In Memory of Charles R. Stephens, CFRE, First African-American Chair of AFP
February 15, 2013
It is with great sadness that AFP announces that former AFP chair Charles R. Stephens, CFRE, has passed away. The first African-American volunteer leader of AFP, he was a pioneer in the fundraising profession.
Charles’ lifetime passion was to merge philanthropy and diversity (which he saw as nearly the same ideas) and introduce people of diverse backgrounds to the profession he calls “inclusive, noble, and worthwhile.” His efforts changed the way the fundraising community looks at diversity, brought countless women and minorities into the profession and earned him the AFP Chair’s Award for Outstanding Service, an honor that has been granted to less than 20 people since it was instituted in 1982.
A long-time advocate for civil rights, Mr. Stephens participated in numerous sit-ins and other community and campus protest actions in the 1960s. He brought this same sort of activism to his first fundraising job at the Butler Street Young Men’s Christian Association in Atlanta, Ga. There, he grew membership in the association from 18,000 to 37,000 in just over seven years and conducted the most successful community chest campaign ever in Atlanta’s African-American community, serving as a loaned executive to the United Way.
Subsequently, Mr. Stephens held numerous senior development positions with many institutions including his alma mater, Morehouse College, the Morehouse Medical Education Program (now the Morehouse School of Medicine), Dillard University, Clark College, and Clark Atlanta University. He served African-American higher education as the national campaign director for the College Fund/UNCF.
From 1993-1998, Mr. Stephens was chief development officer for the Indianan University Center on Philanthropy. At the center, he revamped its fundraising programs, which exponentially grew income and increased membership by 500 percent. Afterward, he became vice president for institutional advancement at The Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, and then senior contract consultant with Skystone Partners, an international fundraising consulting firm.
As the first African-American chair of AFP, Mr. Stephens saw an opportunity to place major emphasis on recruiting minority members to the profession and getting more women involved in leadership. He appointed a strong Minority Affairs Committee and collaborated with the committee to emphasize the importance of inclusion for the profession of fundraising. He visited many chapters and carried this message in every presentation he made. He also spoke about the issue to many universities, including historically black universities, encouraging young people to get involved in the fundraising profession. The association later named its diversity award in his honor: The Charles R. Stephens Excellence in Diversity Award.
Numerous other accomplishments also occurred under Mr. Stephens’ leadership, including the development of the FRIENDS Program (Fund Raising In Economically Needful Directions), to encourage association members to focus on public service. He also helped push the way for a new governance structure and the creation of the guidelines for the AFP Code of Ethical Principles and Standards.
Charles will be missed greatly by the AFP community and the entire fundraising profession. He is survived by his wife, Delores, and his daughters, Chandra and Charlita.