President's Perspective Blog

Mike’s Monday Message: It’s Time to LEAD


We’re just two days away from our annual fundraising leadership conference: AFP LEAD VIRTUAL. It’s going to be an incredible online event featuring some amazing presenters and two extraordinary keynote speakers: Edgar Villanueva and Chef José Andrés. By tuning in, you’ll also have the opportunity to earn up to nine CFRE education points! You can register here, and I look forward to seeing you online.

A few weeks ago, I posted a message about how we can all be leaders. We all have the capacity to be leaders, no matter our position within an organization, and we all bring a unique leadership style that we can capitalize on if we understand ourselves and leadership dynamics.

At the same time, I do believe there are a few common characteristics of leaders that I usually see rising to the top. This isn’t meant to be an all-inclusive list, but these are some that ring true to me and ones that I try to use in my daily work at AFP Global.

  • Clarity of purpose. Focus on key priorities. Choose the most important things to accomplish—not too many, maybe three to five—and keep people focused on them. Even as we sometimes get bogged down in everything that is happening, we need to keep our sights set on the objectives that will move the organization forward in an impactful way.
  • Do not get distracted by the "noise.” Stand strong on your principles and do not compromise on your key values. Financial pressures have made some give in to making decisions that may not be for the best. Despite the challenges we face now, our value system should not change. People will respect that.
  • Understand your strengths and weaknesses, and then focus on what you do best. Our organizations are being hit with decreased funding for a variety of reasons. You won’t be able to do everything you used to be able to do. Emphasize your strengths and expand on them.
  • Communicate and do so honestly. It’s so easy to feel isolated. Keep the sense of community strong by having socially distanced one-on-one meetings. Encourage different groups to meet, even those who wouldn’t typically get together if we were in “regular” conditions. Continue to communicate goals, needs and priorities – be honest with your organization,  staff and “constituents” – and don’t make promises you know you can’t keep. If later the landscape changes, and as a result you can’t keep your promise, be honest and explain why. If you screw up, own it! People would rather you own up to your mistakes than try to cover them (see next paragraph).
  • Empathy and trust. We are all going through  A LOT. Sure, we know all the major events that are happening in the world, but what we know about the impact of those things on individual people is usually quite small. People are being affected by 1,000 different things in 1,000 different ways. Practicing empathy and understanding is so critical now. Trust your team and let them do what they do best. Be honest and transparent – these two things build trust, which is the key to every successful relationship.
  • Relax and don’t forget to celebrate your victories. Oh, and have fun doing it. Yep, we’re still allowed to have fun, and it should be encouraged. Let’s enjoy even our little victories!

What did I miss? What are some key attributes and characteristics of leadership that are especially important for you? I’d love to hear from you—email me at or reach out on Twitter at @AFPMikeGeiger.

And of course, I look forward to seeing you online at AFP LEAD VIRTUAL to learn more about leadership!

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Mike Geiger, MBA, CPA

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