Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Thank You

I know it’s your busiest time of the year. I know you’re probably stressed about reaching your goal. I know your mind is probably buzzing with the thousands of things you need to do before the end of the year, whether it’s touching base with that major donor or editing the thank-you letters ONE MORE TIME!

But I hope you’ll take a moment and let me say this to you.

Thank you.

What you are doing is fundamental to our society. What you are doing is making a huge difference—not only in your geographical, local community, but in countless other communities that are affected, directly or indirectly, by your work. What you are doing is changing the world—one gift, one person, one moment at a time.

Thank you.

Because, not everyone can do what you do. Not everyone can get rejected (a lot!) and still be positive about your mission. Not everyone can deal with a board, volunteers, major donors, your colleagues, staff and your boss, all at the same time, while trying to make goal. Not everyone can inspire others and give off such confidence while inside you’re bubbling with stress and concern over a thousand little details.

We know, so thank you!

You adhere to the highest ethical standards: AFP’s valued and respected Code of Ethics.

You work hard to be a better fundraiser every day, taking advantage of continuing education and training.

You give back to the profession, whether through teaching, mentoring, or giving of your time and treasure.

You are dedicated to your cause, and to the cause of ethical and effective fundraising.

Thank you for hearing the call and being a servant of philanthropy. Thank you for being part of the AFP community and helping us advance the profession.

All of us at AFP wish you the best of luck in your year-end fundraising and a very merry holiday season and happy New Year. We look forward to serving you in 2018.

And since we can’t say it enough—Thank You!

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Chapter Visits: Understanding the Fabric of our Community

In previous organizations, I’ve visited local chapters or affiliates before. I believe it’s critical for leadership to be in constant touch with local members and understand first-hand the challenges and opportunities they are facing. For me, it’s about understanding the fabric of an organization and why it really matters to members. Plus, it’s fun to meet new faces and get to know members one-on-one.

But I have to tell you, nothing prepared for me for my first chapter visit to Toronto for the AFP Toronto Congress. Wow! It was an amazing conference, superbly put on and filled with so many interesting and insightful presentations. Thank you to Krishan Mehta and all the chapter leadership for inviting me.

But it was the people who really shined. I met so many fundraisers with so many fascinating and inspiring stories of why they got involved in the profession, or challenges their organizations has overcome, or donors and constituents who’ve made such a difference in their communities. Hearing each person’s story, and the impact their cause is creating, was so moving—I’m excited to be a part of this incredible community.

I have to believe, with all due respect to the Toronto Chapter, that it’s like this in every chapter we have. The excitement of being together, the pride you take in your jobs, the inspiration you provide to each other—I’m looking forward to visiting all of you, getting to know you better, and hearing how AFP can best serve you and the profession.

Chapters and their members are the heart of our association—the true fabric of our community. I’m committed to ensuring that you have the tools and resources to be successful. When our chapters are successful, AFP is successful, and that leads to the continued success of our profession, our ultimate goal.

I won’t get to every chapter in my first year, but I hope that I’ll see a lot of you at events like our International Fundraising Conference (ICON 2018) in New Orleans, April 15 – 17, and Leadership Academy in Toronto in October. And please know that I’m always happy to meet you via email or social media. Feel free to email me or follow me (and say hi!) on Twitter at @AFPMikeGeiger.

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
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


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
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.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Something for Everyone: The AFP International Fundraising Conference

A conference has many aspects—from education and innovation, to networking and community, to inspiration and reinvigoration. And the AFP International Fundraising Conference this year, presented by Blackbaud and coming up in just a few days in San Francisco, April 30 – May 2, has whatever you’re looking for in a fundraising conference…and more!

You want education and innovation? How about more than 100 educational sessions and workshops covering almost every conceivable aspect of fundraising? We have presentations covering the new philanthropic landscape and how new generations of donors—and cutting-edge technology—is changing the work you do every day. Plus, even if you are interested in fundraising basics, you won’t find the same old stuff, but sessions that analyze and identify what’s really working in the profession and what isn’t. Expect to come back from San Francisco with a myriad of ideas that you can immediately put to use in your own organization.

