KNOWLEDGE: A deep dive into professional knowledge at AFP I-Con in New Orleans

Rogare identifies the sessions at AFP I-Con that explore issues in fundraising from a critical thinking perspective.

Many people go to the world’s leading fundraising conferences so they can accumulate the knowledge and ideas the need to become even better practitioners than they already are. Or they go to start learning what they need to set them on the road to greatness.

Because of this, conferences contain many practical and instructional sessions helping to you be better fundraisers.

But there are fewer that dig a bit deeper and use critical thinking to shine a new light on existing or emerging trends, challenges and issues; things that if we can grasp their nettle will help us shape the entire profession for the better, not just the bit of it in which we practice.

So a multi-national team from Rogare’s International Advisory Panel has gone through all the sessions at the AFP I-Con in New Orleans on 15-17 April.

We’ve picked out a path through the conference for those fundraisers whose professional knowledge might already be quite advanced, and who might prefer to spend more of their time in a deep knowledge dive, or focusing on sector-wide challenges and issues. Or both.

Here we present a summary of the 18 sessions we decided should be part of this critical fundraising stream.

Keywords covered in these sessions are:

Sunday 15 April

Has the nonprofit sector lost its moral high ground?

Daryl Upsall, Gail Picco, Denny Young

Room 252-254


Failure to spend donations for a designated projects; exorbitant salary and benefit packages; accusations of sexual misconduct…what is the nonprofit sector to do? In the UK, media attacks have fueled politicians as voters demand action against ‘unscrupulous fundraising practices’, bringing the sector to its knees. Do we deserve it? How are we planning to fight back and regain the moral high ground?

Key words: ethics, stakeholder perception/engagement, defending fundraising.


Is fundraising a profession? And does it matter if it isn’t?

Cherian Koshy, Sarah Nathan, Cathy Mann, Alice Ferris, Michael Davis

Room 252-254

People talk about fundraising as if it’s obvious it’s a profession, simply because fundraisers do skilled work for good causes. However, there are certain trappings to professionhood – like a required body of knowledge – that fundraising doesn’t possess. It’s not certain that fundraising actually is a profession. Does this matter? Yes, if many of the problems fundraisers face – such as being treated as a ‘necessary evil’ by the organization – stem from not being viewed as ‘professionals’.

Key words: ethics, professionalism, stakeholder engagement/perception, professional development.

Doing the ethical thing in fundraising. And why it’s harder than you might think

Ian MacQuillin, Cherian Koshy

Room 243-245


It’s been said that fundraisers ‘just need to do the right thing’. But how do you decide what ‘the right thing’ really is? This hands-on session outlines a new decision-making ethical framework that goes well beyond deciding whether something is compliant with the code and will get delegates to use it to work through a series of fundraising ethical dilemmas.

Key words: ethics.

Relationship fundraising 3.0

Adrian Sargeant

Room 228-230


It has now been 25 years since Ken Burnett first coined the phrase relationship fundraising, but what do we really understand by the term and what does it mean for our professional practice? We’ll explore what might be learned from the emerging science of philanthropic psychology to help build donor relationships and reduce harmful attrition. It will also unveil the results of a new study testing an approach to relationship development based on social psychology.

Key words: relationship fundraising, donor behaviour, social psychology, philanthropic psychology.

Sexual harassment and bullying – is the nonprofit sector safe for all?

Ligia Pena, Vanessa Chase Lockshin, Beth Ann Locke, Candice McGlen, Maya Raghu

Room 242-254


Sexual harassment and bullying are sadly commonplace in all areas of society. The #MeToo movement is a perfect example of how rampant the problem is. How does the nonprofit sector, whose workforce is predominately female, fare in terms of addressing the issue? How does it affect productivity, organizational culture, and morale? This session will explore the roles that power, bias, and privilege play in this issue.

Key words: ethics, diversity, equality, professionalism.

The planned giving study: new insights from data and planned gifts

Claudine Donikian

Room 255-257


This session presents findings and recommendations from The Planned Giving Study, a multiphase research study commissioned by Ms. Donikian and researched by Indiana University that provides important new insights about actual donors of actual planned gifts and offers helpful recommendations for planned-giving programs.

Key words: planned giving, donor behaviour.

Monday 16 April

Moving away from the donor pyramid to the donor lifecycle map for increased fundraising success

Deborah Polivy

Room R08-R09


Traditionally, we have relied on the Donor Pyramid, with its focus on major gifts and annual campaign results, for addressing fundraising planning. This workshop will describe a different model, the Donor Lifecycle Map, and its focus on donor retention and multiple metrics of success. This new framework, especially in comparison to the Donor Pyramid, will lead to better fundraising results due to retaining more donors who contribute more money over increased opportunities for giving.

Key words: planning and strategy, donor modelling.

Philanthropists, power and democracy – is this the end of philanthropy?

Ligia Pena, Michel Freller, Andrea McManus, Tycely Williams

Room 252-254


Modern-day philanthropy as practised by wealthy philanthropists, businesses, and corporations could be defined as an exercise of power. In a democratic society, power deserves scrutiny. Is there a power shift happening? If so, how is the sector managing the ethical implications? Is this the end of traditional philanthropy?

Key words: ethics, power dynamics in donor relationships, philanthropy.

Embracing and growing the importance of board diversity: philanthropy, leadership and board engagement

Angela White, Sasha Zarins, Vernetta Walker

Room 255-257


Recognising that women and a wide range of ethnic and racial groups play key roles as donors and leaders in the nonprofit sector is essential in the 21st century. Current demographic changes in the ethnic and racial makeup of the nation will have a transformative effect on the concerns and goals driving the nonprofit sector. This session will review new research that explores the relationship between diversity on nonprofit boards and organizational efficacy.

