AFP ICON 2022 – We Made It!
A week ago today, after three long years, I walked onto the main stage at ICON and thanked our approximately 3,000 attendees for coming to Las Vegas and AFP ICON 2022. It was an incredible experience without a doubt.
It’s hard to express how much excitement I felt walking through the MGM Grand Conference Center each of the three days of ICON. Attendees were just so….let’s say, jazzed…to be back together. As our AFP Global board chair Kevin Foyle said during his comments, the energy was palpable—you could see it and feel it.
The conference was inspiring for me personally as well. I had only been your president and CEO for about five months when AFP ICON 2018 rolled around. I was still getting to know our association.
By ICON 2019, I had met many of you and had become immersed in our amazing AFP community. It was exciting and meaningful for me to be part of that conference with you, and to share in your victories and challenges.
And then, it was incredibly disappointing not to share in that experience over the past two years.
So getting to see everyone last week in Las Vegas—it felt like the end of a long journey. It was an amazing three days—and for those of you who stayed in Vegas a few more days, likely even more amazing. What a buzz in that city!!!
I want to take a moment to thank my amazing staff without whom we would not have been able to host ICON 2022 at the incredibly high level that we did. Putting it bluntly, and with all respect to the terrific people in other organizations, there is just no finer group of individuals to work with than the AFP staff. Over the past three years we have faced countless challenges, and they have risen to the occasion each and every time. They are kind, caring, funny, driven to excellence, and passionate people. I am so honored and motivated by the incredible class, grace and creativity of this amazing group of humans. Great job, team!
Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll be showing video interviews we conducted with attendees so you can get a sense of everything AFP ICON 2022 had to offer.
To see some of the key ideas and themes coming out of Las Vegas, check out Gail Perry’s wrap-up of top takeaways from AFP ICON. Also major props to Alyce Lee Stansbury, who didn’t attend ICON but still managed to put together this compendium of takeaways from friends and colleagues. And a shoutout to Tim Sarrantonio for his thoughtful blog on moments vs. transactions inspired by his conference experience.
Looking back over our time together, here are a few of my (and hopefully your) favorite moments:
Giving a “special award” to the person who had “juggled” the most responsibilities over the past few years. Was it a little corny? Maybe. But was it spot-on Las Vegas? Absolutely! How could we NOT have a little entertainment?
Walking through the AFP Exchange (our exhibit hall) for the first time. Seeing how many exhibitors—supporters of our profession—with us made me realize that we were truly back.
Hearing the words of our honorees for the Williams R. Simms Award for Outstanding Youth in Philanthropy, sponsored by Carter. How impressive were Jacob Stein, Maeve Shaughnessy and Sydney Birchard? As presenter Stephen Higgins said, the future of philanthropy is in good hands.
Reconnecting with so many members, especially those of you who traveled from Canada, Mexico and everywhere else around the world. I had so many tremendous, eye-opening and inspiring conversations, hearing how you had all adjusted throughout the pandemic in different ways and were now focused on the future.
Drai’s! Do I need to say more? The ICONic After Party that the Las Vegas AFP Chapter hosted was incredible – kudos to them for such an amazing celebration. (I don’t dare share those photos….what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas!)
Standing up on stage at the end of our closing session on Wednesday, wishing everyone a safe trip home. Maybe not my favorite moment, but it meant that we had done it. We had persevered, we had come together, we had enjoyed an incredible conference experience and now got to take everything we learned back home with us to our organizations. (I really hope I didn’t jinx us when I said how much I was looking forward to AFP ICON 2023 in New Orleans!).
A big and heartfelt thanks to everyone who was there with us in Las Vegas for AFP ICON 2022. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did, and more importantly, learned a lot that will both improve your organization’s fundraising AND advance your career.
Thanks for being part of the AFP community and the fundraising profession—the IMPACT profession. And—knock on wood—I look forward to seeing everyone next year—not in three years—at AFP ICON 2023 in New Orleans, April 16 – 18.
Mike Geiger, MBA, CPA