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Reflecting on the Emergence of AFP Canada

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scottBy Scott Decksheimer, CFRE

Wow, 20 months! Time flies in a dynamic work/volunteer environment.

When contemplating whether to accept the role of chair of the AFP Canada Board of Directors in April 2017, unknown to those around me, I was working from a personal focus to “be brave and courageous” as well as “be understanding.” My approach was the result of a reflective exercise led by Chief Dr. Robert Joseph at a Truth and Reconciliation breakfast.  (I either blame or thank him for my decision to accept the role, depending on the day, hour, or minute!)

Be Brave and Courageous

AFP Canada was, and is, a “brave” new direction developed after four years of consultation with AFP members, chapter leaders and volunteers. It was, in effect, a start-up, while already flying in mid air.  So where are we now, versus where we were?

Our wins:

  • AFP Canada first appeared on the docket at a full-day external public consultation of the Special Senate Committee on the Charitable Sector. This was due to two reasons. One, we have built strong relationships with certain senators, and two, we are known for a values-based and ethical approach to our profession. After our presentation, we were asked by each Senator to return as issues and ideas come forward throughout the discussion.
  • This year, AFP Canada is poised to work with our chapters and members to meet with over 130 Members of Parliament through our Day in the Ridings event! This incredible achievement is the result of an idea hatched by a group of volunteers who decided that meetings in ridings would be important, rather than only holding meetings on Parliament Hill. Now, we have multiplied our number of MP meetings ten-fold on an annual basis. 
  • Taking a public stand has also been important. We have worked at being brave and using our position to speak about a variety of issues including the postal strike, charity evaluators and the costs of fundraising. Our courage is fortified and our message representing fundraising IN CANADA is important.  We hope to also help our members speak within their organizations with more power, but more on that later.

Even with these wins, there is more work to be done.

We are almost ready to launch training on what we’re calling a “new narrative for fundraising in Canada.” The research is complete, and now we must develop our messages about our profession and then train advocates. My dream is to eliminate the “it takes money to make money” flippant response from our vocabulary and speak from a position of power about why we, the fundraising profession, exist.

Be Understanding

Early in our birth, we had some false starts. Expectations were unclear. How boards were approved occurred in opaque processes. How AFP Canada would be funded, and who speaks about AFP and the profession in Canada were all uncertain.

Our wins:

  • Thanks to our board leaders, our partnership with the AFP Foundation for Philanthropy – Canada, and our chapters, we developed our first shared strategic plan for AFP in Canada. Now, we are creating our operating principles and key performance indicators to further entrench our understanding of our joint roles. This has required us to listen, respond, adapt and prepare for how we work together. I am particularly proud of how we infused chapter engagement into our big directions.
  • AFP Canada is part of AFP Global, a partnership that surveys show as being heavily valued by our membership. We are distinct but not separate. As we have emerged, we have built a shared and collective way of working together and adding value to each other. This depth of understanding is huge, and the leadership of Mike Geiger, Jason Lee, and Ann Hale, along with so many leaders and staff, made this happen.  The strength of our partnership has resulted in a long-term base funding commitment to the staff position in Canada and our other work! 
  • We are more bilingual than before. Our new AFPcanada.org landing page offers content in English and French. This approach needs to continue, and we remain committed to delivering resources and information to our members and the public in both languages.

But there is more work to be done.

We can continue to be a catalyst for discussions about inclusion, diversity, equity and access. There is a long way to go on gender equity, including pay. Harassment and bullying also remain a huge concern, based on findings from the survey conducted by AFP and The Chronicle of Philanthropy. Not continuing to work on this would be a mistake, and I think you will see some new materials and efforts to better deal with awareness and support for many of these issues.

As I reflect on my time as chair of AFP Canada, I realize I have been privileged to stand on the shoulders of the giants who started this work—who led early AFP Chapters and who built this profession to where it is today. I hope that my courage and understanding has made a difference. I think that we all have been brave, courageous and understanding, and I am thankful that I accepted the role as the first chair for AFP Canada.

Keep in touch!

Email Scott at scott@vitreogroup.ca.

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