Need a chance to unwind, clear your mind and remember why you got involved in fundraising in the first place? You are going to hear from two amazing keynote speakers, Shiza Shahid and Cleve Jones. They are going to leave you excited and inspired about the change we make possible. You’re going to hear from some extraordinary honorees, like our CARTER Outstanding Youth in Philanthropist Archer Hadley and our CCS Outstanding Fundraising Professional Barb Coury, who will move you and raise your spirits about the future of fundraising and what we can accomplish together.

Want to meet new people, get different perspectives and feel like you are part of something bigger? Then you will want to take full advantage of the networking opportunities available at the conference. You can make great connections at local events, of course. But the breadth of people you can meet at the International Fundraising Conference—from across North America and around the world—is something you can’t find anywhere else. You’ll walk into the Marketplace with over a thousand of your colleagues, and it will hit you—you are part of an amazing community, and everyone around you understands your challenges and appreciates your accomplishments.

There’s even more. We’ll be holding a public policy panel during the Tuesday General Session, exploring the challenges fundraising and philanthropy face from governments in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. There are also great opportunities to support the AFP Foundations for Philanthropy—including our Chamberlain Step Challenge.

We’ll be sharing it all with each other through social media. Be sure to Tweet what you’re learning using #afpfc, @afpihq and @afpeeps. That’s also a great way to keep up with the conference if you can’t attend.

I love when our community comes together. It’s a time for innovation, exploration, inspiration and participation. I look forward to seeing everyone there and celebrating the profession and everything we make possible.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Women's History Month Reflections: We've Come a Long Way...and We Still Have a Long Way to Go

March is Women’s History Month, and like many of you, we’ve been reflecting on women in the fundraising profession, and the challenges and opportunities we face. We’ve come a long way, though we still have a long way to go.

Ann Hale
Chair, AFP
Seventy-five percent of AFP’s members, or three out of four, are female. That’s roughly 25,000 women who, simply put, have chosen to pursue the greatest profession in the world. We are leaders, from Vienna to Vancouver, who’ve made the decision to become part of something much larger than ourselves. We are advancing our organizations’ many amazing missions by learning from philanthropy agent peers, joining with those peers to promote the social impact sector, and pursuing professional development opportunities to advance our knowledge base and our careers.

As women, becoming a sector leader can present major challenges. We know this from the research, and from personal experience. Both of us have served in the fundraising profession and nonprofit sector for more than 20 years, and we have each been fortunate enough to work with many sector leaders—women and men alike—who have nurtured and encouraged our growth.

Martha Schumacher
Chair-Elect, AFP
However, as is the case with many of our female peers, we have experienced some significant exceptions. For example, early in our careers, we both had the experience of being made to feel under-valued and/or disrespected by some of our male colleagues and donors, simply because we were young and female.

At other moments in our journeys, we worked with a few select male peers who didn’t publicly recognize our efforts or even took credit for them; or we were told in no uncertain terms that the salary cap for a position was non-negotiable, a statement we didn’t challenge because we didn’t think we could or should. These are just a few examples we imagine will sound familiar to many fellow women fundraisers.

Last year, the American Association of University Women (AAUW) released a comprehensive report about the status of women in leadership in all sectors. You can see a two-page infographic here and visit the website to order the full report for free. Here are a few highlights:
  • Women make up over half the U.S. population, yet represent less than 30% of executive positions
  • Women of color make up less than 5% of executive positions in the United States
  • Women make up more than half of college graduates and represent half of the labor force, yet are significantly underrepresented at the senior and executive levels
AAUW also recently came out with updated information on the gender pay gap: Women in the U.S. earn just 80 cents on the dollar in the same jobs as men, and the pay gap is not expected to close until 2152. That’s right: 135 years from now!

Our neighbors in Canada have an even greater challenge: as of 2016, women there earned approximately 72 cents on the dollar relative to men, which equates to $8,000 less per year than men doing an equivalent job – nearly double the global average!

