President’s Corner: An Interview with AFP Charlotte President, Patton McDowell
We recently sat down with our President, Patton McDowell, to discuss the professional development organization known as AFP (Association of Fundraising Professionals). Patton is currently serving as the President of the AFP Charlotte chapter and the chapter representative for AFP International.
Patton, based on your time spent recently with AFP at the local and national levels, what issues are you seeing most around development right now?
Representing AFP Charlotte and International has been a great experience. It has been interesting to see topics that relate both locally and internationally. I see both organizations doing a better job of lifting up the integrity of the fundraising profession. Unfortunately, nonprofit scandals dominate the sector headlines, especially when money is tight and funds are mismanaged. AFP is really trying to emphasize the professional nature of fund development and the ethical way in which these transactions should be handled.
Sometimes, those outside the nonprofit community perceive that anyone can fundraise and that no science of philanthropy is required. That is simply not true. AFP, both locally and internationally, is focusing on the right and wrong ways to fundraise. Every member of AFP is required to sign a code of ethics as part of membership. Signing this code is not just an exercise in marketing materials; it is a critical element of highlighting that this profession is committed to these values. It is the only way to demonstrate the quality of nonprofit organizations throughout the state, country and world. In fact, AFP is helping to demonstrate how philanthropy can be done well to other parts of the world. That’s exciting to me.
In these meetings and conferences, what trends have you observed?
We have a real opportunity to collaborate with other organizations that serve similar audiences. In Charlotte alone, we have multiple examples from Leave A Legacy to North Carolina Planned Giving Council to the Leadership Gift School. In addition, we have community partners like Foundation for the Carolinas and the Arts and Science Council who also offer programming for nonprofit professionals, including fundraisers. Every level of AFP must answer these two questions. First, how can AFP be a unique offering? Second, in what areas should AFP look to collaborate more often? I believe that the answer lies somewhere in the middle. AFP is uniquely qualified to offer training and programs on pure fundraising topics, but we also have related topics on which we can collaborate. For example, the March meeting for AFP Charlotte will be co-hosted with IABC, an organization for marketing and communication professionals. IABC will conduct an annual nonprofit day with programming for the marketing and communication audience and fundraisers as well. I’m excited about this example of collaboration.
How can a fundraising professional effectively use his or her AFP membership?
The traditional continuum of fundraising professionals is growing. We have fundraising talent who are new to the profession, recent college graduates and face a learning curve on fundraising. We also have veteran fundraisers who need a new level of programming and interaction with AFP. We are familiar with these groups, yet a new third group is emerging. It is the lateral entry level professional who is making the transition from for-profit to nonprofit. This third group brings a different set of needs because they do have valid experience in the work world but not much experience in the nonprofit sector. This is a global and local need for AFP. Specifically, AFP Charlotte is addressing this continuum need by creating more affinity groups. These groups allow AFP members to receive programming in the area of their exact need. The senior forum is geared for the senior fundraising professional. The new professional forum allows young professionals and new lateral entry professionals to find programming suitable to their unique needs. The small shop affinity group gives a forum to professionals who do not have a lot of staff and must wear a lot of hats. They definitely face unique challenges in their roles. And, the major gift group concentrates more on the fundraising tactics that many of our members are seeking in their professional careers.