Through the Humanics program, I have had the opportunity to attend the AFP International Conference, not once, but twice. I attended the 2016 and 2017 conferences in Boston and San Francisco, respectively. Both experiences were amazing and really opened my eyes to fund development as a career.
The timing of the first AFP conference was very important for me, because it helped me decide what career I wanted to pursue. Up until that point, I was sure that I wanted to work in the CBO sector, but I was unsure of what role I felt I was most suited for in these organizations. However, attending AFP in Boston opened my eyes to fund development and helped me recognize how my major, in business administration marketing, was preparing me for a career in development. So many of the skills that have been emphasized in our marketing courses, especially sales, is also applicable to fundraising and donor stewardship. I left Boston feeling more prepared for a career in fund development and realizing that this is a viable career option that has room for growth in me as a professional.
Just recently, I returned from my second round at AFP in San Francisco. At this conference, I was able to put into practice the skills of public speaking that I have learned by sitting on a panel of young professionals as we spoke about the importance of young fundraisers and how the rest of the industry should engage with us. Being on this panel, I realized that I have had experiences through Humanics and Camp Kesem that have prepared me to stand in front of a room of professionals and be able to make a meaningful contribution to the conversation. I have insights that I can offer, and experiences that make me a qualified individual for organizations to seek out. As a student on the cusp of graduation, that knowledge is very empowering.
Another highlight of this conference was having the chance to hear from and meet Shiza Shahid. Being only 27, she recognized an opportunity that was presented in front of her and used her skills to make it a movement in the form of the Malala Fund. There were many times during her speech that I felt that I could relate to her. For one, I can relate to her in many ways because she looks like me, comes from a similar culture, and is of a similar age. It’s inspiring to see someone who I can see a reflection of myself in be so successful and be asked to be a keynote speaker at an international conference.
By attending AFP, I learned about the qualifications and desires that I have to be in the field of fund development and the importance of networking. By being on the panel and interacting with professionals in the field, I’ve had the opportunity to speak about my training and knowledge about development and be reassured that I do know what I am talking about. But by sitting in on all of the education sessions, I also know that there is so much still to learn. Whether it is about monthly giving or managing major gifts, there are many areas in the development field that I have not yet explored, but am very excited to do so. AFP also stresses the importance of networking. By attending the AFP International Conference twice and once attending the collegiate AFP conference, I have already run into many of the same individuals at all of these conferences. I have seen how veterans of the field know and engage with each other. This has helped me realize the importance of relationship building in this field, whether it is with your organization’s stakeholders or with the people in your field.
By attending AFP, I have been able to be introduced to fund development as a career, see how I fit into the field with my incoming skill set, learn about new things happening in the sector, and network with those who can be guides and mentors or even possibly be my next job connection. I will be able to apply the fund development knowledge that I have learned at AFP in my next step working with Shining Hope for Communities’ development team. AFP allows me to be more knowledgeable about the parts of development that I have not had the chance to have had direct experience with as a student, such as major gifts. As I enter the world of fundraising, I know that I will be served well by being able to speak about philanthropy and development in an educated manner and contribute to the conversation. I have highly enjoyed my experiences at AFP, as it has shaped my future by giving me the confidence to pursue a career in fund development. I am extremely grateful to have had this opportunity to learn and network with professionals in fundraising and am thankful to those supporters of the Humanics program who make such experiences possible for us as students.