President's Perspective Blog

It's Time to Lead: AFP LEAD 2022

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If you’ve heard me talk—or read my messages here consistently—you know I think leadership is crucial for the development of the fundraising profession.

That’s why we hold AFP LEAD, our leadership conference, every year (it’s October 20 – 22 this year in Houston, Texas, and registration is open), and why I consider AFP LEAD be just as important a gathering as AFP ICON.

That’s right. Our AFP LEAD gathering is just as important as our AFP ICON, the largest gathering of fundraisers in the world covering every aspect of the profession.

Hear me out.

Fundraisers are not just fundraisers anymore—if we ever really were. Fundraising is as good a name for our profession as any other (and that’s an entirely different conversation for another time!) but it really just refers to the transactional nature of our work. We ask for money. We raise funds. Voila—fundraising!

But there is so much more to fundraising than just the raising of funds. Fundraisers sit at the center of so many different relationships that are crucial to the success of a cause, working with donors, staff, businesses, foundations, boards, the public and people who depend on their services.

We are the public face of organizations, and to whom people talk when they’re concerned about the world and thinking about giving.  

And our work is inherently intertwined with our principles and values around inclusion, diversity, equity and access (IDEA), along with mental health and wellness.

We work in so many areas that are not at all transactional but are an integral part of our job every single day. Consider today, June 21.

We are currently celebrating LGBTQ Pride Month throughout June. Just two days ago, we recognized Juneteenth, which commemorates the events of June 19, 1865, when Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, to inform enslaved African Americans that the Civil War had ended and they were free. Three weeks ago, AFP released our new study on sexual harassment, bias and inclusion in the fundraising workplace: Speaking Truth to Power: A Toolkit, and two weeks ago we announced our plan to develop a Fundraiser Bill of Rights.

None of those events have anything to do with the “transactional” nature of our jobs, but they are just as important to our profession and to our success as the five latest trends in email marketing.

To be a leader, you don’t have to be the one to stand in front of hundreds of people and direct them. You don’t have to be a CEO or a manager.

But you do need to be able to connect with people. You do need to be able to understand them. You do need to know your cause and be able to represent and fight for it. And that’s what fundraisers do.

We are advocates for donors.

We are guardians of the public trust.

We are stewards of our causes.

We are champions of all voices to ensure that all are listened to, respected, heard and considered throughout the philanthropic process.

We are motivators of the public and inspire them to action.

We are connectors and creators—helping people create the impact that changes the world.

We are leaders. And that’s why we hold AFP LEAD.

Nowhere else will you find sessions about all aspects of leadership and how they specifically apply to fundraisers. Nowhere else will you find sessions that let you explore, identify and strengthen your fundraising leadership profile, and help you create a plan to lead your organization into the future.

Enjoy the summer, and I look forward to seeing you in the fall in Houston at AFP LEAD to develop the critical leadership skills that both you need and the profession needs. 


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Mike Geiger, MBA, CPA

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