Ten Great Takeaways from this year’s AFP Icon

This year’s annual AFP Icon conference was virtual – and for many it offered a much appreciated break from their day-to-day work. For others, the realities of our current fundraising environment prevented them from logging-on and taking in the sessions.

Good news, whether you attended a few sessions, all of the sessions, or none of the sessions, our very own Whitney Norman, VP Client Solutions sits down and shares her takeaways from this year’s event.

Q: Whitney, what stood out about the opening Keynote from Heather McGhee?

A: So many things, but I wrote down this quote as she spoke and have found myself reflecting on it often in the days that followed:

To win, we can’t do it alone. What we are here to do is to create a higher possibility of living. And that is something we can only do together.” - Heather McGhee

I think it highlights one of the most important skills we strengthened during Covid as organizations, corporations, and communities came together and serves as a reminder of the impact we can have when we embrace collaboration.

Q: How about the closing remarks from Wes Moore?

A: Wow, what a note to end on. Wes is a transformational leader and listening to him was truly inspiring. I wrote down a lot of what he said but this is the quote I think resonated the most – no explanation or context needed:

“When it’s time for you to leave [here], make sure it mattered that you were ever even here… While we’re here let’s do something with it – lets push, activate, advocate, love, fight, engage, alter business models, answer that voice, and end that challenge. Let’s be great and let’s be bold.

- Wes Moore

Q: Before we dive into your top ten takeaways, did you observe any themes throughout the sessions?

A: Yes, lots of great content and three themes that seemed to be consistent throughout:

  • Major Gifts & Legacy Giving… how it’s evolving and where it’s integrating with other areas of the overarching program.
  • Covid-related Strategies… what to keep, what to let go of, and how to strengthen the relationships with new donors.
  • Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I)… as part of an organization’s culture, in direct response messaging, and as a pertinent pillar of our society.

Q: OK, now let’s reveal your list. Which takeaways did you find most interesting?

A: Let me just say, it was hard to narrow down the list, but I’m excited to share the following 10 takeaways (in no particular order). For each, I’ve shared a question to help bring the insights to life for organizations:

  1. This is a time to move away from the pathology of survival and move toward thriving.

Q: What does thriving look like at our org?

  1. Those who are closest to the challenge are the closest to the solution, but oftentimes are not at the table.

Q: How can we make sure the right people are at the table?

  1. Trust and transparency are key to creating genuine connections and relationships with donors. Trust is about being seen accurately and seeing others accurately.

Q: Can we be more intentional to ensure we are seeing each other accurately?

  1. The Giving Brain talks about the value of “mirroring” and “social norming” so that donors see themselves in a story.

Q: What are new ways we can invite our donors on a journey to discover their role? 

  1. Compassion, Creativity, and Courage – these three C’s helped the Ronald McDonald House find success during the pandemic.

Q: Are we infusing compassion, creativity, and courage into each of our initiatives? 

  1. Annual Campaigns offer a strong foundation to a program, but they can only be successful if there is a strong connection to the ask and complete buy-in from each of the key stakeholders.

Q: Are we focusing on an area we believe has growth potential and do we stand behind the goal and timeline? 

  1. Giving Page abandonment is something that deserves our attention and Thank You pages are often a missed opportunity that should be better utilized!

Q: Are we creating a seamless online giving experience and tracking abandonment on giving and thank you pages? 

  1. Powerful and relevant stories continue to be the most effective way to deepen a donor’s connection with the organization.

Q: Have we trained and equipped every member of the team to be a story-getter?  

  1. Talent acquisition requires strong leadership and strong leadership is about partnership grounded in shared listening and respect.

Q: As leaders are we inclusive in our language, collaborative in our goal setting, and clear in the values we appreciate among our team? 

  1. The amazing Heather McGhee spoke on the topic of social dividends – the impact (or return) on resources that are owned by society.

Q: What role are we going to play in building a multicultural coalition – in our orgs, for our donors and through our missions?

Q: This is great Whitney, thank you for sharing these takeaways! If someone has more questions about these takeaways, AFP Icon, or how Pursuant is helping organizations with their fundraising and marketing needs, what should they do?

A: They are welcome to email me directly. Or they can check out our resource page where we have additional tools to help today’s leaders!