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What We Learned (And Left) in San Francisco: The 2017 AFP International Conference

May 11, 2017

If you missed the 2017 AFP International Fundraising Conference in San Francisco, you missed a lot! But we’re here to show you the highlights of the best, busiest three days of fundraising education, networking and inspiration you can find anywhere in the world.

Twitter Before the Conference

Of course, you may have followed some of the conference proceedings on Twitter, and it all started even before the conference:

Emily Reed, CFRE‏ @emthecfre  Apr 30
Fair warning: today officially starts the most wonderful time of the year i.e. #afpfc. Lots of fundraising tweets coming.

Benjamin Mohler‏ @benmohler  Apr 29
Once a year my twitter feed comes alive for nearly an entire week. Yup, it's #afpfc #afpfc2017 time

Janea Roberts‏ @janea_roberts  Apr 29
I don't always tweet, but when I do, it's because I'm at #afpfc with my #afpeeps @StibbsInKC

Well said, Janea!

Also before the conference, AFP honored Dr. Lilya Wagner at our board meeting with the AFP/Skystone Partners Prize for Research on Fundraising and Philanthropy for her book, Diversity and Philanthropy: Expanding the Circle of Giving. She becomes the first author to receive the award twice, having already been honored for her earlier work, Careers in Fundraising.

Sunday Opening

Sunday featured the grand opening of the marketplace and the Sunday General Session, headlined by speaker Shiza Shahid. During the session, AFP also honored its first class of Distinguished Fellows, its Outstanding Young Professionals and its youth honorees for the Diversity Art Showcase.

2017 ICON - Distinguished Fellows

AFP’s first class of Distinguished Professionals: David Tinker, CFRE;  Grant Martin, CFRE; Barbara Levy, ACFRE; Kay Sprinkel Grace, MA, BA; Richard Paul Bragga, CFRE, JD, FAHP, ABC, APR; and Patricia Bjorhovde, MAPD


AFP’s 2017 Outstanding Young Professionals: Leah Heister, MA; Kayleigh Rae Stampfler, CFRE; Cherrelle Duncan, MPSA; Jessica Wroblewski, CFRE; and Nicholas Kulik, CFRE

2017 ICON - Diversity Art

Sharon Tiknis, Executive Vice President, The ALFORD Group; Haven Hibser, Third Place; Lynn Yaguchi, Second Place; Jake McRae, First Place; Karen Rotko-Wynn, CFRE, Executive Vice President, The ALFORD Group; and Birgit Smith Burton, Chair, AFP Inclusion and Diversity Committee 

The NonProfit Times covered Shiza’s remarks here, which set a high bar for the rest of the conference.

2017 ICON Shiza

Ann Hale, CFRE, Chair, AFP; and Shiza Shahid

We’re so glad Shiza had a good time!

Shiza Shahid‏Verified account @Shiza  May 4
Thank you #AFPFC I enjoyed speaking to fundraising professionals who have dedicated their talents to raising capital for deserving orgs

Sunday also featured the presentation of the AFP Awards for Outstanding Fundraising Professional (Barb Coury, CFRE, Indianapolis, Ind.), Outstanding Volunteer Fundraiser (Salah Bachir, Toronto, Ont.) and CARTER Outstanding Youth Philanthropist (Archer Hadley, Austin, Texas). You’ll see Archer in our compilation video above, and he wowed the crowd with his comments.


2017 Icon Barb Coury


Barb Coury, CFRE, Regional Chief Development Officer, State of Indiana, American Red Cross, 2017 CCS Outstanding Fundraising Professional

2017 ICON salar bachir

Salah Bachir, Toronto, Ontario, 2017 Outstanding Volunteer Fundraiser

2017 ICON Archer Hadley

Archer Hadley, Austin, Texas, 2017 CARTER Outstanding Youth Philanthropist

Foundations Support

During the conference, Blackbaud—the presenting conference sponsor—offered a matching challenge to the AFP Foundations in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

Rachel Hutchisson‏ @RachelHutchssn  Apr 30
Give to AFP during the conference and get a boost from @blackbaud in the#goodtakeover challenge #AFPFC #afpeeps

Blackbaud donated $10 when members gave to any of the three AFP Foundations—up to $5,000—whether in-person, or online. The result? Almost $40,000 in gifts to the three foundations supporting the BE The CAUSE Campaign (U.S.) and the Every Member Campaign (Canada and Mexico). The Foundations also raised thousands more dollars for Chamberlain Scholarships, Diversity Scholarships and other important programs.

