Being a fundraiser for over 20 years and living in a community with a professional fundraisers organization not affiliated with AFP International, I thought I was doing a great job keeping up with the trends in the field. After all, I have an advanced degree, attend professional development workshops and webinars, read books and articles, and, I always make my fundraising goals.
Then about five years ago, a small group of professionals started a local AFP chapter. Still, I didn’t bite. I didn’t know much about what AFP had to offer and it seemed expensive compared to the other local non-affiliated organization.
Last year, a colleague asked me to get involved in planning our local AFP National Philanthropy Day conference, which lead me to join the chapter’s board, become a Chamberlain Scholar and attend the International AFP Conference for the first time.
I went early to the AFP conference to attend a workshop on donor retention.
It was at this workshop on donor retention that I learned about AFP’s Fundraising Effectiveness and Growth In Giving Projects and the incredible information gleaned. That proverbial light bulb went off along with a little knot in the pit of my stomach.
While I always make my fundraising targets, have I done everything possible to build a strong, sustainable fundraising program for the organizations I served? The truth is, I did, based on intuition though and general theories and best practices. I was lucky. Still in the back of my mind, could I have done even better had I possessed this new knowledge? I think so.
What I didn’t do as well, however, was educate staff, board members and volunteers based on hard facts and research, on the strategies and resources I was implementing. Herein lies the problem. I don’t think I’m so different from a lot of my colleagues. Particularly when I hear so many colleagues are struggling with getting the right resources to fundraise effectively, or are questioned or even prevented from initiating better fundraising strategies, or unable to get rid of those sacred cow events that don’t produce.
Thanks to the tangible, concrete information gained through the Fundraising Effectiveness and Growth In Giving Projects as well as other research projects, the field of fundraising has evolved and achieved a higher level of sophistication and so have I. My analytic, strategic planning, and creativity have all sharpened and improved my decision-making. As a member of AFP, with this research under my belt, I know I am more effective as a fundraiser and as a leader in my nonprofit community.