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Canada at the International Fundraising Summit: Now It’s Time to Prepare!

June 20, 2017

As the inaugural president of AFP Canada, I had the privilege of representing our Canadian colleagues at the International Fundraising Summit in San Francisco in April. This was the first time that Canada was directly represented, as in the past the volunteer chair of AFP had represented all of North America.  Though an honour, now we in Canada need to use what we learned from events, as well as what’s happening in other countries, to be better prepared for the future of our profession.

Here are some of the themes that we need to be prepared for as a profession:

Technology

Asia and Europe are leading the way in terms of technology adoption by the public. Technology providers and companies are driving innovation and are aggressively encouraging technology adoption by charities for all sorts of fundraising methods. That trend is a powerful one, but not without its concerns. For example, in China, the double impact of technology acceleration—as well as a new and growing charitable sector that is dependent on third party providers—is creating an environment where these for-profit companies have significant influence over the charity-donor relationship. Our challenge is to be aware of these new kinds of relationships, ensure that ethical standards are being met and abided by, and be prepared to reinforce our philosophy that the donor is at the heart of philanthropy and fundraising.

Negative Media Impacting Legislation

Recent events reported by the media in the United Kingdom, which were eventually proven untrue, have created a chill in the public and led to new regulatory efforts limiting fundraising.  In the U.K. example, although charities were relatively prepared for negative messages, the massive storm in the media shocked the public and limited organizations’ ability to properly respond. The fundraising profession and the charitable sector have now answered with a transparent process of review and new proposals to guide fundraising. There is much we can learn from this example (Australia is already taking pro-active steps to avoid a similar situation), and we must be as prepared as possible with compelling messages and a team of experts ready when our own storm occurs.

Leadership

How we grow fundraisers to become organizational leaders remains a challenge around the globe.  The fundraising profession lacks connection to senior management in organizations, recognition in the public and understanding of the value of certification.  Canadian focus groups in our New Horizons work (the process that ultimately led to the creation of AFP Canada) verified this challenge for our own country.  We need to find ways to improve philanthropic and fund development literacy amongst board members, CEOs and the public, as well as offer educational programs to prepare fundraisers to lead and grow respect for the profession in the public.  This problem may be the hardest to address, but will likely produce the greatest impact when we get started.

We have a challenge now—as members and chapters—and AFP and AFP Canada must lay the groundwork to prepare and grow our profession in response to these challenges that are not just affecting our country, but our profession around the world.

Scott Decksheimer, CFRE
Inaugural Chair, AFP Canada

Scott Decksheimer is a partner with ViTrēo Group, a Canadian fundraising consultancy based in Calgary, Alberta.



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