President's Perspective Blog

Next Steps for AFP and Leadership Development

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Even though we’re more than a week past AFP LEAD 2022, I’m still deep in thought about leadership and unpacking so many valuable lessons and stimulating conversations.

Much of that has to do with my own personal experience with many of you in Houston, but it also has to do with so much work we still have ahead of us.

I’ve long talked about the large (and growing) gap in nonprofit leadership as a result of baby boomers retiring, which has been exacerbated by the pandemic. In my five years at AFP, we’ve made strides with our leadership offerings—growing AFP LEAD to more than 500 attendees and adding AFP360, our incredible Korn Ferry partnership, to mention a couple—but we also recognize that’s not enough.

As you heard at AFP LEAD, AFP and the AFP Foundation for Philanthropy, in partnership with Bridge Philanthropic Consulting and Carter, are embarking on a journey to create a comprehensive leadership development program. Not just growing AFP LEAD. Not just more gold-standard educational content. This program will be a strategic, year-round experience, created based on feedback from AFP members, AFP chapter leaders, diverse partner organizations and fundraising thought-leaders.

The program will be comprised of three main components:

  • Component One is focused on the individual, bringing leadership skills to your portfolio through year-round online offerings, plus in-person programs like AFP LEAD.
  • Component Two is focused on the organization. We will be offering a one-week intensive, cohort program that will focus on issues such as IDEA (inclusion, diversity, equity and access), strategic planning, ethics, change management, talent management and volunteer/board engagement, with an overarching goal to build a culture of philanthropy within nonprofit organizations. The pilot cohort will launch in the summer of 2023.
  • Component Three is focused on the overall sector and will examine key sector-wide issues, such as compensation, high turnover, unrestricted institutional support, and cultural development. We anticipate the first two components playing significant roles in developing solutions to these and other challenges in our sector.

There is so much more to this program that I can’t wait to share with you, including shaping a certification pathway that would include a “baseline” certification for new fundraisers, elevating the ACFRE, and the creation of a Fundraiser Bill of Rights. But the reality is that we’ve only just begun.

A key driver in getting this program to the heights we seek is the AFP Foundation for Philanthropy. Leadership is one of the pillars the Foundation stands on, and through generous gifts from many of you (especially the Hackett Family Foundation—more to come on that), and the hard work of the Foundation, we’re able to fund this program and strive for the lofty goals we’ve set.

So, what’s the next step? This is where you come in.

We need your feedback to help design the leadership development curriculum and overall program experience. I’d like to invite you to please participate in a short survey (less than 10 minutes). If you’ve already taken the survey, I ask that you forward this link to at least two of your colleagues.

Take the Survey:

Needless to say, much more to come about this program and our efforts to close the leadership gap, so stay tuned.

If you’re celebrating Halloween, don’t eat too much candy tonight (or do—it’s only once a year after all), and as always, please don’t hesitate to reach me via email at or on Twitter at @AFPMikeGeiger.

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Mike Geiger, MBA, CPA

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