Just as AFP’s membership is made up of 75% women, the social impact sector workforce is also 75% female. While 45% of top positions in nonprofits are held by women, when this data is overlaid with the 75% figure, the gender leadership ratio is not tracking apace.

What does this all mean for the social impact sector? And more specifically, what does it mean for women who are fundraisers and philanthropy agents, aspiring to become leaders in their own organizations—to someday command roles at the director, vice president and CEO levels?

Organizations such as the Canadian Women’s Foundation, AAUW and the Nonprofit Hub provide many excellent recommendations on how to most effectively close the gender leadership and pay gaps. Here are a few of the strategies we recommend, especially relevant for women who are newer to the workforce:

1) Ask and Ye Shall Receive. Sound familiar? As fundraisers, we are often fiercely courageous when it comes to asking for a philanthropic gift on behalf of our crucial mission. Asking for a raise? Not so much. Whether you are a fan of Lean In or not, it’s hard to argue with one of Sheryl Sandberg’s simplest yet most crucial points: if you don’t ask for more money, you won’t get it. Major Gift Officers, take note!

2) Record and Discuss Your Aspirations. Do you have career goals mapped out for the next three, five and ten-plus years? Have you shared these aspirations with your colleagues, your mentor, your supervisor and your partner/spouse? Setting career goals may be challenging, however, not setting them can result in missed opportunities and unrealized dreams. Here’s a helpful article.

3) Seek Out Leadership Positions—At Your Workplace and in Your Volunteer Life. Regardless of your position title, make it known that you are looking for leadership opportunities on the job. Also, never forget that, ultimately, being a great leader isn’t about the title. In your volunteer life, seek out your favorite local organization and volunteer there – for an event, on a committee, or perhaps on their Board of Directors. Also, we would be remiss if we didn’t suggest that you consider volunteering for your local AFP chapter and/or AFP International! 

Again, these suggestions are a starting point for reflection and discussion, particularly for female professionals newer to the workforce and to our profession. There are myriad ways to broach the challenges for women in leadership positions and the gender wage divide, and the conversation must involve and engage all genders working together to address them. While tremendous progress has been made over the past few decades, there is still so much to be done from a gender politics, leadership opportunity and compensation equity standpoint.

In closing, we’d like to leave you with a quote from Ann Saddlemyer, a renowned Canadian scholar and Guggenheim Fellow: "Don't ever let anyone tell you that you cannot go through a particular door. Always be prepared to go through a door that leads to your goal."

Ann Hale, MA, CFRE
Chair, AFP

Martha Schumacher, CFRE, ACFRE, MInstF (AD)
Chair-Elect, AFP

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Women's History Month

Women have had a profound effect on the fundraising profession. Countless women have held and continue to hold leadership positions in the AFP community, from chapter presidents to chairs of our international association and various foundations. Our profession would look very different without the contributions of female fundraisers—from leading development directors and CEOs to ground-breaking consultants, authors, researchers and many more.

My own leadership style reflects what I've learned from working for leaders such as former U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee. And, of course, I take many of my cues as the interim President & CEO of AFP from my time working for our former President & CEO, Paulette Maehara. But perhaps most importantly, I am grateful for strong women leaders as role models for my eight- and nine-year old daughters.

That’s why I found the timing of our article about men in fundraising on International Women's Day to be so egregious. It is why I issued this apology immediately. Although the timing of the article's re-publication was inadvertent, it still has a negative impact. At a time when AFP is finalizing its new strategic plan with an emphasis on diversity and inclusion, the timing of the article unintentionally diminished the significance of the historic day and made AFP appear out of touch. For those reasons and many others, I am sorry for the timing and appearance of the article.

I want to assure you that AFP and I truly recognize and embrace the intrinsic value of women in the profession, and I hope you’ll give us a chance to demonstrate and prove our commitment in the weeks and months to follow. We will be examining pertinent issues within the profession—such as the gender salary gap and why are there fewer women in senior development and nonprofit leadership positions—as well as celebrating the impact of women in fundraising.

