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The Musings Of A Houston Fundraiser

  • Writer's pictureJuliana M. Weissbein CFRE

Looking Back & Cycling Off: My Time With AFP

Updated: Dec 5, 2023

It's true. After over seven years and countless memories made, it's time for me to cycle out of my leadership positions within the Association of Fundraising Professionals.


Taking a step back from AFP is proving to be an emotional journey, intertwined with threads of bittersweet sentiments. Saying goodbye (see you later?) to an organization that has become a part of my identity is not easy. Stepping down means leaving behind a dedicated team and a cause that has become deeply ingrained in my heart. Celebrating successes, witnessing the growth of individuals within the organization, and contributing to meaningful changes in our industry have fostered a profound sense of fulfillment within me.


I am looking at this departure as not an end but a transition—a passing of the baton. Cycling off the Global and NYC boards will offer an opportunity for fresh perspectives and for new minds to invigorate AFP's mission. Cycling off isn't a farewell; it is a culmination of experiences that have shaped not only the organization but also my own growth and perspective. The bittersweet emotions are a testament to the depth of the connections made and the significance of the journey undertaken.


In case you need further evidence, take a look at some of my favorite memories below...



-2017-

2017 is when I first started to get involved with AFP. I had already been in fundraising for seven years but was looking for ways to grow my network and expand my skills. My dear friend, Matthew Zaccagni, invited me to a few AFP-NYC Young Professionals events beginning in 2015 and I instantly knew I had found a home.


Within a few months, Matt, who was chair of the AFP-NYC Young Professionals Committee at the time, invited me to serve on the committee. While I enjoyed the work, I was still discovering where my contributions could be most impactful. As fate would have it, Matt seemed to share the same sentiment and reached out one evening. I intended to express my desire to step back, but before I could, he proposed something unexpected: chairing the committee the following year. It took a weekend of contemplation, but I eventually embraced the opportunity. Little did I know, this decision would significantly shape the next seven years of my career.


-2018-


2018 was such a blast. I served as co-chair of the committee alongside CJ Orr and was able to learn the ropes from the best. Sure we planned networking events and hosted professional development opportunities, but I was most proud of two accomplishments CJ and I achieved.


CJ, Jace and I - Incoming and Outgoing Chairs of ELC

First, we changed the name of the committee from the Young Professionals Committee to the Emerging Leaders Committee (ELC). Using "emerging leader" instead of "young professional" broadened inclusivity and encompassed potential leaders at various career stages beyond age boundaries. It shifted the focus from a specific demographic to a more comprehensive view of leadership potential, fostering a diverse pool of talent and perspectives. Embracing "emerging leader" emphasized growth, development, and the readiness for future leadership roles, promoting a culture of continuous learning and advancement.


Second, we ensured the Emerging Leaders Committee Chairs had a seat at the AFP-NYC Board meetings. While the other chapter committees were chaired by board members, the ELC was an exception. We discussed this gap with the board and were swiftly invited to attend all meetings moving forward. Having a seat at the table allowed us to influence decision-making, hone our leadership skills and provided us with invaluable networking opportunities crucial for our professional growth and development.


-2019-



2019 also proved to be an unforgettable year. Not only was I able to chair the ELC with the incomparable Jace Prokupek and Isaiah Harris, but we were proud to achieve three significant milestones.


One of the initiatives of AFP that speaks to me most deeply is IDEA. Thus, the AFP-NYC Emerging Leaders Committee made an intention to draft an IDEA focused event planning toolkit for our board and members. It was a long process, but in the end, we were able to craft a priceless and actionable resource for our chapter. Check it out here!


Furthermore, one of the proudest moments of my career happened in April 2019 when I was recognized as the AFP Global's Outstanding Young Professional Fundraiser. Little did I know attending AFP's International Conference (ICON) would be an unforgettable experience and reignite my love for professional development and innovation within our field. AFP ICON, the world’s largest conference for professional fundraisers with thousands of attendees, 100+ education sessions, and a massive marketplace, made one thing certain: everything’s bigger at AFP ICON.


Finally, we hosted a powerhouse litany of events. My favorites were:



Read more about what I was up to in 2019 here!


-2020-


2020 was when things really started to pick up. Here are just some of the highlights.


After serving the chapter's Emerging Leaders Committee for 3+ years, I was honored to be elected to serve on the AFP-NYC's board of directors in 2020. Through this position, I was pleased to have chaired their chapter's Mentorship Program. I, along with the rest of the Mentorship Committee, took time to transform our Mentorship Program and host various career coaching events. I wouldn't have been able to achieve what I have without the continuous support and guidance from the AFP-NYC chapter. I was so fortunate to begin serving on their board in 2020. You can read more about the transformation of the mentorship program here.


I was also approached by AFP-NYC to co-chair Fundraising Day In New York (FRDNY). I'd been supporting the event for many years, throwing my hat in the ring as both an attendee and presenter. I quickly accepted their offer and got to work. I was so excited to host two sessions for our attendees: Artificial Intelligence & Messaging During A Crisis and Leveraging Mobile Technologies to Engage Donors and Advance Strategy. You can read more (and even watch the sessions!) here.


Another highlight of the year was serving on AFP-Global's Women's Impact Initiative. WII's ongoing objectives are focused on research, education, raising awareness, and developing women into leaders- a mission that is near an dear to my heart. I enjoyed it so much that I continued my involvement for the next three years.