Many thanks to everyone who supported the AFP Foundations during the three days of the conference, and to Blackbaud for their support of the Foundations and the conference!

Education and Takeaway

Of course, a critical part of any conference is what you learned and can take away to use at your organization’s fundraising program. Here’s one participant’s take on the conference, and here’s another from a participant from Turin, Italy (you might need your browser to translate).

With over 100 sessions, there was a lot to take in. Here are just a few tweets about education and key points from the conference:

The Alford Group‏ @thealfordgroup  May 1
"People tend to stick with what they know. Change is difficult" Jackie Copeland-Carson #AFPFC #diversity session #afpeeps

T. Clay Buck, CFRE‏ @tclaybuck
If we continue as an industry to undervalue annual fund & low/mid level donors, nothing will change. It's not ALL about major gifts. #AFPFC

Shanon Doolittle‏ @sldoolittle  May 1
What #donorlove theme is trending in so many #AFPFC sessions? If you're not caring for your donors, another charity will. #youvebeenserved

Big Bend AFP‏ @BigBendAFP  May 2
"Red pen test" for donor thank you letters. Circle all the "you"s. Letter should look like it has measles! @agentsofgood #AFPFC #donorlove

Laura Amerman, CFRE‏ @LEAmerman  May 1
Board meetings are NOT about reports, they are about decisions. (Cuz people can read) #AFPFC

Chris LeBrun, CFRE‏ @chrislebrun  May 1
Innovation doesn't have to be flashy. It does have to support the mission of your organization #afpfc

Tuesday with Cleve Jones

Tuesday featured more educational sessions, along with the Closing General Session featuring a panel about public policy and keynote speaker, Cleve Jones.

Emmett Carson, CEO of Silicon Valley Community Foundation; Leah Eustace, chair of the AFP Foundation for Philanthropy-Canada; and Peter Lewis, CEO of the Institute of Fundraising in the UK joined AFP President and CEO Jason Lee for a short panel about public policy.


2017 ICON public policy panel


Jason Lee, President and CEO, AFP; Peter Lewis, CEO, Institute of Fundraising; Leah Eustace, ACFRE, Chair, AFP Foundation for Philanthropy – Canada; and Emmett Carson, CEO, Silicon Valley Community Foundation

While the U.S. is facing its own challenges related to budget cuts and potential limitations on the charitable deduction, Canada and the UK are facing their own unique issues as well.

Anthony Petchel‏ @e8daysawek  May 2
Washington is trying to rewrite our social safety net contract with society.... Now is the time for all of us to act! @AFPIHQ #afpeeps

s mcdonald tiknis‏ @STiknis  May 2
Tell our stories better to gain public trust.Flood media with stories about organizational impact @emmettcarson #AFPFC @thealfordgroup

The panel closed with a call to action to all conference attendees and charities to get more involved in public policy.

We also honored the Outstanding Philanthropists (Alan Siegel and the Thompson Family), Outstanding Corporation (Nationwide), and the Outstanding Foundation (The Rotary Foundation).


2017 ICON alan seigel


Alan Siegel, New York, N.Y., 2017 Outstanding Philanthropist

2017 ICON Karen Blickley

Karen Blickley, Vice President, Nationwide Foundation, Columbus, Ohio, 2017 Outstanding Corporation

2017 ICON Paul Netzel

Paul Netzel, Chair, The Rotary Foundation; and Eric Schmelling, Chief Development Officer, The Rotary Foundation, Evanston, Ill.

Then came Cleve Jones.


2017 ICON Cleve Jones


Cleve Jones

Perhaps Ian says it best:

Ian MacQuillin‏ @IanMacQuillin  May 2
Standing ovations are often given out too lightly. Not this time. Not for Cleve Jones's plenary. Which was pretty bloody amazing #AFPFC

And then before you knew it, it was time to go.

Kayleigh Rae‏ @oKayRae  May 3
Savoring my last morning in San Fran before hopping a plane back to #roc! Thank you @AFPIHQ for a fantastic #afpfc!

Lisa Chmiola, CFRE‏ @houdatlisa  Apr 29
This year's #afpfc hasn't even started & already pumped about next year in #nola!… 

If you’re as excited about New Orleans 2018 as Lisa is, you can register by May 19 and the super, super, super (okay, just one super) early bird rate, $599.

And to end our conference with love:

Jen Love‏ @agentjenlove  May 3
I left my heart in San Francisco. Thank you, #AFPFC

You’re welcome, Jen. We feel the same way! Many thanks to all of our sponsors and volunteers, and to everyone who attended!

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