“Has Association of Fundraising Professionals Exceeded Their Expiration Date?” is a question I recently posed to author and veteran fundraiser Jimmy LaRose. Why ask Jimmy? He’s been in nonprofit management for over three decades and exited AFP (with quite a bit of attention from the Nonprofit Sector) to launch the National Association of Nonprofit Organizations & Executives.
I’ve been studying Associations (not just Nonprofits) for the past decade and have noted a slow but incremental decline in memberships. With the advent of technology providing more information and resources via the Web, this decline isn’t surprising. Most Associations have been so focused on keeping members to maintain revenue, that they’ve not paid attention to or kept up with all the trends and shifts in the sector. AFP is no exception, as it’s membership and revenues have been in a significant decline over that same time period. On a personal note, back in 2017, I oversaw the dissolution of the Arkansas Nonprofit Alliance. I was Board Chair and guided them through the process of closing their doors because of an obvious cultural resistance to sector changes that defied adjustments and growth.
I’d been wanting to interview Jimmy since joining NANOE a year ago. Knowing a bit of his history with AFP and having some perspective about AFP here Arkansas, I wondered how Jimmy might have felt about his many years as an AFP member and their current state of affairs.
Here’s a quick look at Jimmy’s involvement with AFP:
1. He joined NSFRE (National Society of Fundraising Executives) in 1992 (before their name-change to AFP [Association of Fundraising Professionals])
2. He was one of the youngest individuals to achieve Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) in 1996
3. He was named a NSFRE Subject Matter Expert (SME) upon completing NSFRE’s psychometric training to write test questions for the CFRE Exam in 1999
4. He was a 2000 graduate of NSFRE’s Executive Leadership Institute
5. He was the Founder and first President of the Western Maryland Chapter of AFP in 2000
6. He is a 2001 graduate of AFP’s Faculty Training Academy and is a AFP Master Trainer
7. He was named AFP’s Outstanding Fundraiser of the Year in 2007
8. He spearheaded AFP’s “Every Member Campaign” providing matching gifts to local chapters to inspire new member giving
9. He has served on multiple National Philanthropy Day Committees
10. He has been the premier financial sponsor of AFP’s National Philanthropy Day
11. He has produced multiple seminar series for AFP Local Chapters
12. He’s attended NSFRE & AFP International Conferences across the U.S.
Maxie: So back to my original question, “Jimmy, has the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) Exceeded Their Expiration Date?”
Jimmy: Maxie, before I riddle you with a myriad of facts and opinions it’s important that your readers know that I attribute my fundraising successes to the National Society of Fund Raising Executives. Hands down, NSFRE was my greatest influence. They formed me. For decades, NSFRE raised-up fundraisers with “grace & propriety” teaching us how to ensure donors accomplished their personal goals. Their culture was focused on fundraising. This was decades before a group of Social Justice Warriors commandeered AFP’s board and administration, changed their mission and alienated half (or more) of their membership.
Now, with that being said, your question, “Has Association of Fundraising Professionals Exceeded Their Expiration Date?” is a complex one. Have I had anything to do with it? No, they’ve imploded on their own. Here’s a few of my personal observations as to why AFP’s membership is in a down-spiral.
I really admired Paulette. She was AFP’s last veteran fundraiser and held her post for 13 years. She got out at the right time recognizing that “association cultures, membership benefits and conference events” were rapidly changing. The internet had not yet matured but was redefining the way we connected. I don’t have much to say about Andrew Watt except that he was paralyzed and “fiddled while Rome burned” overseeing a revenue drop that opened the door to the “Social Justice Warrior” take over. Enter Jason Lee (and his group of Millennial Underlings) who, in eighteen months, malformed AFP’s mission to such an extent that the Board of Directors were reduced to installing Mike Geiger, not a fundraiser, not a membership expert, not a CEO but rather AN ACCOUNTANT who they hoped would stop the bleeding. He hasn’t and won’t. AFP doesn’t need a CPA. They need an entrepreneurial CEO who knows how to grow a membership association using proven free-market enterprise principles. (CEO Dates: Paulette Maehara , Andrew Watt , Jason Lee , Mike Geiger )
My parents taught me to be kind to others when I was five years old. I grew up in the melting-pot of New York and was taught to celebrate differences between race, religion and creed. I don’t need to pay AFP to teach me how to be nice to someone who’s different than me. I was confused by the political caucuses that emerged in the 1990s and had to raise-an-eyebrow at the ridiculous number of “diversity tracks” at International Conference. AFP reached a new low when our local chapter hired a professional diversity expert (who had a Ph.D in Sociology but knew nothing about fundraising) to torture our members during a chapter luncheon using the PRIVILEGE WALK SCAM (you may have heard about this subjective and unscientific exercise designed to shame people into believing the worst about themselves and others). That was the last straw. My days with AFP were numbered. Remember what Louis Fawcett (Local AFP Chapter President) said about this divergence, “Idealistic conversations about the way the world should be are luxuries entertained by those who want to avoid the world as it really is. The longer we chatter away about nothing, the longer the children and families who need our help suffer.” (VISIT HERE for his entire article)
AFP’s Obssession With Rules, Regulations & Ethics
AFP has doubled-down on the idea that members are going to pay dues for a set of rules, regulations and ethics. Here’s their big product offering, “We are the arbiters of ‘right & wrong’ and for an annual fee we’ll send you a whole new set of rules and regulations that will diminish your effectiveness and prevent you from succeeding. Sign here and send us a check.” Again, I learned stealing was wrong in kindergarten. I grew up in home that taught us to consider the needs of others before ourselves. Conversely, there’s never been a set of rules that’s ever stopped a person from embezzling. It’s pure delusion. Watch the three minute video below to see how tired AFP Members are of being regulated.
