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Emerging Leaders Spotlight: AFP Greater Houston Chapter

Houston chapter

How does the Houston Chapter engage emerging leaders?

The Greater Houston Chapter engages emerging leaders in a variety of ways:

  • Mentoring Program: This program is open to members new to the fundraising profession or those who are seeking to move in a new direction within the field.
  • Partnerships with University of Houston and Texas A&M University collegiate chapters: Not only do our board members visit these universities to network and share educational moments, but students are able to sit in on chapter board meetings to observe and learn more about our strategic efforts.
  • Development of pipeline to engage emerging leaders in chapter activities: Our board members and other chapter leaders have made it a priority to engage emerging leaders by taking ownership in stewarding them in chapter involvement. Here is an example of the pipeline our chapter follows:

What is your proudest accomplishment related to the program?

Our board of directors, currently made up of 25 members, is most proud to have six emerging leaders sitting as members of the board. In engaging emerging leaders on the board of directors, we are able to give these leaders a voice in chapter activities and Houston’s fundraising community as a whole.

Why is this important for the profession and the community?   

Our chapter leadership not only wants our board to represent the diverse industry and community we serve, but they also recognize the importance of building up the next generation of leaders. We have been following the mid-level professional gap in our industry. In engaging emerging leaders through chapter committees and activities, we are able to build up these individuals and provide them with the network, resources, and education to be successful as they develop their fundraising careers. Our hope is this will create a smoother transition in the fundraising space as advanced professionals retire and mid-level and emerging leaders take on new roles and responsibilities.

How has this program helped your chapter with leadership development and succession planning?

Many of the emerging leaders engaged on our board of directors and on chapter committees take on leadership positions. Currently, some of our emerging leaders serve in these roles: Chapter Communications Vice President, National Philanthropy Day Co-Chair, Collegiate Chapter Engagement Chair, COVID-19 Response Chair, Membership Stewardship Chair, and more. Not only do these chapter roles serve as resume-building activities and interview talking points for the emerging leaders, but they create a pipeline for our chapter’s leadership.

What have you been doing differently during COVID-19 to retain and recruit emerging leaders?

We have had to find ways to be creative and innovative to achieve our chapter’s core purpose of inspiring fundraisers to be exceptional. Here is what we have done to engage our membership during the pandemic:

  • Created a COVID-19 Chapter Response Task Force, chaired by an emerging leader: This task force created a resource page on our website and organized blogs and webinars around fundraising during a global health pandemic and economic crisis.
  • Membership Stewardship: Our Membership Committee has sent personal emails to every member checking in on them and seeing what they need from our chapter during these challenging and unprecedented times.
  • Transitioned all of our programming into virtual events: This included monthly education programming, affinity groups, CFRE study sessions and membership mixers. All of these events are free to members and have a very low cost for non-members to ensure a strengthened profession during these uncertain times.
  • Started a podcast: Coordinated by an emerging leader, The Development Download is a podcast spotlighting local and national fundraisers with tidbits listeners can bring back to their shop.
  • Invested in membership scholarships: As nonprofits have had to pivot due to lack of resources and decreased revenue, our chapter has made it a priority to ensure members still have access to our programming.
  • Moved our New Member Orientation online: Typically, this was held before in-person monthly educational luncheons, but ever since moving these virtual, we have seen an uptick in members attending.

We believe many of these changes will continue even after the pandemic is over because virtual opportunities can accommodate more members, especially emerging leaders. In a large metro area, traffic is a large barrier in attending in-person events. In order to be inclusive to all of our membership, offering virtual gatherings or recordings will allow emerging leaders to tune in when it makes most sense for their schedule.

What scholarship opportunities do you have for emerging leaders?

The Greater Houston Chapter is committed to removing as many barriers as we can for professionals practicing fundraising and development in our community, which is why we’re proud to run a robust program through our Scholarship Committee. Emerging leaders are eligible for a variety of scholarships, including:

  • Membership: This scholarship will financially assist with a one-year membership to the AFP Global association, as well as to the local AFP-Greater Houston chapter. 
  • International Conference (AFP ICON) (including Chamberlain and Next Gen scholarships): $2,000 scholarships to cover the costs of ICON registration, travel, and accommodations.
  • Rice University Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership courses: The Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership (CPNL), Susanne M. Glasscock School of Continuing Studies, at Rice University offers classes in the fall and spring. Our chapter awards scholarships that cover 80% of a course. 
  • Professional Development: The Professional Development Fund provides assistance for other fundraising and development opportunities which are not included in one of the existing scholarship categories.

Most scholarships require applicants to join a chapter committee, which allows our chapter leadership to get to know our members better and continue to build a pipeline for emerging leaders in our community.

houston 2

Members of the 2019 Greater Houston Chapter Board of Directors posing after a monthly education session on Career Moves for Fundraising and Young Professionals, presented by two emerging leaders, Lauren Futch and Melissa Neeley, who also serve on the board. Also featured in this photo are two additional emerging leaders who serve on the board, Rachel Rodriguez and Fanny Brown. Mid-level and advanced professionals serving on the board support the voices and work of emerging leaders by lifting them up through many different chapter activities.

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