household giving has decreased over the years. Sum it all up, and we’re continuing to see the trend of fewer donors giving more money to charity.

Third, more giving is occurring through vehicles where the money won’t necessarily be used immediately. The biggest increase was giving to foundations, which rose by more than 15 percent. Combine that with the five percent growth in giving to public-society benefit charities, which includes donor-advised funds, and that’s a fair number of funds being left for future years. In a recent presentation, Aggie Sweeney, chair of Giving USA Foundation, said that “at least twelve percent of giving in 2017 did not go out to nonprofits providing direct services.”

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. As a CPA and a planning fanatic, I believe in having funds set aside for the future or “rainy days,” and giving to any sort of charitable entity is a positive thing. But fundraisers need to understand how the growing prevalence of vehicles like donor-advised funds is affecting the actual flow of gifts to charities.

Finally, what about the impact of the new tax law on giving? Based on what happened with other major tax law changes in the past, we may not see the full impact (positive, negative or otherwise) for a couple of years. It may take donors, financial advisors and charities a while to get used to changes and understand how best to move forward. But one trend to look out for is bundling, whereby donors choose to combine all of their charitable giving into one year, as opposed to spreading out their gifts over two or more years.

Why would donors bundle their gifts? By bundling, their combined giving will exceed the newly doubled standard deduction, allowing them to itemize and take advantage of the charitable deduction. The big downside is that in years donors don’t bundle, they won’t give (or likely not give as much), which will make it very difficult for charities to raise funds and plan programs consistently.

The new Giving USA 2018 study has some great data and demonstrates how giving and the philanthropic sector continue to grow. But the results should also give us pause and remind us to prepare for some potentially significant changes over the next couple of years. Focusing on donor retention and stewardship will be key for many organizations, and our fundraising skills and experience will be critical for success. I encourage you to rely on your AFP networks and community for inspiration, ideas, programs and camaraderie you’ll need to meet your goals and inspire donors to create extraordinary impact in 2018 and beyond.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Our Ethics Process

Over the past several months, we've heard horrible and reprehensible news about the treatment of charity employees and workers—for example, the UK President's Club scandal and the recent revelations at the Silicon Valley Community Foundation.

There is no question that we must have a zero-tolerance policy for harassment of all types in our organizations. That means putting our principles and values into action and not turning a blind eye to these incidents. We have an obligation to see that everyone is treated fairly, beginning with a presumption of innocence, and that ultimately justice is done with appropriate consequences for those who have violated AFP's Code of Ethics.

It is critical that our process be fair and impartial. We cannot rush to judgment, no matter how seemingly clear the allegations may appear. Above all, we must respect the confidentiality and privacy of all involved.

The AFP Code of Ethics and the complementary enforcement procedures were designed to respond to situations when donors, organizations, our profession or our entire philanthropic system is hurt and/or jeopardized by the actions of an AFP member. Our ethics enforcement process was created to express our commitment to ethics while ensuring every member's right to a fair, impartial and confidential hearing and judgment process.

So, what exactly are AFP's enforcement policies and procedures when a member is accused of violating our Code of Ethics?

First, our enforcement procedures only apply to AFP members. While this might seem obvious, it is a question we are asked from time to time.

Second, anyone (AFP member or non-member) can file a complaint against a current member concerning possible violations of the AFP Code of Ethics. A complaint must be in writing, preferably on our "Complaint of Ethic’s Violation" form.

Third, once a complaint is filed, the President’s Office determines whether the complaint is viable and contains sufficient and reliable information. If the complaint is viable and actionable, the matter is referred to the AFP Ethics Committee. It is worth noting that, in accordance with the enforcement procedures, we defer any action on an ethics complaint if a legal proceeding has commenced or is pending with regards to the subject matter of a complaint. We may also refer matters to federal, provincial, state or local government agencies if appropriate.

Finally, it is critical to understand that this entire process is completely confidential, known only to myself, our General Counsel and members of the AFP Ethics Committee. We cannot (and will not) divulge to anyone outside of this group whether or not a complaint has been filed against a member, a member is currently under an ethics investigation, or the final outcome of an investigation. The only exception is in the case of permanent revocation of membership, in which case this is made public on our website and in our Advancing Philanthropy magazine.

It is important to note that the overriding goal of our enforcement procedures is to educate members, and alter behavior, not to punish. We sometimes find that the Code is breached inadvertently, and in many cases, the situation is remedied and addressed in good faith quickly with processes implemented to prevent future issues.

However, we have come across situations where the breach was egregious, or the individual refused to acknowledge or remedy the issue. At that point, the Ethics Committee will consider disciplinary action. There are four actions that the committee can take:
  1. Reprimand: a formal rebuke by the committee in writing addressed to the member.
  2. Censure: a more serious rebuke in writing that prohibits the participation in AFP-sanctioned activity for one year.
  3. Suspension: a suspension of AFP membership and prohibition of participation in AFP-sanctioned activity for a period determined by the committee.
  4. Revocation of Membership: the permanent revocation of membership and permanent prohibition of participation in AFP-sanctioned activity. Again, this sanction is made public. 
You can learn more about our ethics enforcement policy here, including how to file a complaint.

