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Nomination Tips from a Young Professional Award Recipient

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At organizations large and small, urban and rural, throughout the globe, fundraising professionals make communities better as we address challenges and advance missions that change lives. 

Fundraising professionals of all ages, backgrounds, and demographics, across all verticals of the nonprofit sector, are moved to help. Often, the impact can be felt instantly. 

As an immigrant and individual who fled a war-torn country as a child, I learned early in my life about the difference generous individuals can make. This led me to my life’s work: philanthropy. 

In 2018, I received one of the greatest professional surprises and honors: My incredible colleagues nominated me for the Association of Fundraising Professionals Award for Outstanding Young Professional. Knowing that I was nominated was humbling. Ultimately, being selected for the award, and honored during AFP ICON 2018, was an infliction point in my career: it opened doors for future involvement in AFP Global. 

Today, I find myself on the other side of the process, serving as a committee member for the same award that once honored me while serving on AFP Global’s Board of Directors and the association’s Marketing and Awards Committee. My AFP journey has been filled with growth, learning, and a deep appreciation for the remarkable individuals in our sector. They, alongside my amazing team I work with, and benefactors I serve, inspire me each day.

Every year, AFP highlights the work of up to five young professionals under the age of 31 who have already been successful in demonstrating exemplary, creative, and innovative work in their careers, as well as a strong commitment to the profession, including engagement with AFP and community and volunteer work.

As nominators begin crafting submission materials, here are key points that you may find helpful:

  • Select key differentiators: Determine the points that set you apart – the characteristics that make you, you. What is your competitive advantage?  
  • Give emphasis to IDEA: Highlight the commitment you share with AFP to IDEA: Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access.  
  • Articulate your achievements: When crafting your application, be sure to highlight your most significant achievements and contributions to your professional role and volunteer organizations. Articulate how your work has made a positive impact. This is a great area to highlight your education and professional certifications. 
  • Highlight your community engagement: Share with the selection committee the organizations whose committees, boards, or advisory boards you serve on. Here is where you can highlight your local or global AFP involvement.
  • Show your passion: Passion is often a driving force behind one's success. Share your passion for fundraising and the causes you support. Explain how your commitment goes beyond just a job.
  • Demonstrate leadership: Showcase instances where you've taken the lead, whether it's in managing projects, inspiring a team, or initiating innovative fundraising campaigns. Leadership qualities are highly valued.
  • Emphasize your growth: Reflect on your professional journey and your personal and professional growth.
  • Look at the future: What is your career trajectory and how do you envision future volunteer involvement in your community and through our association? 
  • Celebrate collaboration: Highlight instances where you have collaborated with colleagues, volunteers, or partner agencies to inspire philanthropic growth and impact. 

The young professional must meet the following criteria to be considered for the award: 

  1. Be a current AFP member in any category; and 
  2. Be under the age of 31 on the nomination deadline date.

The deadline to submit nominations is December 20, 2023 at 5 p.m. Eastern. I look forward to celebrating AFP’s next Outstanding Young Professional Award recipients. They are the difference-makers of today and tomorrow. 

Dzenan BerberovicRefugee of war. Immigrant. Difference-maker.

Some people feel called to be a champion of the world’s least and last. Dzenan Berberovic (JE-nahn Bur-bur-oh-vik) is committed to making lives better.

Born and raised in one of the poorest countries of the world, war-torn Bosnia, his humble beginnings were a stepping stone that shaped him into the professional he is today. A resident of a refugee camp and Germany for six years, Dzenan and his mother immigrated to the United States when he was nine years old.

Today, Dzenan has the honor of serving Avera as Chief Philanthropy Officer. Inspired by a stranger’s generosity, Dzenan was led to his life’s work: philanthropy.

At Avera, an organization that cares for a population of one million individuals across a five-state footprint, Dzenan is the executive sponsor of philanthropy. He leads Avera’s philanthropic agenda to better serve patients, families, residents and employees. Prior to joining Avera, he held increasingly responsible roles at his alma mater, University of South Dakota, where he served as Executive Director for Principal Giving. During his career, Dzenan has also held Chief of Staff responsibilities and has been responsible for managing key internal and external relationships, strategies and initiatives.

Dzenan’s work spans the continuum of philanthropy: annual giving, marketing, special events, donor services, development operations, campaigns, and individual giving programs focused on major, lead and principal-level gifts. He has served and led teams to raise more than $550 million.

Dzenan and his wife, Kelsey, reside in Sioux Falls, SD. He holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of South Dakota. He received a graduate degree from Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota in Philanthropy and Development. Dzenan holds the Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) Credential.

Dzenan was named the Outstanding Young Professional by the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) Global. Prior to transitioning to healthcare, Dzenan received the Rising Star Award by the Council for Advancement in Support of Education (CASE). He was named Outstanding Graduate Student at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota. The Association for Healthcare Philanthropy (AHP) recognized him as a 40 Under 40 recipient. In 2023, he was named Tomorrow’s Leader by the Catholic Health Association of the United States (CHA). Becker’s Hospital Review has listed Dzenan as a “Rising Star Under 40.”

Dzenan is involved in the community and serves on several regional and national nonprofit boards and committees.

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