President's Perspective Blog

Nominating Award Honorees and Supporting Identity

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Some of the best moments at every AFP ICON are when our honorees receive their awards and recognitions.

No matter if you know ahead of time who is being honored or your particular relationship to the honoree, their work or their cause, we often feel a special connection with honorees at that moment when they are recognized for their work. And I think it’s because we’re sharing in something we all want to feel: being recognized for who we are.

There’s a theory in philosophy which states that recognition is critical because how others see us can be a necessary step in forming an understanding of who we are or confirm who we think are. So we might say that we don’t care about what people think about us or that we aren’t concerned about public perception—and those things might even be true!—but even subconsciously we might need recognition to confirm who we are and encourage us to continue our efforts.

I think this idea might be especially important for our Outstanding Young Professionals and the honorees for the William R. Simms Award for Outstanding Youth in Philanthropy, sponsored by Carter. For young professionals, the honor is a recognition of their commitment to fundraising and their identity as a dedicated fundraising professional. For our youth, it is an inspiring recognition of the power they have as philanthropists, young or otherwise! Receiving such a recognition provides a strong confirmation of identity that can carry a person further into their career with confidence and optimism.

For our Outstanding Fundraising Professional, the recognition is a little different, but still very important—an affirmation of a consummate professional career that has helped and served so many people and communities. It’s an opportunity to use that recognition to share knowledge and wisdom and remind others of the importance of a fundraising identify and all that it entails. 

That’s critical because, as I mentioned earlier, we all share in that moment of identity when someone is recognized. Those of us who aren’t recognized tend to want to follow in the honoree’s footsteps, or at least be identified in the same or similar way, so the stories of honorees can serve as inspiration and benchmarks for our own career and life paths. Our stories might be different, but the ultimate goals will be similar, and we can use the honorees’ life stories and lessons to help us follow down our own paths.

Now look, I recognize that some of you are probably saying, Mike - we just want to recognize people because it’s the right thing to do and they’ve done so much for us and the community. Fair enough—that’s important too!

And as I talk about identity in our awards program, I know that we all need to be thinking about equity in our recognition process. Casting a wider net for honorees, rethinking how we honor people (and how many) and ensuring that our process is inclusive and equitable—these are important conversations that AFP is having right now about our awards program. We need to be able to see ourselves in the categories and honorees that we select for recognition.

Nominating someone, and supporting their work, story and identity, is a great and powerful way to support someone. I hope you’ll nominate a colleague, a donor or someone you admire for one of AFP Global’s awards.

We’re currently accepting nominations for

  • Outstanding Fundraising Professional,
  • Outstanding Young Professionals (up to five nominations will be selected) and the
  • William R. Simms Award for Outstanding Youth in Philanthropy, sponsored by Carter (with Individual and Group categories).

The deadline to submit nominations for all awards is Nov. 21, and honorees will be recognized during our plenary sessions at AFP ICON 2023 in New Orleans, April 16 – 18.

You can find information about our awards program, including the online nomination form for each category, at our awards portal. I look forward to your nomination of a colleague or young person who has inspired you in your journey and helped you think about your own work and identity.

As always, if you have any thoughts about our public policy programs or any other aspect of AFP, please email me at or contact me via Twitter at @AFPMikeGeiger.


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Mike Geiger, MBA, CPA

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