Finally, 2020 was the year that I reached a career milestone: I had been fundraising for 10 years. Thus, in January 2020 I had the privilege of writing for Advancing Philanthropy (check it out here). I was asked to reflect upon the first decade of my career and share the top lessons I had learned along the way. From the importance of mentorship, to combatting imposter syndrome, I was delighted to be able to focus on how promoting a culture of collaboration, independent thinking, equity, and innovation is my utmost concern, because with the right training we can teach, encourage, and inspire others to surpass our goals and truly revolutionize the field.



Read more about what I was up to in 2020 here!


-2021-

2021 surely did not slow down! After a year of behind-the-scenes work, the AFP-NYC mentorship program launched with a stellar group of participants. It was a pleasure to facilitate the growth of our cohort by establishing connections that strengthen our sector and by educating development professionals and nonprofit leaders in best practices in fundraising and applying the high standards of the AFP Code of Ethics. I'd like to thank our mentors and mentees for drafting Fundraising Matters articles. Check out their content here.


In 2021, the horizon had not changed. Events were still virtual and work-from-home orders were still issued. While we remained hopeful for a brighter 2022, we had to rebrand FRDNY into PhilanthroCon, a two-day opportunity for fundraising professionals to connect virtually with experts from across multiple fundraising disciplines, including direct response, major gifts, planned giving, marketing, and more. Still an event not to be missed if you ask me! Check out the content I curated here!

Finally, when Robin Merle asks you to collaborate on something, you do it. She was so generous to ask me to co-author an article with her to demonstrate how women who have left the workforce, whether involuntarily or by choice, can come back stronger than ever before. Using her knowledge attained through researching for Involuntary Exit: A Woman's Guide to Thriving After Being Fired, and my knowledge through my work with the mentorship program, we drafted an article for the October issue of Advancing Philanthropy titled, Office Culture and Well-Being: What Now? Tactical Action to Take After The Pandemic Steals Your Job. I had a blast, Robin! Thanks for including me!


Read more about what I was up to in 2021 here!


-2022-


It is with no doubt that I will look back on 2022 as one of the most exciting and important years of my career. Together, with my colleagues, we made true advances in our field, formed lifelong friendships and truly bettered our communities.


Most significantly, in 2022, I began serving a two-year term on the AFP Global Board. I was proud to serve in the name of empowering individuals and organizations to practice ethical fundraising through professional education, networking, research and advocacy. Part of this role also offered me the opportunity to speak from the mainstage at AFP ICON, attend various meetings and, most excitingly, I had the pleasure of attending my first AFP LEAD.


While it was a tough decision, 2022 also marked my final year serving as chair of the AFP-NYC Mentorship Committee. Shifting away allowed me to focus my efforts locally in Texas and serve in a greater capacity on the AFP Global board. It was a pleasure to facilitate the growth of our cohort in 2021 and 2022 and was pleased to be able to hand the program off to Robin Merle and Susan Shapiro.


Read more about what I was up to in 2022 here!


-2023-



As I mentioned in my opening paragraph, 2023 is proving to be bittersweet. It is time for this chapter to close. I am wrapping up my AFP Global Board term, stepping away from the AFP NYC board, retiring from the Women's Impact Initiative, and will be 'chapterless' for the first time in over seven years. While I know this is the right decision for me, it does not come without strife.


Two moments in 2023 specifically stick out for me. Not only were LEAD and ICON an amazing success but I was blessed to have hosted two workshops that I am truly proud of.

First, I had the pleasure of hosting the webinar "Don't Just Slap A Flag On It And Call It Inclusive: Understanding Your LGBTQIA+ Donors And Community" alongside the incomparable Jonathan Meagher-Zayas and T. Clay Buck. We covered a topic near to my heart as a Queer Femme who has dedicated my career to working at progressive causes which directly impact my communities. We discussed the ways that fundraisers can avoid the pitfalls of performative allyship, or when organizations and their staff offer surface-level support to marginalized communities for the sake of their brand image, without taking any steps to affect real change.


The fight for queer and trans equality is far from over. Despite the legalization of same-sex marriage, there are still numerous legal loopholes and gaps in protection for queer and trans individuals. While some states have enacted anti-discrimination laws, there is no comprehensive federal legislation in place to safeguard against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity nationwide. This leaves many queer and trans individuals vulnerable to discriminatory practices in areas such as employment, housing, and public accommodations. Transgender rights also continue to be a significant battleground in the fight for equality. Transgender individuals, especially trans women of color, face alarming rates of violence, discrimination, and lack of access to healthcare. The legal recognition of gender identity, including the ability to update identification documents, remains a challenge in many jurisdictions. There is a pressing need to address these issues and ensure that queer and transgender individuals are fully included in the fight for equality. I will not stop fighting. You can learn more about this session here.


Finally, I was humbled to host the webinar 'Donors of Color: Research and Praxis'. Sponsored by the Association of Fundraising Professionals - Global, and shared with an audience of over 600. During the session, the incomparable Anna Barber, Hali Lee and Letarik Amare were in conversation about their research and work surrounding building community and raising funds from high-net-wealth donors of color in the US. Unsurprisingly, the conversation was fruitful and I was left floored by all that I was able to learn. You can read the full report, Philanthropy Always Sounds Like Someone Else: A Portrait of High Net Worth Donors of Color here.


-2024-


After seven years in leadership, 2024 marks the time for me to step back. Honestly, life has undergone profound changes since 2017. Relocating from NYC to Houston, embracing full-time telecommuting—these shifts have redefined my priorities. Stepping back from AFP allows space for fresh leadership and a deeper commitment to nurturing my family. My dedication to the cause remains unwavering, yet my capacity has its limits. It's time to prioritize my personal life. This isn't a farewell, but rather a 'see you later' to my cherished AFP family.


Thank you to each and every one of you I have met along the way. You have made this journey truly unforgettable! I will see you soon <3


 

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.

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