Let The Good Times Roll: AFP ICON 2023!
Updated: Aug 25
I kept finding myself joking that ICON (AFP Global's International Conference) felt like summer camp - my home away from home. Not only do I get the opportunity to learn new skills, meet new people, and stay inspired in my nonprofit career, but for a few short days, I get to escape my every day and hang out with my friends and chosen family. What a blast! If you haven't been before, hopefully, these highlights will inspire you to join us in Toronto next year. :)
Seeing Old Friends and Making New Ones
Reuniting with work colleagues (ie my summer camp friends!) was a positive experience for several reasons. Firstly, it allowed for the opportunity to catch up with people I hadn't seen for a while and to exchange updates on each other's lives. Secondly, it provided me a chance to collaborate and share knowledge and ideas, potentially leading to some exciting projects later this year. Stay tuned! :)
I want to give a special shout-out to my friends from Planned Parenthood, AFP-NYC, AFP-Austin, AFP-Global, Community Centric Fundraising, iWave, Cloud For Good, and Gravyty. Now that I am a telecommuter, reconnecting with everyone provided me with a much-needed break from the daily grind of my home office. It was great to get into trouble with everyone and y'all made my conference feel special!
Attending The Global Board Meeting
One of my greatest joys of being a member of AFP is serving on their Global Board of Directors. From being in the company of accomplished professionals to influencing our strategic initiatives, it is such a thrill to soak up new information each time we meet. I could not be more humbled to walk along their side.
This meeting, like past ones, was no different. We reported out on exciting topics like membership growth, strategic plan KPI's, our database migration, IDEA, and more. Most exciting was when we awarded the 2023 AFP/Skystone Partners Prize for Research on Fundraising and Philanthropy to Dr. Aaron Conley & Dr. Genevieve Shaker for their book, Fundraising Principles for Faculty and Academic Leaders, published by Palgrave Macmillan.
This book goes beyond just being a "how-to" manual and instead is based on academic literature on philanthropy, written by fundraising practitioners who have become scholars. It offers evidence-based recommendations to help academicians excel in raising philanthropic support, with a focus on donors' giving motivations. It also includes case studies of successful fundraising and volunteer-driven initiatives. The inspiration for this book came from David D. Perlmutter's seven-part series in the Chronicle of Higher Education, titled Don't Fear Fundraising. Congratulations Dr. Conley and Dr. Shaker!
Launching Our Leadership Institute
We had been talking about this internally for months so I was so excited we were finally able to launch this program. AFP’s Leadership Institute is a week-long in-person learning experience taking place Sunday, July 30 – Friday, August 4, 2023, in Saint Paul, MN. This deeply reflective, action-oriented program teaches both the theory, as well as practical applications, of key leadership concepts, with a focus specifically on applying these leadership skills to the fundraising profession. AFP's Leadership Institute focuses on key areas of leadership, essential to building a growth mindset, including learning agility, adaptability, communication, team development and motivation, decision-making, and strategic thinking. The leadership skills learned are highly transferable across job positions, organizations, and hierarchies, and can be applied to management responsibilities like talent management, strategic planning, and board management. Apply today!
Attending Fruitful Sessions
I would be remiss if I did not mention the plethora of sessions offered at ICON.
While I attended sessions each day, the one that truly stood out to me was the panel titled: Belonging and Exclusion: Creating Space for Growing LGBTQ Donors. Dominic Pepper, Leah Munnelly, and Renee Colombo were gracious enough to host a discussion about the ways to authentically cultivate queer donors. 1 in 6 Gen Z adults is LGBT and for a community that continues to fight for acknowledgment and acceptance, the tools for cultivation, research, and "best practices" fail. They shared helpful findings about how to scaffold our organization's equity journey by offering actionable insights for inclusive change.
Not only was the discussion amongst the panel fruitful, but they also elicited questions and solutions from the audience. They challenged traditional narratives, proposed new ways to manage, and left the audience with a call to action. I am thankful to AFP ICON for making space for this session at the conference.
Seeing NOLA Up Close
During my visit to New Orleans, I had the opportunity to explore the city's unique and vibrant atmosphere. One of the highlights of my trip was visiting Jackson Square, a historic park located in the heart of the French Quarter. I strolled around the square, taking in the beautiful architecture of the surrounding buildings, including the stunning St. Louis Cathedral. I also enjoyed the live music and street performers who added to the lively atmosphere of the area.
Another unforgettable experience was walking down Bourbon Street. I soaked up the energy of the lively nightlife and enjoyed the energetic atmosphere of the street. Of course, I couldn't leave New Orleans without trying one of their famous beignets. I indulged in this delicious pastry at the legendary Cafe Du Monde and paired it with a hot cup of coffee. It was the perfect end to a perfect week. Le Bon Temps Roule!
Speaking At The Closing Plenary
Last, and certainly not least, I was blessed to once again speak during AFP ICON's closing plenary. In front of our nearly 4,000 attendees, I joined Ken Miller on the main stage to speak on the importance of prioritizing IDEA in our chapters and workplaces.
Click to slide through the photos....
I had the pleasure of telling the crowd about two of AFP's latest resources, Accessible Fundraising Toolkit; A Guide to Becoming an Inclusive Fundraiser and Speaking Truth to Power in Fundraising: A Toolkit. The new Accessible Fundraising Toolkit is a great resource to educate yourself and your team about accessibility, and how it can be incorporated into both your internal practices as well as your fundraising. The Speaking Truth to Power in Fundraising Toolkit captures key data from a survey that AFP developed in partnership with Ohio State University researchers Erynn Beaton, Ph.D., and Megan LePere-Schloop, Ph.D., and explores the connection between organizational characteristics and sexual harassment.
And that's a wrap! See you next year, ICON!
Juliana M. Weissbein, CFRE is a respected leader and decision influencer in regard to fundraising operations best practices. With over a decade of experience, Juliana thrives on professional growth, team success, measurable results, and inspiring fundraisers to utilize data-based strategies. Juliana currently serves as the Associate Director of Development Operations at Planned Parenthood Federation of America. She is an AFP Global Board Member, AFP Global's 2019 Outstanding Young Professional Fundraiser, and is a member of the AFP Global Women's Impact Initiative. Juliana is immediate past chair of the AFP New York City chapter’s Emerging Leaders Committee and currently serves on the chapter’s board chairing their mentorship program. She resides in Houston, TX, and never turns down a good kombucha.