President's Perspective Blog

The Decade of Fundraising Leadership (Still!)

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You may not recall, but in early 2020 (remember back then?), I started talking about the next 10 years being the decade of fundraising leadership. This would be the decade when fundraisers would rightly take their place as leaders in the nonprofit world.

Now, admittedly, a couple of things happened between then and now. Our world has been changed forever through the pandemic and the renewed call and action for racial and social justice. A whole new set of skills and knowledge are needed as fundraising and philanthropy evolve.

But despite the transformation we’ve gone through over the past two years, I still believe that this decade IS the decade of fundraising leadership, perhaps more than ever. In fact, the recent past has demonstrated just how important fundraising leadership is to the sector, our communities and society at large. 

Fundraisers are uniquely positioned in their jobs, working at the intersection of donors, charities, our board and volunteers, the communities who depend on our services and the general public. Is there any other job in the charitable sector that has so many close connections to different aspects of the philanthropic process?

It is those connections, and the ability to connect with so many different people, that call fundraisers to leadership. How can we deny the mantle of leadership with so many individuals and groups looking to us for communications, information, inspiration, and yes, funding? And it is those connections, and the platforms they give, that allow us to not only tell our organization’s story, but to influence others on issues such as inclusion, diversity, equity and access; mental health and self-care; cultures of philanthropy; and so much more. 

I firmly believe this is our time to lead. The need for funds, the increasing role of charities as agents of change, the influence that philanthropy has over so many aspects of people’s lives—fundraisers are going to find themselves in positions to lead not just their organizations and the sector, but, in very concrete ways, all of society.

AFP and the AFP Foundations for Philanthropy are laying the foundation for this decade of fundraising leadership. We are committed to not only providing fundraising training and education, but also offering new kinds of programming that will help members become leaders who will take the nonprofit sector into the future. Next year, we’ll be launching a new leadership development program for fundraisers of all experience levels, and there will be a variety of different kinds of resources addressing all aspects of leadership. 

But you don’t have to wait! Your leadership development experience can start this year. We’re holding AFP LEAD, our annual leadership conference, in-person for the first time in two years, next week (Oct. 18—Oct. 20) in Indianapolis. We already have over 260 people registered for this great event that features over 20 sessions, covering topics related to building a leadership pipeline; becoming your organization’s brand ambassador; ending imposter syndrome; leading multi-generational teams and much more! 

It’s going to be a remarkable experience that we’re keeping as safe as possible by requiring all attendees to be fully vaccinated (no exceptions), enforcing masking, implementing to social spacing and other safeguards. And if you can’t make it to this in-person conference, we will be holding a virtual version (not completely the same) of AFP LEAD on Dec. 1 and 2 – more to come soon.

I’ve always said that fundraising is the IMPACT profession. The work we do in inspiring donors and raising funds creates impact that changes the world. But it’s time to expand that impact. It’s time to embrace the mantle of leadership that we possess as fundraisers. The decade of fundraising leadership is upon us. AFP is ready, and we invite you to join us!

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