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Ops & Asks

The Musings Of A Houston Fundraiser

  • Writer's pictureJuliana M. Weissbein CFRE

Viva Las Vegas! ICON 2022!

Updated: Aug 25, 2023

My first in-person conference in over two years proved to be nothing short of amazing.

I had been looking forward to this for weeks. AFP's International Conference (ICON) was back for the first time since 2019 after being forced to go virtual due to Covid. I could not wait to attend. I would get a chance to learn, to see old friends, explore a new city- and this time I would be doing so as a Global Board Member and speaking from the main stage. How exciting! Here are some of my highlights:

Attending The Global Board Meeting

AFP Global's 2022 Global Board of Directors

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 learning about 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 2022 AFP/Skystone Partners Prize for Research on Fundraising and Philanthropy to Beth Breeze, Ph.D., for her book In Defence of Philanthropy, published by Agenda Publishing in 2021.

Dr. Breeze is the director of the Centre for Philanthropy at the University of Kent in the United Kingdom. She spent 15 years conducting research for the book, including more than 100 interviews with major donors, to inform her writing. Through In Defence of Philanthropy, she questions the rationale for disparaging philanthropic acts and argues that although it may be flawed, philanthropy is a sector to be championed so an abundance of important causes can flourish. Congratulations, Dr. Breeze!

Seeing Old Friends & Making New Ones

Jonathan Meagher-Zayas and I at the Venetian Hotel

Listen, the pandemic has been tough for all of us. While I have been blessed to be able to work from home and relocate to a city closer to my family, it has been at the expense of seeing many of my friends and colleagues.

One of my highlights was seeing my dear friend (and inspirational powerhouse!), Jonathan Meagher-Zayas. Our stories overlap quite a bit. Not only did he join the board with me earlier this year, but we also were both honored in 2019 by AFP Global as an Outstanding Young Professional Fundraiser. We both are committed to mentorship & IDEA- both studied women's studies in undergrad and are both New Yorkers. A match made in heaven! Miss you already Jonathan!

Marisa Castillo, Michelle Vryn, Belen Ramos and I at AFP ICON

I also had the chance to meet the fabulous folks of AFP-Austin. I will admit, ever since relocating to Austin in late 2020 I have held back from AFP-Austin events. Not only due to Covid, but I also still serve on the NYC board and can only wear so many hats. Boy, do I regret that decision!

After meeting the ATX crew, I can promise you this will change. Their chapter is active and committed to racial equity & social justice. Their leaders are remarkable and I cannot wait to get to know them better. Let's keep Austin weird!

Seeing Colleagues For The First Time Since 2020

Planned Parenthood Staffers at AFP ICON

My meeting with Planned Parenthood staffers was bittersweet. While it was lovely to be reunited with my co-workers (and meet new ones!), our dinner coincidentally took place on the same day as the recent supreme court leak voting to strike down the landmark Roe v. Wade case and subsequent Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision. I was lucky to be surrounded by people working day and night towards protecting a woman's right to choose, but it also put a dark cloud over the gathering. It was a sobering reminder of why I get up to do this work each day. If you would like to join me in the fight back, please visit: Now is the time. Abortion is still legal. It's still our right. But the Supreme Court is prepared to end our constitutional right to abortion. Our country is facing an abortion access crisis. By this summer, 26 states could move to ban abortion — affecting 36 million women, plus more people who can become pregnant. This is personal. Let's act now.

Hosting ICON's LGBT Affinity Group

One of the more special opportunities I experienced at AFP ICON was hosting their LGBTQ+ Affinity Group. On the first day of ICON, nearly 50 of us gathered in a conference room to reflect on our shared experiences as queer fundraisers and to suggest ideas about what we can do to ensure our sector is more welcoming and equitable to traditionally underrepresented groups.

In addition to hosting queer networking events, we also can ensure queer people are invited to lead our professional development events, serve on our boards and have a seat at the table where decisions are made. Most importantly, AFP members are encouraged to self-report their demographic data to AFP Global so we can have a better sense of how prominent queer members are within our base. Data is power y'all. Go update your profiles today!

Attending Rockstar Sessions

Panel hosts and other members of MOCID in the house!

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: Challenges in Fundraising: Being Black & A Man in Development. Andre Forbes-Ezeugwu, Marcus Brewer, and Christopher Black were gracious enough to host a discussion about the situations and outcomes of being a black man in a field dominated by white women.

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. My favorite tip shared during the session? They advised white folks who are managing POC to ask their new-hire if they have permission to contact their mentor for advice on how to manage. I thought that was a great idea- for all of us!

Speaking At The Closing Plenary

Ken Miller and I Speaking at ICON's Closing Plenary

Last, and certainly not least, I was blessed to speak during AFP ICON's closing plenary. In front of our nearly 3,000 attendees, I joined Ken Miller on the main stage to speak on the importance of prioritizing IDEA in our chapters and workplaces.

This was an unforgettable moment and one that I am so thankful to AFP for the opportunity. Check out the speech below. Thank you to Jonathan for recording this :)

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.


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1 Comment

May 20, 2022

What a great week and a great recap. Keeping Austin proud!

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