AFP’s role is to be a leader in the field, and that leadership means we need to be doing a better job of advocating for all groups and demographics within our profession, including women. Women’s History Month is the time when we should remind everyone of the impact of women’s work, particularly in fundraising and philanthropy, as well as the barriers that still exist to full equality. We’ll be doing that throughout the rest of the month. And we will continue to explore these and other issues—and not just in March, but throughout the year—to ensure that the great diversity of voices within AFP are heard, respected and celebrated.

I would love to hear from you regarding these issues. How can AFP be a better advocate for women and other groups within our membership? And what issues would you like to see us address? Email me at

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Recap: 100 Year of Giving DC Fly-In Day

We thank the many AFP members who traveled from all over the country to attend the Feb. 16, 2017 Charitable Giving Coalition Fly-In on Capitol Hill. Your efforts are so appreciated, and you contributed to a phenomenally successful event. Chris Griffin, AFP’s coordinator for professional advancement, generously volunteered to attend the Hill event, hosted by the coalition (which AFP chairs), to raise awareness of the importance of philanthropy and the charitable deduction. Here’s his report:

Overall, it was a pretty amazing experience. I would suggest everyone make an opportunity to go to Capitol Hill whenever you’re able. As you’re meeting with members of Congress and their staff, you can’t help but think that you’re witnessing history and making actual impact.

The Wednesday night before the event, we had a dinner and training on the Hill with everyone who had flown in from across the U.S. Art Taylor of the Wise Giving Alliance sponsored dinner and Jason, in his role as Chair of the Charitable Giving Alliance, gave opening remarks and thanked The Philanthropy Roundtable for generously supporting the event. Sandra Swirski of the Alliance for Charitable Reform and her team provided an overview of the event and answered questions. We were then given talking points, summarizing some of the issues we would be addressing the next day.

The big issue comes down to this: the amount given by individuals last year added up to $265 billion, and eighty percent of that comes from taxpayers who are taking itemized deductions. One possibility for tax reform is increasing the standard deduction to the point that there would be no incentive for many people to itemize and donate (critical, since the charitable deduction is an itemized deduction). Such a change could cause the charitable sector to lose billions of dollars! There are other changes that would affect itemized deductions that could lead to a drop in giving in the range $9 – 13 billion or more.

Participants in the Fly-In Day were divided into groups by state so we would meet with the representatives of that state.  Our group had Virginia due to our local ties, and we met with two Members of Congress and several staff members.

In each office, we introduced ourselves and explained our connection to Virginia.  We first met with Congresswoman Comstock who assured us she was in favor of the current charitable deduction and her first priority was “to do no harm.” The Congresswoman represents Jason’s neighborhood, and he thanked her for signing a letter commending the local elementary school’s “tech ambassadors,” a group that included Jason’s oldest daughter.

We then met with a legislative aide for Senator Warner who told us that the Senator appreciated our concerns, but she wasn’t sure when actual decisions would be made about tax reform. This sense was echoed by staffers for Senator Tim Kaine, who also asked us for stories about impact that would help the Senator make the case, and by Congressman Dave Brat’s legislative director. (At one point, we noticed Congressman Brat’s office had a special refrigerator just for hummus that we all eyed hungrily. Jason, we need this at AFP!)

The day concluded with a meeting with Congressman Don Beyer. He gave Jason some inside scoop on the space program (Mars in 2030—you heard it here first!), and then talked about each of our organizations and how he related to each one—no small feat given that we represented the Nature Conservancy, Capital Hospice, Salvation Army, Cancer Research and AFP.  It was a great end to the day.

The Fly-In Day was a big success, but it’s just the beginning of our work this year. While my focus is on professional training and continuing education, being on Capitol Hill made me realize just what’s at stake and how passionate all of you—our members—are about the work you do. Please stay involved, and I know Jason will be asking for your engagement later this year as we see tax reform plans officially introduced.

