Advancing Philanthropy

From the Chair: Heroes are Everywhere

children walking to school

Superheroes are in now. What used to be simply seen as a teenager’s passing fancy is now a multibillion-dollar enterprise and a staple of our popular culture. Whatever you may think of the genre, who of us hasn’t thought about what it would be like to fly, have super strength, or shoot laser beams from our eyes? I’ve always been a fan of Wonder Woman, but lately I’ve developed a liking for Deadpool as well (not that I’d ever publicly admit that!).

Making friends on the first day of school: reaching out can be an heroic gesture.
Making friends on the first day of school: reaching out can be an heroic gesture.

But as fundraisers know, you don’t need to have special powers to be a superhero and make a difference in the world. In fact, the fundraising profession celebrates our superheroes all the time—our donors and volunteers, and everything they do to make philanthropy possible. We are fortunate that so many of our supporters exhibit the superhero characteristics of commitment and generosity.

I also believe we sometimes forget to recognize a key group of people in the philanthropic world who are also superheroes: us, the fundraising profession. Think about some of the amazing abilities we exhibit every day. As Tom Ahern likes to say, “Welcome to the profession that makes it possible to change the world. Without fundraisers, the work of most charities would end.” World-changing—now that’s a superhero special ability.

There are a couple of other abilities we possess that are perhaps a little more understated and subtle but just as important. I think of author Vera Nazarian, who said, “The world is shaped by two things: stories told, and the memories they leave behind.” Storytelling is one of our most powerful skills—the ability to help shape how someone feels about an issue, and to inspire them enough to take action.

...you don’t need to have special powers to be a superhero and make a difference in the world.

I’m also a fan of Seth Godin, who spoke at our conference a few years back. I remember his comment about building hope: “It’s something that we can give away to others again and again, and we can use it as fuel to build something bigger than ourselves.” What we and our causes represent—hope and community, and that our world gets better when we work together—is as important sometimes as what we do. Never forget our role as hopegivers and the opportunities we provide for people.

Three amazing superpowers: changing the world, storytelling, and building hope. The best thing of all? To get all of those superpowers, we don’t have to be bitten by a radioactive bug or be exposed to cosmic rays. We just need the right training, skills, and knowledge.

That’s where AFP comes in. Because if you’re a superhero (and you are!), you need one thing: a good sidekick! AFP is your fundraising sidekick, here to stand by you, support you, protect you, and help you grow. AFP provides the tools and resources to help each of us discover and hone our fundraising superpowers, whether it’s in donor relations, major gifts, board development, or countless other areas of our profession.

We can get the training, education, and networking we need through our sidekick: AFP! We’re here to help you tell stories, provide hope, and change the world every single day!

I’ve always thought of AFP as my sidekick. In my first Advancing Philanthropy column as chair two years ago, I talked about AFP being indispensable for my job. AFP wasn’t just a knowledge base; it was also a source of innovation and creation, a place to get recharged about what I do, and an incredible network of colleagues—and friends, so many friends!—to help me when I had questions or needed support.

As your chair for nearly two years now, I’ve been focused on making AFP indispensable to you too, no matter your tenure in the profession, where you live, or the size or focus of the organization you represent. I am humbled to have been able to serve you in this capacity and proud of our achievements that we’ve been able to accomplish together to strengthen your capacity as a fundraiser (and superhero!).

We’ve developed a new strategic plan that includes a new focus, Advance Social Good, which has helped how the association views its work and role both internally and externally to the profession. We added equity and access to our diversity and inclusion work, which has given us a whole new perspective and energy for connecting with new superheroes in our communities. We have launched the Women’s Impact Initiative, to ensure all fundraising practitioners have access to the same opportunities, and strengthened our work in Canada through the new AFP Canada board.

Finally—and I hope I’m not stretching the analogy too far—I’ve been honored to work with my own Justice League (or team of Avengers, depending on whether you’re in the DC or Marvel camp): a great group of leaders on our various boards, as well as our chapter leaders and our staff. I am especially grateful for the vision and leadership of our new president and CEO, Mike Geiger, as well as the amazing work of our interim president at the time, Jason Lee—both superheroes in their own right. Together, we have improved our association’s financial health and created a strong and vibrant culture that represents the best of our values and principles, including openness, transparency, and respect.

I’m proud to have played a small part in making AFP stronger over the past two years. Everything we’ve done is to help make that superhero in you emerge. But you don’t need to be able to read donors’ minds, and I don’t have to be Wonder Woman (or even Deadpool) to be a superhero. We can get the training, education, and networking we need through our sidekick: AFP! We’re here to help you tell stories, provide hope, and change the world every single day!

Ann Hale, CFRE

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