Last April several scholars in the Humanics program were able to attend the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) Conference in New Orleans. Though I have not yet participated in many Humanics courses at Fresno State specifically, I was able to attend the conference as well. This conference was my first full immersion into the world of fundraising thought I have previously gone through online courses that explained many “how to’s” of fundraising and ideas like building donor relationships. While valuable, the AFP Conference enabled me to explore these ideas I have learned and see them occur in the stories that speakers shared, the goals accomplished by the people I had met, and the general discussions I had with fellow Humanics scholars.
A few breakout sessions stood out to me in particular. One session went through how faith-based organizations tend to fundraise like a church, rather than like a CBO. While somewhat obvious, it was a realization I had not yet dissected. During discussion time, one woman brought up that a member of her board of directors refused to keep track of donors because they did not want that to influence how they saw those who supported the organization. The woman was given practical advice about explaining the significance of building donor-specific relationships and keeping track of how much people donate during their years supporting the organization to the board member while still retaining a good relationship with him.
Another session I attended broke down different personality styles in regard to asking for major donations. The four styles: The Rainmaker, The Mission Controller, The Go-Getter, and the Kindred Spirit, were based off Introverted/Extroverted and Analytic/Intuitive tendencies. While it was interesting to find my personal style, the speaker’s research on how the styles influenced donors captivated me. The speaker suggested that by knowing your (potential) donors’ style, you could adjust the way you ask to fit them better. For instance, if you know you are a Kindred Spirit but your donor is a Rainmaker, you can walk into the ask knowing your natural tendencies will be to focus on impactful stories. Your donor, however, may want to hear more statistics about the organization. The speaker suggested a way to still impact the donor without completely changing your personality could be to bring someone similar in personality-style to the donor with you to the ask.
The focus on relationships was also a breakthrough for me. Originally I saw fundraising as something necessary, for many organizations could not survive without it, but also often a little painful as I believed that rejection was imminent due to my perceived ideas about the nature of fundraising. The AFP Conference broadened my view on fundraising so that I now see fundraising as something that revolves more around relationships and strategizing.
While overwhelming at times with all the information I received, the AFP Conference was a needed start to my education with the Humanics Department at Fresno State, and I am truly grateful for the chance I had to experience it. I was able to strengthen relationships with fellow Humanics scholars, network with fundraising professionals currently in the field, and develop my own ideas about fundraising that I’m excited to apply with my courses beginning next semester.