As I type these thoughts, I have an overwhelming feeling of oddity. Sitting in my home office (which I hadn’t even established prior to this month) during regular business hours is clearly not my normal routine. But for many of us, it has become our new norm.
In our business, it is nearly unimaginable to think of building relationships—meaningful relationships—and sharing the mission of our organizations from behind a desktop, far from where that very mission happens and from our philanthropic partners who support that mission.
However, the one thing that provides me comfort is knowing that, through AFP, I have a community of fundraising experts who are experiencing this same situation alongside me. As fundraisers, we pride ourselves on networking and building strong relationships with each other. Now more than ever, we need to rely on that network that we built, perhaps unknowingly, for times exactly like this.
Since COVID-19 has taken hold of the world, I have heard (and uttered) many times the words: I have never experienced anything like this in my lifetime. But ironically, while we truly haven’t seen something exactly like this, many of us have used those words before. In Houston alone, we uttered those words in 2001 when Tropical Storm Allison deluged the Texas Medical Center and again in 2017 when Hurricane Harvey devastated much of the city.
But one of the first times I remember saying these words was on September 11, 2001. Amid the rubble of the twin towers, I found myself in a relatively new fundraising role with two very young twins (who are now home from college for the rest of the semester after being displaced by COVID-19) and serving as president for the Greater Houston Chapter of AFP. Over the next month, many of my colleagues and friends reached out—confused, shocked and understandably frozen, not knowing what to do next for philanthropy or how to move forward in their own lives.
What we did as a chapter, though, was come together for a discussion. While we all had so many questions (and far too few answers), what we did have was the opportunity to brainstorm about next steps and to share experiences and ideas. And this left us with something immeasurably good. We felt like everything would be alright on the other side of all this.
Flash forward nearly 20 years. Each of us has made incredible progress and positively influenced our organizations in ways we could never have imagined. That in itself is remarkable.
I would encourage us all, in this time of uncertainty, to come together (this time virtually) and utilize our AFP networks to learn from each other, to share with each other and to comfort each other. We will make it through this. We will continue to move our missions forward. And we will continue to make remarkable advancements for our organizations through philanthropy.
I am thinking of each of you and your families as we navigate our new norms together.
All my best,
Kevin J. Foyle, CFRE
Vice President for Development & Public Affairs, UTHealth
Chair-Elect, AFP Global
Past President, AFP Greater Houston Chapter, 2001