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5 Takeaways from the AFP International Conference

April 19, 2012

When I attend a training or conference I always find it helpful to consider takeaway items that I can implement when I get back to the office.  At the AFP International Conference in Vancouver I came away with five key items. 

  1. Development audit– This topic was discussed during the first session I attended, “Restructuring a Fund Development Office,” presented by Robin Cabral. A development audit is a complex tool that can/should be used when you enter a new organization or you find your department at a crossroads with a need to increase efficiency or even a potential merger of multiple departments/branches. Although development audits were not the main topic of discussion, I left this session wanting to know more. So I plan to pick up a book on the topic. Suggestions?
  2. Build a “culture of philanthropy”- This seemed to be a hot button phrase as it was used frequently throughout the conference. I talked with my Milwaukee colleagues about unpacking this idea and this is what I have gathered so far:  integrate stories of the beneficiaries that your organization serves into all aspects of your organization, encourage employees from across departments to take an active role in shifting toward this type of business culture, strive to offer board members a variety of options for supporting fundraising efforts and consider the customer service your office provides to the general public as well as the physical appearance of your facility starting from the street level.
  3. Figure out what you want and go “sell it”- Scott Harrison, the Founder & President of Charity:Water, really knocked this one out of the park during his presentation. Scott is a great speaker and a truly innovative fundraiser. Key ideas from his presentation were that donors and the general public need to be able to visualize the need and link your programs to tangible results. At my office we always struggle with spending money on advertising. What Scott demonstrated was that if you have a great idea for how to make your mission stand out in the public you should develop that idea and go “sell it” to a sponsor. Check out Charity:Water on the web for some great ideas.
  4. Don’t provide sponsorship levels– I know I am guilty of this! In the session on Monday “Peer Insights into Attracting and Retaining Corporate Partnerships,” I learned from the panel discussion not to provide multiple sponsorship levels for potential high-level donors. Ultimately they will pick the lowest level and/or pick and choose items from the various levels. Instead consider putting together a ‘concept document’ that you use to develop a package that helps both you and your sponsor achieve your respective goals. I am sure it is more work in the long run but it sounds like a much better approach.
  5. Put the beneficiaries of your program front and center– I think this is easier said than done, at least in organizations that have multiple departments. I discovered that at my office I need to find ways to integrate the families and children that we serve into everything that we do, from children designing the centerpieces for our annual event to capturing our families’ stories after they move into their new homes. There are so many milestones they reach throughout their experience and capturing details related to each achievement can be a bit of a challenge. I came away from the conference with the motivation to find ways to build this into our organization operations.

 Those are my takeaways from the AFP International Conference.  I hope a little of what I have l shared sparks new ideas for you or helps you with the challenges you have encountered within your operations and fundraising efforts.  I am always interested in new resources and ideas, so please feel free to send them my way. Finally, thank you to the AFP Greater Milwaukee Chapter and AFP International for providing me the Chamberlain Scholarship and the opportunity to attend this great conference.

 Melissa Herguth

Development Director, Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity

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One Comment leave one →
  1. April 19, 2012 6:33 pm

    Thanks for putting these in a concise, easy to understand manner!

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