Choosing the AFP ICON 2019 Education Sessions
August 14, 2018
By Scott Staub
It’s that time: the AFP conference planning team has sent out notifications to all those who submitted education session proposals for ICON 2019 (formerly known as the International Fundraising Conference) to be held in San Antonio, Texas, March 31 - April 2.
How challenging is the process? AFP received 474 proposals for just 68 session slots!
That means a lot of discussion and thought from a dedicated group of individuals—the Conference Education Advisory Committee (CEAC)—who have the unenviable job of making the tough decisions.
AFP got a chance to sit down with one of the co-chairs of the Committee, Scott Staub, ACFRE, and talk through what it’s like serving on the CEAC.
Q: Tell us a little about yourself.
A: I’ve been a member of AFP for 33 years and currently serve as managing director for Leadership Search Partners in San Mateo, Calif. I’ve presented at AFP ICON several times, and am also a member of the ACFRE Board.
Q: What is the CEAC, and what does it do?
A: CEAC works with AFP’s professional development staff to evaluate speaker proposals and plan educational sessions for ICON. We meet at AFP International Headquarters for 2½ days in the summer to discuss speaker proposals, assess if there are gaps in the various educational tracks and recruit speakers to fill those gaps if needed. We provide our recommendations on conference education sessions to AFP staff, who make the final decisions.
Q: So, AFP received 474 proposals this year. Did you see any new trends emerging in the proposals from previous years, or new issues that are being addressed?
A: We are seeing more proposals about diversity and how fundraisers can work with diverse donors. We’re also receiving more proposals from international speakers, which I think is very good and gives North American fundraisers new perspectives on approaching their work.
I thought it was also interesting that proposed sessions about ethics seem to be digging deeper into specific, focused issues. For example, how does one work with donors who may have dementia? This is a timely topic as older donors like the Baby Boomers age, and we have to approach this issue with great care and sensitivity. We’re not medical professionals, so how does a fundraiser discern if his/her donor may have dementia? Is the gift intent compromised? How do we honor donor intent? A fascinating topic, and one that I’ll tease you with: you just might be able to attend that session at the upcoming ICON 2019!
Q: Sounds like there must be some fascinating topics, but that’s a ton of proposals to go through. How does the CEAC work through all the nominations?
A: Prior to meeting at IHQ, AFP staff assembles the proposals to be read and scored online. Committee members are split into teams of three so that each proposal is independently scored with comments as appropriate. Each committee member reads over 100 proposals before meeting in person. When the committee convenes at AFP International Headquarters, each team reviews their proposals for the highest scores. These are pulled for presentation to the full committee for further discussion.
Q: That’s got to be a lot of pressure on all of you, but it must also give you a great sense of accomplishment.
A: The selection process is an amazing, almost organic, deliberation by committee members and staff. AFP receives many more great speaker proposals than can be asked to present at ICON. The process works because committee members engage in candid and thoughtful dialogue in working to achieve a balance of sessions for fundraisers at all levels. Feedback from evaluations, our own knowledge of subjects and speakers, as well as a blending of new and experienced committee members, results in conference sessions that are receiving better and better ratings from attendees, making all the time and effort worth it!
Q: What would you say to individuals who submitted a proposal but weren’t selected?
A: First, THANK YOU! We are very aware of how much work goes into submitting a proposal. We so much appreciate your proposal and the time that went into it.
Second, don’t feel down. Not being selected doesn’t mean your proposal wasn’t “good enough.” There are so many factors we have to consider and so few slots to fill. And I can tell you, committee members and staff remember good proposals and may engage the presenter in other ways apart from ICON. Keep at it, and don’t give up if you don’t get selected.
Third, a “No” now is only a “No” now. AFP ICON 2019 will end up with more than 100 educational slots in total. Other slots are being developed by AFP staff with specific issues and presentations already in mind, based around strategic priorities or other matters. We may be back in touch.
AFP thanks everyone who submitted a proposal for an education session for ICON 2019, as well as the members of the CEAC:
Although this stage of the planning process is complete, AFP’s efforts to fill out the education program are far from over. We will continue our hard work to bring you an exciting and comprehensive selection of fundraising education.
And for further insight into the CEAC's selection process, read this article by Rebecca H. Davis, Ph.D., CFRE: "What I Learned from Serving on AFP's Conference Education Advisory Committee."