At the national level, AFP’s relies on significant monies from FOR-PROFIT VENDORS. Vendors who prey on uneducated staff and uninformed board members. They know that if they say, “you need overpriced donor management software” your team will go ahead and buy it. They know that if they say, “you need a feasibility study” your board (who doesn’t know better) will go ahead spend thousands on a product that has no value. Listen carefully to the pervasive messages AFP sends out in their email marketing. It’s all about you spending money with their sponsors. At the local level, AFP is run by the $125/per hour consultants who keep their chapter’s alive to hock their wares. Local chapter leadership is comprised of for-profit consultants who will teach your board “how to fundraise” or “how to write a strategic plan.” They all should be required to wear their CAPTAIN OBVIOUS pin at luncheons and functions.
I’ll never forget the Vice-President of Development for University of Southern California (UCLA) who startled me when he shared, “Jimmy, I don’t let any of my staff join AFP. Why? It takes them away from doing the the important job I need them to do…fundraise for our University.” He continued, “Being an AFP member is just time spent out of the office on the University’s dime. The loss of revenues far outweigh any ‘networking or training’ benefits AFP purports to provide.” If you’ve ever been in local chapter leadership you know that the number of tasks and directives that come down from Arlington can be hundreds of pages long. It didn’t take long for even me to realize that achieving “10-Star Chapter Status” was synonymous with, “I’ve just robbed the nonprofit who’s paying my salary of precious time and money.”
Attend an AFP International Conference and you’ll be subjected to a endless amount of PowerPoint presentations that haven’t been updated since 1995. Take the CFRE test and you’ll be examined in fundraising methods that stopped working decades ago. Combine annual national dues, annual local dues, international conference registration (plus travel) and CFRE fees and you’ll end up spending nearly $10,000 per year. “Money for Nothing.” Please stop the crazy-making. Please get off this endless Merry Go-Round. It’s simply not worth it.
MAXIE: Why is this so important? Because giving isn’t easy. Making a financial gift is hard work and requires a tremendous amount of stewardship. WE NEED A NEW NETWORK TO PROVIDE CHARITIES THE INNOVATION THEY SO DESPERATELY NEED. Don’t forget the ancient philosopher who said,
“To give away money is an easy matter and in any man’s power.
But to decide to whom to give it and how large and when, and for
what purpose, is neither in every man’s power nor an easy matter.”
~Aristotle 360 B.C.
According to LaRose, “AFP needs to close their doors. They had their shot and blew it. They’ve exceeded their expiration date. They’ve forgotten what they really were all about…fundraising.”
To learn more about Jimmy LaRose’s perspectives on AFP read, “Is There a Secret Reason Association of Fundraising Professionals Is Hating On Donors?”
Has Association of Fundraising Professionals Exceeded Their Expiration Date? was written by Maxie Carpenter a consultant with Development Systems International, author and speaker, focused upon Organizational Development and Leadership Character & Behavior. Maxie was formerly with Wal-Mart for 27 years, beginning in 1973 as a stock person and eventually attaining the positions of Assistant Manager, Store Manager, District Manager, Operations Coordinator for Walmart US, Director of HR & Talent Development for Walmart US, and retiring in 2000 as Vice President of HR & Talent Development for Walmart US. Maxie Carpenter is a self-described servant leader, who believes that people put you where they want you based upon how you treat them. Maxie Carpenter is the only professional in the state Certified as a Facilitator, Coach & Consultant to administer the Merit Profile™. This assessment measures an individual’s character attitudes, beliefs and commitments over ten primary leadership principles in order to recognize opportunities for improving personal leadership effectiveness. The Merit Profile also greatly improves the predictability of an organization’s human capital decisions regarding culture, talent acquisition, employee development and employee retention initiatives. Maxie is also a member of National Association of Nonprofit Organizations & Executives.
Very interesting article. It pointed out great facts about why most nonprofits fail to adequately raise monies, especially when they are spending money they don’t have on fancy consultants who speak a language they don’t understand. Also, newer nonprofits need to hit the ground running and try several ways to raise funds and not just stick a Donate Now button at the end if their websites. More grassroots getting to know potential donors by hosting kickoff events, be open minded about doing online fundraisers and being open minded about how technology can help them accomplish this. And fundraising should be exciting and fun!
Thelma E. Hardy
New Avon LLC