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Take Away


Philanthropy for the


Professionals You would expect that the Association of Fundraising Professionals would plan an on-site social responsibility project that would resonate with its members. Here’s the confer- ence website’s description of its CSR initiative:


In keeping with the values of the fundraising profes- sion, this year’s con- ference features a service project, AFP GIVES BACK!, on Monday, March 21, from 8:45 a.m. until 4 p.m. (or whenever we finish the task at hand!). Help sort product donations to be distributed to the Boys & Girls Club of Chicago. AFP and Good360 have organized a special event in the AFP Marketplace to cre- ate special kits of new toys and other items for needy children in Chicago. Join us for 10 min- utes or two hours — it’s up to you.


Innovative Meetings By Michelle Russell


Profiting From Change


The Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) revamped its 2011 annual conference with one thing in mind: Focus on the attendee experience.


Scroll down to the bottom of the “Top Ten Reasons toAttend!” list on the 48thAFP Interna- tional Conference on Fundraising website, and you’ll findthe genesis for the2011event’s overhaul: “Youspoke,welistened. For the first time ever, this conference is about YOU.” Held March 20–22 at Chicago’s McCormick


Place, this year’s conference attracted more than 4,200 fundraising professionals—and launched numerous changes, big and small, all designed with the attendee in mind. “Our conference has been based on an annual-meeting model for years,” saidLynnSmith,CMP,AFP’s vice president of meet- ings. “It hasn’t changed, I don’t think, since the time thatwe started it.” Attendee focus groups that met last yearmade


it clear that changewasindeed in order, soAFPcon- vened a strategic planning meeting, Smith said, “withall the interested parties inattendance—rep-


bers, Smith said, when the registration deadlines cameup, therewas“ahugegrowth”inmembership.


Changing Things Up Here’s Smith’s rundown of the sweeping initiatives launched at this year’s conference, which brought in18percent more attendees than AFP’s 2010 con- ference and turned out to be “one of the best meet- ings we’ve ever had.” Anew schedule. The timing at previous AFP


conferenceswas based“ontheway people usedto travel togetaSaturday-night stay-overandonstart- ing after everyone checked into their hotelroomat 3 p.m.Wewould start our general session at 4:30 p.m.We changed that all up.” Rather than waiting until noon to open the


whole show,AFP kicked off this year’s conference on Sunday with “four great, big sessions starting at 10:15 in the morning.We’ve never had sessions


“We don’t necessarily want to be just an annual meeting.”


resentatives from sponsors, exhibitors, staff, and attendees.”The group’s directivewas simple.“We felt that people can get information sitting behind theirdesks, soitwas imperative thatwe focusonthe attendee experience at themeeting.And that they have a wonderful, memorable face-to-face and educational experiencewhen they’re there.” That was accompanied by a shift in thewaythe


annual conference is perceived. Smith said: “We don’t necessarily want to be just an annual meet- ing.Wewant to be the centerpiece of themember- ship experience as well as the centerpiece confer- ence for the philanthropic sector—not just for AFP. There isn’t anyone [else] in that space.” Developing a program that would attract


fundraising professionalswhoaren’tAFPmembers resulted in converting many of them. Since it was more economical for registrants to become mem-


that were part of the conference early on Sunday morning. We didn’t know how many people wouldshowupfor those sessions, because they ran against some of ourmembership committee meet- ings, but we had four big rooms, so we put four great speakers in there. We had 2,800 people show up that morning, and that was an unbeliev- able, immediate buzz that happened at the begin- ning of our conference.” As a result, 3,000 people attended the ribbon-


cutting at the exhibit-hall opening, which had never been much of a happening in previous years, because attendees “had just kind of mean- dered in until the general session at 4:30. The open- ing general session was moved up to 1 p.m., so when people got to the conference, there was something going on every minute and places to go and people to see.”


ON_THE_WEB: Learn more about the Association of Fundraising Professionals at www.afpnet.org. Check out the 48th AFP International Conference on Fundraising website at http:// conference.afpnet.org. To access the mobile conference website, visit www.afpmeet.org.


ILLUSTRATION BY ROBERT HANSON pcma convene May 2011 39


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