8 April 2019
I’ve just returned from the United States’ Association for Fundraising Professionals (AFP) annual conference in San Antonio, Texas. In their promotional material, they claim it’s the biggest fundraising conference in the universe, and I can see why they make that claim; it’s massive. Over 3,300 people attended from all over the US and at least 12 countries. The size and scale were indeed impressive.
There were sessions on the usual nuts and bolts of fundraising, but the program also went beyond to topics such as diversity and microaggressions, ethics, mental health, working with donors with dementia and even Islam in philanthropy. There was a whole track on career development with varied content over three days to help fundraisers advance in their profession.
The CEO of AFP, Mike Geiger, opened the conference with a rallying cry for the increased recognition of professionalism of fundraising, even going so far as to announce that AFP has trademarked the phrase: ‘Fundraising: the Impact Profession.’ Clever but also fitting for our work and the impact we make.
Overall the quality of the content was outstanding, and I was generally impressed with the entire event which stacks up favourably to our own FIA Conference.
Diversity continues to be a driving theme in the US and including in the fundraising sector, so the focus on this topic was no surprise; given the size of the US fundraising community (AFP has 31,000 members) and the multicultural nature of the country. It is of course increasingly essential to recognise and embrace diversity in all its forms; this is an area we are only scratching the surface of in Australia.
I was also delighted to see a serious focus on ethics and including, as previously mentioned, sessions on dealing with donors in vulnerable circumstances and older donors in general; a focus on doing what is right in the quest for donor support rather than what is expedient. Good lessons for fundraisers in any country.
On the last day of the conference, a group of CEOs and board members from international fundraising organisations gathered to discuss how together we could work to make even more impact on our world by sharing ideas, content, resources and by bringing back to our own communities a clearer view on what’s happening in fundraising around the globe.
I was genuinely excited by this and the opportunity it presents for us here in Australia. At this meeting, we had representatives from the US, the UK, Canada, Japan, Mexico, Brazil and Sweden and of course Australia. Over the coming year, I will keep you informed of key highlights from our sister organisations around the globe that may impact us here in Australia and share ideas and opportunities that we might together consider for Australia.
So now my head is swimming with ideas for our own professional development program and for the FIA Conference, scheduled for February 2020 in Brisbane. Planning for this event is just getting underway, so if you have ideas for topics and presenters do let us know at any time by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.