President's Perspective Blog

Mike’s Monday Message: Don’t Look Back

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You hear it a lot: Don’t look back. Focus on the future and look ahead. There’s no use dwelling in the past.

I have a bias for action and looking to the future, but I do think there are some good reasons to look to the past. We can learn a lot about ourselves and what we’ve been through when we look back. Sometimes, it’s good to remember the challenges and obstacles (and even the pain) we have experienced.

As humans, we tend to learn more and grow as individuals by going through the tough times. We learn more from our losses than we do from our victories. We also learn who our true friends are and what communities (personal and professional) are there for us. Once I realized the impact of COVID-19, I made my #1 priority all year to reinforce for all our members that the AFP community is there for you in meaningful and supportive ways: #OneAFP.

There’s no doubt that 2020 was tough and painful. We lost family, friends and colleagues, and saw many people—people that we know and serve—suffer because of the pandemic. We have had to come to grips with the fact that, as a society, we have not fought hard enough for our friends and colleagues of color. While it is a painful reckoning, it is nothing compared to how they have suffered and continue to suffer.

Those are key reasons that we need to look back—and keep looking back—because they are what will drive us to do better in the future. As a result of the pandemic, we have developed entirely new ways of providing education and services, and we’ve focused on new ideas and projects such as “AFP Supports,” our campaign on improving mental wellness and self-care in the profession.

The conversations we’re having about race, equity and social justice have led us to examine our own internal systems and policies. This work has yielded an even more diverse representation than ever before in our board, staff and membership overall—50% of our incoming board is represented by members of color, our incoming chair-elect is the first Black woman to hold that position, and 46% of our AFP Global staff are people of color.

Looking back, I also see a lot of victories and accomplishments on behalf of our membership. We continued to provide you with the “gold standard” resources and tools you needed to raise funds in this challenging year. Despite our in-person conference ICON being cancelled three weeks before it was supposed to begin, we pivoted to an online event and were so successful that we ended up producing a white paper about it to help guide other organizations in the same situation. We then saw a record number of participants at AFP LEAD, our leadership conference, and our new online educational series, Deep Dives, was hugely successful.

We also launched our new Career Center and job board. Celebrated National Philanthropy Day with a global virtual event. Held our second Ethics Awareness Month. Launched our new conference, AFP Summer Sessions. Created new partnerships with, and many others. Published Our Right to Heal, a series of powerful personal stories about the experiences of Black women fundraisers in Canada, as well as new research on the impact of the pandemic on fundraising and fundraising confidence for the future.

And personally, I loved being able to see and talk with so many more of you through virtual meetings than I would have in a typical year. That one change alone has dramatically altered the way I can and will be in better touch with chapters and members, and that’s something I’ll look back on fondly when I think of 2020.

All of this – and so much more – we did to support you and the AFP community in managing your way through this (hopefully) once-in a-lifetime pandemic.

Undoubtedly there was pain, but I hope you’re able to look back at 2020 with some happiness as well. Hopefully you learned to adapt and try new things, and ultimately found optimism and confidence in a new way of working and living.

And I hope that you found AFP a worthy partner, resource and investment over the past 12 months. Like you, we’re learning all the time, adjusting and evolving to be able to better serve you and your fundraising needs. I’m glad you’re part of the fundraising community, and I look forward to serving you in 2021.

My next Monday Message is scheduled for the New Year. So in the meantime, good luck with your year-end fundraising, and have a very safe and happy holiday season.


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Mike Geiger, MBA, CPA

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