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7 Takeaways from 2015 AFP Fundraising Conference

Last week’s 2015 Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) International Fundraising Conference in Baltimore, MD did not disappoint! If you’re not familiar, AFP aims to bring together the crème of the crop in the world of fundraising and philanthropy including fundraisers and donor relations professionals, experts, thought leaders, vendors, as well as those interested in entering and excelling in the field.

There were too many awesome moments to list, but here are a few key takeaways and memories we’ll be sure to treasure:

1.     There’s nothing more inspiring than inspiration: It may seem obvious (okay – it’s really obvious), but AFP really delivers when it comes to making an emotional impact.  

Keynote speakers Whoopi Goldberg, Seth Godin and Isabel Allende were all particularly effective (in their own unique and colorful way) of striking the right chord here. Just check out some of these memorable moments from the tweetosphere:

2.     The early bird gets the worm: With nearly 4,000 people from all over the world in attendance, you better believe in getting close with your fellow fundraisers! But enduring the overflow conditions was well worth it for the solid information being shared. A good lesson for any fundraiser – it pays to be early.

3.     Don’t just ask youth to give, invite them to participate: Millennials continue to be that elusive crowd that everyone wants a piece of. Presenter Penelope Burk during her super informative session “Under the Radar…How to Unleash Young Donor’s Philanthropy” shared these three qualities that young donors overwhelmingly said they MUST have in order to become long-term donors:

  • Prompt and meaningful acknowledgement – Don’t wait to respond to this group or you’ll miss out! The relationship building starts immediately. Acknowledge them in genuine ways that are easy to personalize and individualize like tweets, pictures and videos.
  • Opportunity for give more narrowly – Restricted giving is key. Younger donors want to see their money flowing directly to the causes that they care about most. Provide ample opportunities to give to things that have concrete (and immediate) impact – whether it’s books in the hands of students or valuable research to advance medical breakthroughs, aim to set tangible goals. Doses of broader mission-based messaging will only motivate young donors if given in very small amounts.
  • Proof of impactWhat did my previous gift do for the cause? To keep younger donors engaged over the long-term, your organization will need to be able to answer this question clearly and fully. Don’t assume that this group doesn’t care about the details; they are paying attention more than you know. Think of millennials as your “investors” – they want to know the ROI. Provide easy-to-understand (and bonus points for interactive) charts/graphs/figures to aid them in their research.

Other youth-focused sessions titled “How to Attract and Engage a New Generation of Philanthropists”, “How to Create Inspiring and Successful Millennial Fundraising Programs”, and “The Fountain of Youth: The Case & Resources for AFP Youth in Philanthropy” drove the point home about the timely significance of this demographic and the future of nonprofit sustainability.

However, the biggest takeaway was the need for organizations to fully engrain their youngest supporters in all aspects of their work – not just engaging youth as donors, but as authentic partners in the shaping of the organization as well. So, if you’re not already doing it, think about new ways to expand your outreach to younger supporters as volunteers, managers, board members and high-value donors.

4.     Be good to the donors you already have: Attracting new donors is important, but nurturing the relationships you already have is paramount. Did you know that improving attrition rates by just 10% could increase your organization’s revenue by 200%? That’s right. Sounds like a strong case for investing more (time, money and resources) into your donor cultivation strategies.

5.     No one can do this work alone: Whether you’re talking crowd-sourcing, crowdfunding or talking to a crowded room of potential donors, the saying is true – people need people. Look outside your organization to make meaningful connections. Partnerships – the mutually beneficial kind – are especially critical to advancing your work. Define the type of partner you need to be successful, but also be realistic about whether you’re the right fit for them. Corporate partnerships can be very tricky to navigate, but they have huge benefits. Check out the slides from these sessions to determine if you’re approaching partnerships the right way: 1) Comprehensive Corporate Relations: Forging Mutually Beneficial Corporate Partnerships, 2) Strategies for Winning Crowd-Sourced Corporate and Foundation Grant Funding, 3) Understanding CSR from the Corporate Perspective

6.    Tend to people (more than projects) and you will never go wrong! Raising money for causes is extremely fulfilling, yet incredibly difficult work. It’s easy to lose sight of what’s really important in the daily shuffle, but here are some ways to keep focused on what really matters – the people:

  • Respect the quality of your donor relationships, not the quantity.


  • Manage up, down and sideways

Sessions like "How to Lead Others by Managing Ourselves" and "Got Your Moves Going? Using Moves Management to Manage Up and to Manage Others" spoke directly to how strong teams contribute to strong organizations. Basically, the key is not to restrict the term “team” to just your immediate group of colleagues with the most similar roles or goals as you. Create your own all-star team with members across departments and include board members, volunteers and others whoever else can help you get the job done. 

7. One final thought from #afpfc to remember in your journey to change the world:


Special thanks to AFP – we were proud to sponsor such an amazing event! Check out some Salsa pics from #afpfc.


Fun times and meeting great people at the Annual Fundraising Conference 2015. #afpfc

Posted by Salsa Labs on Monday, March 30, 2015


Topics: Events Fundraising