Guest Blog Post by DeAnn Acosta
Those demands can overshadow an important tool for your success in fundraising: a professional association. There are a variety of associations you can join for building a collegial and supportive network, including Association of Fundraising Professionals and The Giving Institute, and then there are industry-specific associations such as the Association for Healthcare Philanthropy. Colleagues in these forums can offer you advice, a shoulder to cry on, and three cheers for your wildly successful endeavors. They understand exactly what you do in your job, like no one else.
You know how it is: people ask what you do, you tell them you're a fundraiser, and either there's a blank look or they head for the hills, afraid you're going to ask them for money! But when I first joined my fundraising association, I was delighted to find myself surrounded by people who knew much more than I did about the fundraising profession, and I didn't have to explain that it goes way beyond bake sales. I met people deeply engaged in and committed their work and who were curious about mine.
The professional association that I have belonged to for almost 20 years is the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP). My first fundraising job was at the Eleanor Roosevelt Institute, and I had the fortune to work for someone who believed in the value of professional associations, especially AFP. She supported my attending the monthly educational meetings and had the organization pay my membership dues. She even endorsed my scholarship application for the annual AFP International Conference, which I attended in Los Angeles as a junior fundraiser.
As a member of AFP, I took the opportunity to learn from the more seasoned professionals I met and cultivated several informal mentorships. I enjoyed being part of the group and was proud to be a member of an association that promoted ethical fundraising and continuing education to make us better at our jobs. About five years after becoming a member and volunteering on a few committees, I was nominated to join the board. It was an honor (and not a little bit frightening) to think that I was joining the ranks of these committed professionals. It has turned out to be one of the most rewarding experiences of my professional life.
Now I am serving as the Executive Director for the AFP Colorado Chapter, and I’m excited to be playing such a pivotal role with the organization. It’s a thrill to work on my favorite event of the year, National Philanthropy Day. The award winners' stories are so inspiring and remind me why I do this work. I also have the privilege to work on a premier conference, the Rocky Mountain Philanthropy Institute, held in Vail, Colorado in September. This conference provides a venue full of networking and excellent educational offerings, all in a fabulous scenic location. The local chapter of AFP also provides a formal mentorship program and countless volunteer opportunities to give back to the profession.
If you haven’t already, I highly recommend that you consider joining a professional organization like AFP to find like-minded colleagues and build your network. I truly believe that I’ve reached this place in my career because of my experience with AFP. Hopefully, your employer will support you in joining an association like it, giving you time to attend their educational sessions and paying your annual dues. It’s worth every penny! And if you choose to join AFP, please introduce yourself to me at one of our educational sessions so that I can help you take advantage of all that AFP has to offer.
DeAnn Acosta, Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE), is the Principal Consultant at Mosaic Fundraising and is the Executive Director of the Association of Fundraising Professionals/Colorado Chapter.