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Chapter Spotlight: Chicago Tops 1,000 Members

August 9, 2002

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CHICAGO (AFP eWire - August 9, 2002) - For the first time in the history of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), a chapter has surpassed 1,000 members. The AFP Chicago Chapter achieved this milestone last month.

The 1,000th member, Alfred Andreychuk, development director, 98.7 WFMT, Network Chicago, Chicago, Ill., was excited to learn that his serendipitous accomplishment earned him a complimentary registration for the 7th Annual Midwest Conference on Philanthropy scheduled for Sept. 17-19, 2002, at Chicago's Navy Pier.

"This is a great surprise," said Andreychuk. "I joined AFP looking for more opportunities to network and grow as a professional. And to learn that I can attend the Midwest Conference on Philanthropy for free, well, that's just icing on the cake."

It's all about marketing

"The key to our tremendous growth has been an aggressive marketing campaign," said Bill Brooks, CFRE, president, Bill Brooks & Associates, and chair of the chapter's membership committee. "Our volunteers work hard to make sure that each member nurtures a strong connection to AFP."

Brooks is not joking when he calls their marketing campaign aggressive. It consists of several tiers of members - brand new members, prospective members and recently lapsed members. Each of these individuals receives a call from one of the 16 volunteer committee members at appropriate times throughout the year. In addition, committee volunteers host a new and prospective member reception prior to each chapter program. These have been well attended and afford a face to face welcome.

By involving members from the start, and keeping them involved throughout the year, they are more inclined to get maximum benefit from their membership. They are also more inclined to renew their memberships. Which is why recent AFP Chicago Chapter members also receive another call when they are about six months into their membership.

"At this point, we ask them if they've joined a committee or if they've been attending the meetings and educational activities," adds Brooks. "If they say no, we go over the various opportunities again and invite them to participate."

Each of the volunteer callers is provided with a list of individuals to contact as well as a comprehensive script.

Testing the waters

With over 8,000 registered charities within the city limits of Chicago, there is even more room for growth says Barbara Talisman, president, Talisman Associates, Chicago, Ill., and vice president, chapter membership services.

The chapter is currently test marketing to 33 organizations with budgets of more than $20 million and to 350 organizations with budgets between $1 and $5 million. These types of organizations typically have more than one development professional and may be more likely to pay the AFP membership dues for their employees, which makes them a target market.

"By testing our marketing techniques, combined with superior volunteer-based customer service, we find that many members and prospective members respond well," said Talisman.

Raising the bar

The success of the Chicago Chapter can be attributed to its overall attention to providing high quality programming as well as catering to members' ever-changing needs.

"A chapter's growth relies on many things: volunteers, educational programs, leadership, etc.," said Talisman. "So as our membership continues to grow, we must remain vigilant and make sure that our services and programs maintain their high standards."

But as the old saying goes: success begets success. Now, Brooks is chasing even larger numbers.

"Now that we've reached 1,000 members, we've set a new goal of 1,100 members," said Brooks. "It's just like fundraising - you've got to continually set a high goal and work hard to achieve it."

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