Last weekend, I had the absolute pleasure of attending the 2017 AFP International Fundraising Conference in San Francisco, CA. Humanics packed up the cars, carpooled to the nearest Bart station, and made our way into the city. There were thirty of us. Yup, you read that right — 30 Humanics scholars! We were the largest collegiate chapter to attend the conference. Although attendance is required to receive the Humanics certificate, I would have loved to go regardless. At first, being in a convention center with thousands of seasoned fundraising professionals sounded intimidating. I subscribed to the idea that I am just a college student.
As we walked into the convention center in our business professional garb, I increasingly became excited. Sure it was 8 AM on a Sunday morning, but this was a new experience! The first session of the day was the “first-timers orientation.” Humanics scholars slowly trickled in, some of us solo and others in small groups. As I entered the room, I scanned the small signs that were displayed on each table. The tables were starting to get full and as I stepped to the back of the room, I saw it: “LGBTQ+” Well, that’s me! I sat down as fast as I could and others eventually sat next to me, some new faces and other Humanics scholars. The woman running the session encouraged us all to meet someone new. It was in that moment where I was so thankful for the recurring Humanics assignment where we would have to attend the AFP Central Valley chapter’s networking luncheons. I met some new people and traded business cards. I met some great people from all over the country! Everyone was so nice, and we were all eager to make those connections.
Afterward, we broke into the assigned groups indicated by the signs on our tables. The LGBTQ+ group was so big, we had to move to another room! We made a giant circle and went down the line introducing ourselves and organizations. Something that struck me was that not everyone in the group worked for an LGBTQ+ organization — they were simply LGBTQ+ people who fundraise. However, there was one gentleman who said he was with the Matthew Shephard Foundation and the entire room gasped. When I introduced myself as a student in the Humanics program at Fresno State and briefly mentioned all that we learned, I saw some head nods. I assumed that they had heard of us before (which was really cool). We had great discussions in that session. One man talked about how he had worked in the sector for twenty years and a company had turned him down because his resume was “too gay.” I can’t even imagine working so hard and only being judged on what kind of organizations you have worked with. Furthermore, we also had an intense conversation about diversity. One technique that stuck with me was a gentleman who said that his organization has one person in each program devoted solely on diversity. This allows for a diverse organization throughout. The last great discussion we had in that session was about if post-election activism affected funding within our individual organizations. Some fundraisers in the room said that activism has propelled donors to give more – specifically to arts organizations who will be losing funding under the current administration. One individual said that the march for science particularly helped generate funding.
After our great networking session, I went to a session on Guerilla Marketing. Someone I had met in the networking session sat next to me and we talked for a few minutes until the new session started. He was from the Easterseals Florida chapter. We talked about all the great work Easterseals has done, and we also talked about LGBTQ+ activism. We shared an excitement for Cleve Jones who was the keynote speaker on the last day of the conference. Another great discussion was on funding for LGBTQ+ organizations rising nationwide but mostly in Florida after the Orlando massacre. He said that funding solely started dwindling, so he was trying to figure out a new strategy to raise money for the one-year anniversary of the tragedy.
Overall, I had a great first day at AFP and I plan on writing more blogs on highlights of the conference. The entire conference was a great experience and I encourage all who are in the CBO sector to raise money and attend one. The knowledge is bountiful, as is the opportunity to connect with other fundraisers from all over the world. Thank you to all of our donors who invested in our future as CBO professionals and gave us this opportunity!