I hope I've made clear how and when AFP handles ethics complaints. As you see, this is a very thorough and rigorous process that we take extremely seriously and consider to be a critical aspect of protecting all involved in the philanthropic sector. Regardless if you are an AFP member or not, we encourage everyone to adopt this Code of Ethics as their basis for all daily interactions.

If you have any questions, I encourage you to contact me directly ( or Jason Lee, AFP’s General Counsel (

Thank you for your dedication to an ethical fundraising profession.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Our Values

On Monday, I was attending the AFP Mid-America Conference in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, when someone mentioned to me an article critical of our recent sexual harassment survey and its findings. I finally got the chance to read the article, which referred to our survey (conducted by the well-known firm Harris Polling in partnership with The Chronicle of Philanthropy) as "sensationalized rubbish" and a "self-serving, hogwash survey."

I encourage members to decide on their own whether our survey, which found that 25 percent of all female fundraisers and 7 percent of male fundraisers have been sexually harassed, is "sensationalized rubbish." I encourage members to decide on their own whether our focus on ethics is wrong and outdated.

Rather than address the article point-by-point, here's my big-picture perspective:

The nonprofit sector is a big space with room for lots of different opinions, approaches and perspectives. Not everyone is going to agree with everything AFP does, or even stands for. Sometimes people will publicly criticize AFP, and that's okay.

AFP encourages differing opinions and even pointed criticism. We can learn much from criticism and different perspectives that will make our programs and services more inclusive and effective.

But we will always take a stand for what we believe in—the core values and principles of our fundraising community.

AFP believes unequivocally that sexual harassment is a serious issue in the profession. We're committed to confronting it head-on, along with other equally critical issues, such as salary inequities and the lack of women in senior leadership positions.

AFP believes in the importance of certification, such as the internationally recognized ACFRE and CFRE. It is imperative that we demonstrate to the general public that fundraisers possess the skills and knowledge necessary to be effective professionals for their organizations.

AFP believes that the long-standing value that members have placed on ethics—evidenced by the popular usage of our Code of Ethics and The Donor Bill of Rights—means that fundraisers view our focus on ethics to be highly relevant and important to their daily work.

I think change and innovation are key hallmarks of all thriving professions and organizations. While AFP's programs and services adapt continuously to the shifting fundraising landscape, we will never change or compromise our values.

AFP stands for ethics, best practices, diversity, inclusion, innovation and tolerance. You can see that reflected in our Women's Impact Initiative, our focus on ethical and effective fundraising, and our work in championing the profession.

We always need to be tolerant of different voices. Diverse viewpoints challenge our way of thinking, encouraging us to either make change or reaffirm our existing commitments.

Whether or not you are a member or supporter of AFP, thank you for your service as a fundraiser to communities around the world, and for your dedication to an ethical, effective and inclusive fundraising profession.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The Women's Impact Initiative

On March 8, AFP celebrated International Women’s Day by launching its new Women’s Impact Initiative, or WII. The Initiative is AFP’s response to a series of issues around the role of women in fundraising, including gender inequity, sexual harassment, and implicit bias.

Despite women representing approximately 70% of the fundraising profession, we estimate that barely a third are in leadership position. We see salaries for women that are consistently $15,000 - $20,000 behind those of our male colleagues. And there are so many stories about harassment—sexual or otherwise—from bosses, colleagues, board members and donors that go back many years.

The goal of the Initiative is to provide skills and training so that fair and equitable salaries can be negotiated; to provide resources to create workplaces that are against harassment in all its forms; and develop mentoring programs, as well as research and other services, that can break barriers and create new opportunities for women.

We’re already well underway. We’ve held town hall webinars (in which registrations filled up in a day and a half) and created a new website and hashtag (#WIILead). Next week, we will be releasing our first major project under the initiative: a comprehensive survey of sexual harassment in the profession conducted in partnership with The Chronicle of Philanthropy.

We are also identifying and working with partnering organizations who can bring their own perspectives and resources to the initiative. On the WII website, you’ll find a great resource from DonorPerfect, “The Nonprofit Leadership Workbook for Women.” The handbook contains tried-and-true advice, best practices, and valuable exercises to equip and inspire you to pursue leadership positions within your organization. There are also free online courses you can take through Catalyst covering topics like Unconscious Bias: From Awareness to Action, Communication Skills for Bridging Divides and Becoming a Successful Leader (Inclusive Leadership Training).

I also encourage you to use the discussion groups we have set up for WII. It’s an opportunity to ask questions or share your thoughts and perspectives. What have you or organization done to make progress on this issue? What are some shining examples of organizations doing equity well?  We want to hear from you!

As the community for the fundraising profession, AFP needs to take a leadership role in addressing these critical issues. But we’re not going to do it all at once—this is a long-term project. And we’re not going to do it alone. It’s so critical that we listen to, and WII encompasses, so many different perspectives and ideas.

Our function as fundraisers and charities is to highlight important topics and educate the public about them. Equity, leadership, harassment—these issues are as important as any we will ever raise funds for in our career. They affect every one of us, and I hope you’ll join us as we begin these important first steps in addressing these critical issues.