Read the official press release about the event from the Charitable Giving Coalition here.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Togetherness, the Foundation of Philanthropy

Fundraising professionals reflect the diversity of the communities we serve. We work to address the needs of a diverse society. We welcome and support a diversity of individuals and offer pathways for them to succeed.

That text comes from our new strategic plan, developed for 2017 – 2019, where inclusivity is one of six guiding principles (including ethics and trust; professional preparation; advancing philanthropy; partnership and collaboration; and creativity and innovation) that will help guide our association and our profession into the future.

But diversity and inclusion are more than just principles that guide us. They help form the very identity and philosophy of AFP since it was first created in 1960.

Our role as fundraisers is to bring people—everyone—together to help create stronger communities and improve the quality of life for all people.

And we do mean everyone. There are no caveats, no limitations.

The very foundation of the philanthropic sector is to embrace all people, all groups.

In the same fashion, we welcome every individual—without exception—to the fundraising profession and the AFP community. For each member brings a unique array and wealth of talent, experience and perspectives that can only strengthen and enhance philanthropy.

And we look forward to seeing everyone—whether you are traveling from near or far—to the AFP International Fundraising Conference in San Francisco, April 30 – May 2, where we will welcome you with open arms as we come together to advance our profession and help change the world.

Ann Hale, CFRE, Chair, AFP
Jason Lee, President and CEO, AFP

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Measuring Fundraising Effectiveness

Last week, BoardSource, Guidestar, the BBB Wise Giving Alliance and AFP announced a new framework for evaluating fundraising effectiveness — one that provides a balanced approach that emphasizes how important it is to invest in strong and sustainable fundraising programs.

I encourage you to read more about the new project, Measuring Fundraising Effectiveness, and download the free toolkits and resources that go with it, but it’s important to understand what the framework is (and isn’t) meant to be.

Measuring Fundraising Effectiveness isn’t a detailed primer on what does and doesn’t count as a fundraising cost. And it’s not like the Fundraising Effectiveness Project, another AFP collaborative project which seeks to help charities understand where they need to improve their fundraising efforts  (typically through donor retention). 

Rather, it’s a holistic way to look at fundraising costs and introduces a way to start conversations with board, staff, donors and others about your fundraising—and more importantly, explain WHY you raise funds for your organization in the way you do.

Too often, conversations about fundraising costs end up focused on what your fundraising costs are and if they are “good” or “bad.” Measuring Fundraising Effectiveness stresses that your organization’s fundraising approach is going to be unique and different from any other charity’s, based on many factors, including mission, values, history, donor base and others. It’s an important idea that builds upon something AFP has been championing for many years—that any sort of fundraising cost “line in the sand” doesn’t make any sense given the hundreds of factors that can affect fundraising from year to year.

Even more compelling to the framework is a discussion of the different types of fundraising and what they are designed to do. The purpose of a direct mail program is of course far different than the mission of a major gifts program. Measuring Fundraising Effectiveness illuminates these differences in a clear and easy way for non-fundraisers, along with other key points about how some types of fundraising take longer to find success and how different fundraising vehicles rely on each other to be most effective. 

And that’s really the most critical part of this new framework—how we reach out to boards, staffs, donors and others about fundraising costs.  That’s where the education has to begin about fundraising costs, making sure that our leaders, our presidents, our CEOs, our major donors and others understand why fundraising is important, the balance between fundraising costs and efficiency, and how the fundraising choices we make affect our organization.

There are some great tools and resources for helping you start conversations about these very important issues. Please download Measuring Fundraising Effectiveness and let me know what you think.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

100 Years of Giving DC Fly-In Day is Feb. 16!

I talked in my last blog about how much uncertainty the fundraising profession and the charitable sector are facing this year, especially as it relates to government relations and public policy. I also said that we’re committed to implementing an aggressive campaign to not only defend the charitable deduction this year, but also to increase giving incentives.

The first step in that campaign is already here, as I’m proud to announce that the Charitable Giving Coalition (which AFP chairs) is holding the 100 Years of Giving DC Fly-In on Feb. 16.