Keywords: diversity, governance.

Stewardship at its best: more than just another event

Lesley Ray, Adrian Sargeant

Room 243-245


Stewardship, retention, and cultivation are not mutually exclusive elements of the fundraising cycle. They work together to ensure a natural and harmonious course to extend the relationship between donor and organization. This session presents the case study of an annual stewardship event for one of Australia’s largest fundraising organizations and draws on the research of Dr. Adrian Sargeant to analyze the various fundamental human needs that are met through this event.

Key words: events, relationship fundraising, psychology.

How do you know what you know about fundraising?

Ian MacQuillin, Nigel Harris, Meredith Niles, Heather McGinness, Craig Linton

Room 252-254


Fundraisers learn predominantly by going to conferences and listening to other fundraisers present case studies about what has worked for their charities. But how can delegates know if those strategies will also work for them? How do fundraisers know what they know? How can they be sure it’s true? How much evidence is needed? Do they even need evidence at all, or should they go with their gut? Or should they delve into academic research?

Keywords: professional knowledge, professionalism, education.

Ethical fundraising: it’s everybody’s business

Mark Hefter, Audrey Kintzi

Room R06-07


Fundraising for charity is a public trust. Maintaining ethical principles is the basis for keeping this trust. For over 50 years, AFP has led the fundraising sector in promulgating ethical fundraising standards and in providing a self-governing process for addressing ethical concerns. Adhering to ethical standards is also the best way to maintain donor trust, thereby increasing donor retention and donor commitment.

Key words: ethics.

How our profession can be more proactive rather than reactive in the media, social media and politics

Laura Fredricks, Kate Magsamen, Ryan Berni, Stephanie Oswald, Whitney Mitchell

Room 08-09


What would it take for philanthropy to have a permanent position in politics; dedicated and featured national news experts; and a focused and top-followed social media channel? Experts in these areas will share their views on how to make this a reality to raise the stature of our profession.

Key words: stakeholder engagement/perception, social media.

Tuesday 17 April

What right do you have to tell us how much to spend on fundraising?

Daryl Upsall, Kimberley Churches

Room 252-254


If the private sector were told it could only spend 25 percent of its income on growing its business, there would be outrage. Meanwhile, the nonprofit sector acquiesces and proudly announces how little it spends to serve its beneficiaries. Why is our sector so willing to spend so little and, in many cases, achieve such low levels of long-term growth? Who has the right to impose such limitations? Is there an alternative?

Key words: ethics, stakeholder engagement/perception, overheads, defending fundraising.

Why good people do bad things

Michael Hood

Room 228-230


Have you ever wondered why someone would violate ethical rules when he or she seemed to be a good person? Do you wonder why power tends to make leaders pursue unethical actions? In this course, you will learn how your brain automatically manipulates ethical dilemmas in ways that allow you to believe you are being ethical when, in reality, your actions and decisions are anything but ethical.

Key words: ethics, social psychology

Transforming relationships by managing mid-level and legacy donors

Kimberley Blease, Mark Phillips

Room TBC


Bluefrog Fundraising has just completed a detailed qualitative study into attitudes to giving and – perhaps more importantly, fundraising – among mid-value donors in the USA. It’s the fifth country we’ve looked at in this specific programme of research (the others being the UK, Canada, Australia and Ireland). This will be the first time that we are sharing findings about mid-value donors’ attitudes to leaving a gift in a will or through planned end-of-life giving – an increasingly important area for this group of charity supporters.

Key words: donor bevaviour, donor attitudes, planned giving.

Being a diverse professional in an alt-right age

Michael McFarland, Alphonce Brown, John Huebler, James Phelps, Penelope Poppers,

Room R06-R07


How can minority and historically excluded fundraisers maintain personal and professional integrity in the era of rising alt-right populism? In less-than-progressive locales? And what happens when we encounter hostile or insensitive donors, organizations, and communities? This session provides a forum for open and honest discussion, questions, answers, ideas, experiences, and conversation, as well as a chance to create a network of supportive professionals, friends, mentors, and more.

Key words: diversity, stakeholder engagement/perception, power dynamics in donor relationships.

Inclusion in the age of diversity: a conversation about recruitment, retention and race in the social sector

Kishshana Palmer, Aiko Bethea, Chris Conroy

Room 252-254


Despite the countless studies about the importance of diversity in the nonprofit sector, we’ve gotten comfortable with our inability to retain talent ­– specifically professionals of colour – and it’s time to have a real conversation about why. Being able to attract, recruit, and retain professionals of colour means looking at hiring and retention practices through an equity and inclusion lens, not just a diversity lens. What can we do (together) about it?

Key words: diversity, professionalism, talent.

How we did this

The members of Rogare’s International Advisory Panel (see below) assessed the sessions (we had nine team members poring over the programme for each day) against three criteria:

  • Was the session mainly practical and instructional or focused on encouraging new thinking and challenging existing ideas?
  • Did it tackle a subject in a novel way?
  • Were any ideas presented supported by evidence and, if relevant, theory? (Of course, we needed to make some assumptions by just reading the session descriptions.)

Any sessions that received more than 50 per cent of the assessment went into the stream. If you think we might have overlooked yours, please let us know.

Find all of the tracks and sessions at AFP I-Con in New Orleans from 15-17 April 2018 here.

More or less the same Rogare team will be repeating this exercise for the Institute of Fundraising’s National Convention in London from 2-4 July, for which the team will be joined by four assessors nominated by the IoF.

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