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Looking Back, Looking Forward: The Impact of the AFP Community in Canada

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One of the recurring themes when we talk to new members of AFP is that the association provides a community of fundraisers that helps newcomers feel welcome and like they belong. Fundraisers who have been in the job for decades also point to the real camaraderie that comes out of being part of a professional association that is driven by the needs of its members. Canadian fundraisers came together to create AFP in Canada so their needs could be more specifically met.

Susan Storey, CFRE, chair of AFP Foundation for Philanthropy—Canada, says that the environment among AFP members is one that leverages diverse expertise and strengthens individual and collective capacity for the causes we represent. Our AFP network comprises some of the most dedicated and skilled professionals among any profession, and we have a unique opportunity to develop and learn from each other in such a rapidly changing field. 

But, in addition to the personal benefits of belonging to AFP, there are many accomplishments that all members can be proud of as we take stock of our work this past year. There is also much to look forward to in 2020.

Looking Back at 2019: Creating Public Policy and Building our Narrative

Government has the power to affect the fundraising profession in many ways. One need only look at other countries such as the UK to see the negative impact that legislation can have on our work.

Here in Canada, AFP members are part of the government’s newly created Advisory Committee on the Charitable Sector, as well as the Technical Issues Working Group. Andrea McManus, CFRE, the founding chair of the AFP Foundation for Philanthropy—Canada and past chair of AFP Global, and Terrance Carter, advisor to the AFP Canada Government Relations Committee, are two of the 14-member advisory committee. Past AFP Global board member, Vivian Smith, CFRE, is our representative on the technical issues working group housed in the CRA. Our voice—the voice of our profession—is part of these significant conversations. 

AFP appeared before the Special Senate Committee on the Charitable Sector three times to provide our profession’s input into its final report, Catalyst for Change: A Roadmap to a Stronger Charitable Sector.

These appearances were complemented by written submissions to the committee and the Canada Revenue Agency, and through personal meetings with members of parliament (MPs)—an impressive 164 meetings were held across our country by AFP members as part of our “Day in the Ridings” initiative.  

In an effort to stave off unwanted regulation and ally itself with social progress, the new Narrative on Canadian Fundraising was launched in 2019, resulting in the training of the first cohort of advocates. The Narrative is already helping to shift the conversation among fundraisers and the public. Whether at conferences, through media relations or in the Globe & Mail’s bi-annual supplement on the charitable sector, the narrative about fundraising is changing from a defensive posture to one that is more focused on impact.

Research and Education

AFP pushed forward its research agenda with the release of two papers this past year:  The Canadian Fundraising Leadership Survey by Mikhael Bornstein, and Donor Engagement of Women in Canada: Insights on Fundraising Programs and Practices by Juniper Glass.

Educational sessions from the Banff Compass and Toronto Congress were made available to all members through livestreaming—bringing information directly to where members live. Reflecting our commitment to serve members in both official languages, important resources such as Fundraising is Awesome and Asking Matters were among seven major Canadian fundraising tools that were translated into French. Canadian stories, articles and news items are now provided to members on a weekly basis through a Canadian edition of AFP Daily every Thursday.

Eighteen more fundraisers joined fellow graduates from the Fellowship in Inclusion and Philanthropy Program last year, helping to expand the thinking and discussions on inclusion, diversity, equity and access in the fundraising profession.

Priorities for 2020: Government Relations and Communications

Continuing to be the voice and champion for our profession remains a priority this year.

“AFP Canada’s vision is to be the bilingual voice of the fundraising profession in Canada,” says Paula Attfield, chair of AFP Canada. “We aim to educate our MPs and ministers about our work to ensure we will be ready to pre-empt any legislation that will potentially be harmful to our sector. More importantly we want to proactively advocate for changes in the government that will allow us to raise more money more effectively—to do the good work that our nonprofit organizations aim to do, and to ultimately make the world a better place. That’s what our profession does.”

Relationship building and educating elected officials on the impact of our sector is a priority for AFP. Letters have been sent to all 338 members of Parliament outlining the role AFP plays in the charitable sector and our public policy priorities. Advocating for improvements to our sector is crucial. We are doing so with a clear vision of what we want to achieve on behalf of the profession thanks to the newly developed five-year vision for government relations. This vision enables us to focus on what will have the greatest impact for our profession.

This work, along with our communications efforts, will continue to be informed by the Narrative. Sharing its key messages in our media relations work and through articles, podcasts, presentations and further training sessions will influence how the stories of fundraising and our professionals are told.

Looking Ahead

 A fifth edition of the What Canadian Donors Want survey will be published next year, providing insight into donors and what they seek from the charities they support.

Education continues to be at the core of what AFP does. Access to free webinars, new research and scholarships to broaden access for events and conferences continue to be offered through the National Scholarship Program.

In reflecting on the developments in the past year and our priorities for 2020, Storey says, “We continue to see growing demand for knowledge and education among our members. It challenges us to find ways to grow the opportunities available for fundraisers to benefit from innovative research and professional development.”

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