January 20, 2020

“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 with much fanfare exited AFP to launch the National Association of Nonprofit Organizations & Executives. It’s widely known that AFP’s membership and revenues have been in a downward spiral for over a decade. I wondered if LaRose thought he had anything to do with it.

Before I share his answer here’s a quick look at Jimmy LaRose’s AFP bona fides:

  • He joined NSFRE (National Society of Fundraising Executives) in 1992 (before their name-change to AFP [Association of Fundraising Professionals])
  • He was one of the youngest individuals to achieve Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) in 1996
  • 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
  • He was a 2000 graduate of NSFRE’s Executive Leadership Institute
  • He was the Founder and first President of the Western Maryland Chapter of AFP in 2000
  • He is a 2001 graduate of AFP’s Faculty Training Academy and is a AFP Master Trainer
  • He was named AFP’s Outstanding Fundraiser of the Year in 2007
  • He spearheaded AFP’s “Every Member Campaign” providing matching gifts to local chapters to inspire new member giving
  • He has served on multiple National Philanthropy Day Committees
  • He has been the premier financial sponsor of AFP’s National Philanthropy Day
  • He has produced multiple seminar series for AFP Local Chapters
  • He’s attended NSFRE & AFP International Conferences across the U.S.
Jimmy LaRose AFP Outstanding Executive Fundraiser of the Year

Jimmy LaRose AFP Outstanding Executive Fundraiser of the Year 2007

Has Association of Fundraising Professionals Exceeded Their Expiration Date?

So back to my original question. “Has Association of Fundraising Professionals Exceeded Their Expiration Date?”

Here’s what Jimmy had to say. 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 six observations that reveal why AFP’s membership is in a down-spiral.

#1 Leadership – Paulette Maehara (1998), Andrew Watt (2011), Jason Lee (2016), Mike Geiger (2017)

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.

#2 AFP’s New-Not-So-Secret Mission: Societal Engineering

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 is different than me. I was confused by the political caucuses that emerged in the 1990s at AFP International Conferences combined with their countless number of ridiculous “diversity tracks.” They 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 Chapter President) said about this divergent direction, “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)

#3 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.

#4 AFP is Secretly Run By For-Profit Consultants & Product Sellers

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 fund raise” or “how to write a strategic plan.” They all should be required to wear a CAPTAIN OBVIOUS pin at luncheons and functions.

#5 Work, Work, Work, Work for AFP instead of the Nonprofit Who Pays Your Salary

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…fund raise 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 revenue 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.”

#6 AFP (and CFRE) Training Have Been Out-of-Date for Decades (AND COST WAY TOO MUCH)

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.

AFP needs to close their doors. They had their shot and blew it. They’ve exceeded their expiration date. They’ve forgotten that they were about…fundraising.

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.


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.


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