All AFP members are invited to attend and help us educate members of Congress about why now, after 100 years since the charitable deduction was signed into law, philanthropy needs to be strengthened and enhanced. We will hold an evening event on Wed., Feb. 15th, to provide training and updated information for attendees to prepare them for the next day

Our message is simple: In any tax reform plan, philanthropy and the charitable deduction MUST be protected. In addition, we’re going to be calling for an “above the line” universal charitable deduction that all taxpayers, even non-itemizers, can take when calculating their taxes.

We’ll be focusing our meetings on Senate and House leaders, as well as members of the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance Committees, the tax-writing committees of Congress that will be considering tax reform. But we’ll help you plan to visit your own Member of Congress as well.

For additional information about the event, click here. To RSVP, contact Ali Davidson with your name, organization and state/Congressional district at And if you’re going to participate, please let AFP know by emailing

As a leader in the philanthropic sector, APF has a responsibility to ensure that philanthropy isn’t just protected, but advanced, and that policy leaders understand WHY the deduction is critical and works so well to fund countless causes across the U.S. I hope that you’ll be able to join us for this very important event, and be on the outlook for more messages and alerts about public policy from AFP throughout the year.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Ringing in 2017 With Certainty in Uncertain Times

Happy New Year! I hope you and your families had a great holiday season. So many of you were working right down to the wire on December 31st, inspiring last-minute gifts—I hope that you had some time to relax and recuperate before getting back to work in 2017.

The New Year always brings it shares of predictions for the next 12 months, and you can read any number of those posts from some great fundraisers across the Web (you can check out a few of those in this week’s AFP Top Ten).

Of course, any prediction comes with a bit of uncertainty, and that word, “uncertainty,” certainly seems to define 2017. It’s difficult to recall another year with so much uncertainty about the economy and government policy towards charities and philanthropy. In the current environment, it is possible that Congress could make significant changes to the tax code, including the charitable deduction. With a different approach to economic policy from President-Elect Trump, we are curious to see how that will impact giving levels, especially at a time when we’ve seen strong growth in recent years. 

Meanwhile, we continue to push for new giving incentives in Canada, but we have much work ahead of us as we encourage Parliament to enact those incentives, such as exemptions from the capital gains tax on gifts of publicly traded securities.

Despite this overall uncertainty, there are a few things you CAN be certain of this year. And they start with your fundraising community: AFP. Throughout the year, we are going to:

  • Offer new training and education, including pre-conference workshops, the International Advanced Diploma, and webinars and e-courses focusing on innovations and the skills you need to succeed;
  • Implement an advocacy campaign to ensure that charitable giving incentives are not only protected, but also strengthened and enhanced in North America;
  • Strengthen the work of our three Foundations in the U.S., Canada and Mexico;
  • Provide communications focused on you, your expertise and your level of experience; and
  • Highlight the impact of fundraising to the public, bolstered by a new strategic plan and new mission and vision statements. 

The last point is particularly important. Having gone through a series of branding studies and surveys, we’re shifting about how we talk about the profession and the work you do. We’re not going to stop providing top-notch education and training—if anything, that’s going to increase. But we’re also going to emphasize the societal change that you help create.

Donors certainly want to know that fundraisers are ethical, trained and professional—that’s without question. But what ultimately matters to them is impact: how they can work with your organization to make a difference. After all, that’s why they (and you!) got involved in philanthropy in the first place—to help change the world.

And that’s what we want to celebrate. The impact you have on your communities through your professionalism and training—through the skills and knowledge you use with every donor, and the ethical standards and best practices you uphold every day. Fundraisers are the catalyst—the engine—that drives philanthropy, and it’s that link that we want to spotlight throughout 2017.

There’s a lot of uncertainty heading into 2017, but we’re excited about bringing all of these new changes and programming to you, and being able to help you inspire donors and create impact throughout the year. As we roll out new programs and communications, feel free to drop me a line anytime and give me your feedback and opinion. You are our partners and the heart of our association, and I always want to hear from you.

Let’s work together to make 2017 an exceptional year for fundraising and philanthropy.