Advancing Philanthropy

AFP Chapter Spotlight: AFP San Diego Chapter

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AFP San Diego Chapter

Above Photo: The AFP San Diego Chapter during a chapter meeting.

The AFP San Diego Chapter is more than 45 years old and currently has 330 members representing more than 175 local organizations. As a chapter, they are dedicated to offering professional development and have created programing to enrich the many fundraisers and nonprofit professionals they serve. Through webinars, scholarships and mentoring programs, members are supported throughout the year. In this interview with chapter manager Katie Gomez, Advancing Philanthropy talks with her about how the chapter has grown, services it provides to members and how a chance opportunity with a local news station helped increase exposure for their National Philanthropy Day event.

How has your chapter expanded over the years?

Throughout the years, our chapter has grown not only in numbers, but also in the diversity of our membership and programming. Our membership includes development professionals, nonprofit executives, board members, program staff, data analyzers, prospectors and grant writers—all integral parts of an organization’s fundraising success.

We have also expanded through partnerships with educational institutions, sponsors and community leaders. Through these partnerships, we have gained increased visibility and credibility within the community and access to nonprofits.

What career/professional development does your chapter offer for members?

Annually, we provide an average of 30 programs, including monthly chapter meetings, casual yet timely Virtual Conversations, IDEA-focused Community Conversations, the Enhancing Your Skill Set Series hosted by our Emerging Leaders, AFP Webinars and more.

We offer five different scholarships annually for up to 15 members or organizations. These include the CFRE Exam, Chamberlain (ICON), Emerging Nonprofit Scholarship, Leichtag Foundation Scholarship for BIPOC Fundraisers and the Collette Murray Fellowship, a flagship program designed to engage new fundraisers with our chapter for two years.

We also have a robust mentorship program, which runs for six months of the year. The program pairs mentees with a carefully selected mentor and is provided as a member benefit. Program participation nearly doubled in 2021, and we hope to continue the trend for 2022.

How does your chapter celebrate National Philanthropy Day?

San Diego’s National Philanthropy Day (NPD) is one of the largest and most successful in the U.S., attracting between 750 and 1,300 participants, including philanthropists, nonprofit leaders, board members, development professionals, business, and community and civic leaders. The celebration is typically a luncheon, where we honor amazing people and organizations in seven categories. For 2020 and 2021, we shifted to a virtual format, broadcasting on television in partnership with a local station.

How did you/your chapter manage to set up a partnership with a local station to broadcast your NPD programming?

We were very fortunate to have a board member with a great relationship with a local TV station. The board member facilitated an introduction, knowing NPD aligns with the station’s values of community engagement and giving back. Once we received the green light, we worked with a production company to pre-record the show.

We also hosted a pre-event zoom with our honorees, sponsors, volunteers and board that included a guided wine tasting (wine was delivered to their homes thanks to wonderful volunteers and a lot of coordination!) and time to interact since we could not be together physically to celebrate.

How did the media exposure help your chapter and how do you think it will impact this year’s event?

Broadcasting on television allowed our chapter to reach an entirely new audience. Over 3,000 households watched both the 2020 and 2021 programs—an incredible feat we would not be able to accomplish with our in-person luncheon. The increased exposure was also appealing to our sponsors, and it has allowed for new benefits we normally could not offer, including presenting an award to an honoree. Last year was our most successful NPD on record, with almost $85,000 in net revenue.

In 2022, we are looking at creative ways to keep the access component of a television broadcast while returning to in-person through a hybrid approach.

IDEA is at the core of everything that we do at AFP Global and on the chapter level. What is the San Diego chapter doing in this space for its members and community?

IDEA is one of the top priorities for our chapter and a pillar of our strategic plan. In 2008, our board developed and passed a Resolution on Diversity, and our chapter has been named an IDEA Champion by AFP Global for many years. We look at every aspect of our chapter through an IDEA lens, including board recruitment, program topic and speaker selection, and marketing language and visuals. We also offer a robust variety of scholarships for diverse fundraisers, free IDEA-specific programming, honorariums for speakers and IDEA-focused board training.

Additionally, until 2014, the NPD honorees were selected by a committee of previous winners. To ensure the committee was representative of the communities we serve, we now include community and nonprofit leaders, along with previous honorees. We also added an Outstanding Organization for Diversity and Equity award to the honoree lineup for National Philanthropy Day 2020, which has recognized two amazing organizations, DETOUR and Reality Changers.

What advice do you have for other chapters that might be interested in partnering with a local TV station?

Plan early! It takes a lot of time and coordination to write the script, film everyone and edit the program. I recommend at least three months of lead time, if not more. Also, when approaching the station, do your research. Some stations are much more community focused, and they make the best partners. Consider how to add value to them as well. This may include having an anchor host your broadcast, recognizing them as a sponsor, inviting them to speak at an educational event or providing feel-good news stories for them to highlight.

What’s the biggest opportunity and the biggest challenge your chapter has?

The biggest challenge our chapter has is fluctuating membership, whether it is due to job changes, COVID-19 related layoffs, or the increasing price of memberships which can pose a barrier for young professionals and those who are retired. San Diego also has multiple fundraising-focused organizations with lower membership dues, which creates competition.

To counter these challenges and elevate our chapter to be the premier, go-to fundraising organization in San Diego, we offer scholarships and fee waivers so everyone has the opportunity to be involved with our chapter. We also offer free programming and resources for both members and non-members. We regularly solicit feedback and input from members to ensure we are meeting their needs and providing education and resources that are truly beneficial to them at all stages of their careers.

What are some goals the chapter would like to accomplish over the next year?

We aim to grow our membership with a special focus among organizations throughout San Diego County that provide services to underserved populations. This is intentional as our chapter needs to fully represent the development professionals that serve our community.

We are also developing a plan to transition back to in-person while still maintaining the level of access virtual provides for our members.

What has been your chapter’s biggest success over the last two years?

One of our greatest successes throughout 2020 and 2021 was the expanded access to programming for our members, regardless of their location. By transitioning our monthly education events to a virtual format, we have seen an almost 50% increase in participants annually, going from just over 800 participants to more than 1,200, and NPD was viewed by 3,000 households, compared to the typical 1,000 individuals we convene at the luncheon.

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