Advancing Philanthropy

From the Chair: Reflecting on Change as We Enter a New Landscape

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We were all ready for 2022, weren’t we? We were slowly but surely emerging from the pandemic and excited to be able to meet with donors face-to-face and reinvigorate our fundraising again in the “new normal.” We probably had an in-person conference on the calendar for the first time in three years (you’ve registered for ICON 2022, right?).

Kevin J. Foyle,  MBA, CFRE
Kevin J. Foyle, MBA, CFRE

We have listened to all the experts and took (most of) their advice. We have mastered the routine of working from the office and remotely, creating a life that integrates our professional and personal lives. We are supposed to live in the now and cherish and value the things we love the most, but we also have to plan for the future knowing that uncertainty reigns. We are told to schedule but be sure to be flexible. Get back to normal but reimagine what’s possible.

And just when we had that all down and saw the light at the end of the tunnel, Russia invaded Ukraine. Gas prices went crazy. The rate of inflation seemed to increase exponentially every day. Many of our colleagues left to find new fundraising jobs, or to retirement, as the Great Resignation hit our sector.

All of this may have you wondering, now what? Do I keep to my plan, or do I create contingency plans? Do I flex, do I reimagine, or do I remain on course? And why is my head hurting just thinking about it all?

I can’t tell you what to do, but I can tell you what I’m feeling from my perspective and what I’m doing at my organization.

First, let yourself appreciate everything you’re feeling. It’s OK to feel angry, annoyed, disappointed and much worse. Give yourself some time to sit in those feelings. Give yourself some space to feel bad for yourself, even as we acknowledge there are people in crisis around the world. Let’s take care of ourselves, and once we do that, we can focus on helping everyone else through our fundraising and philanthropy.

Second, talk about what’s happening—with your colleagues, your staff, your supervisors, your board and most of all, with your donors. Everyone has strong feelings about everything that is happening, so get it all out in the open. Let’s acknowledge the challenges we’re facing now, and the frustrations of having just gotten through most of the pandemic, only to face more obstacles. It’s only human to feel that way, and in this manner, we can help each other and ensure we’re all on the same page.

Third, let’s remember all of the advantages and opportunities we now have. We’ve learned some amazing new skills over the past couple of years. We’ve already overcome tremendous challenges. And I believe we have a donor population that very much wants to be in touch with us, be stewarded and be reminded of the incredible impact they can make.

What AFP has found over the years—through surveys, through listening to thousands of members, through looking at best practices conducted by our honorees—is that the single biggest factor in fundraising success is you. What you do. What your organization does. No matter the economy or other external factors, the difference between success and failure is the actions you take as a fundraiser.

So yes, there will remain some uncertainty here in the short-term. Rising inflation, gas costs, weak consumer confidence—they’re going to affect giving at all levels. But it’s not the last quarter of the year when the largest majority of gifts are given. And we know that loyal donors continue to give—which is exactly why we need to focus on our cultivation and stewardship plans.

Change is inevitable, and lately, it has been constant. But we are still in control. So, we need to focus on the things we can control—ourselves, our plans and our attitudes moving forward.

Whether you decide to stay the course, change plans or reimagine your entire work, that is your decision. We all possess new skills, knowledge, experience and perspective from the last two years. Put them to good use. Use your community—especially the AFP community, like the thousands of colleagues you’ll find at AFP ICON 2022 in Las Vegas, May 2–4—to keep connected and inspired.

We are the IMPACT profession, and now, more than ever, we can—and must—continue to create the impact that changes the world.

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