That Post Conference Feeling

If we’ve talked at an AFP meeting (or other places too), you already know I love learning about Sarah%20Linn.jpgnew tactics, systems and ideas.  In fact, I may have included the phrase “I <3 Professional Development” in my board application… without even a hint of irony.  So, it should come as no surprise that I went into the AFP LEAD conference in Phoenix this month excited, and left even more energized.  Several days set aside to learn about chapter management logistics, leadership skills development, and even a dash of ethics discussion?  Yes, please!

Here are the big takeaways from my time at AFP LEAD: 

  1.  There’s no right or wrong way to do AFP.  The more I talked with chapter leaders from across the U.S. (and beyond!), the more I learned that each one does things differently.  The Washington D.C. chapter is focused on affinity group gatherings rather than full chapter meetings.  Some Florida chapters offer a single “bundled” price for ALL their programming each year.  The Alaska chapter has members who live so remotely that their homes can only be accessed by plane in specific weather conditions, so they focus their efforts on webinars and finding ways to make their luncheons accessible remotely.  How else could one organization serve 32,000 members in so many different conditions?  AFP is designed to give chapters freedom to meet the needs of their community. 


We can think big in creating a chapter that works for Madison.  Just in the last 5 years, our chapter has seen big changes as we rethink what our nonprofit community needs. We launched a Young Professionals committee that has grown so robust they have the numbers to develop the Mentorship Program their members want.  We have adjusted the number, size, and purpose of scholarships offered to our members.  Just as our local AFP meetings are great opportunities for me to idea swap with friends, AFP LEAD discussions filled my notebook with great new ideas to consider for our chapter.  I hope that if you see opportunities for our chapter to improve, you’ll bring those to board members and me too! 


  1. Development Professionals have SO MANY opportunities to be leaders.  Speaker after speaker drilled this point home.  We lead our donors to give.  We lead our colleagues to meet department goals.  We lead our organizations to great impact.  I’m grateful to be in the position where I’ll soon be leading our AFP chapter.  Whether or not you have the title, you DO have the chance to lead others to do things differently.  As Alexis Kanda-Olmstead said in my last session of the day today, “Leadership is a process, not a position.” 

I love this lesson because of the power that it gives each of us.  I don’t have to wait to hold a particular office or to get a particular title.  Seeing leadership as a process allows me to start taking action and making change now.  In our community and country as it is today, it is so easy to be frustrated by what is and isn’t happening with our leaders.  The good news?  I don’t have to wait to start working on making that better.

  1. What got us here, won’t get us there.  With the possibilities and flexibility of our AFP chapter design, plus the many opportunities for new leadership and ideas… we have such potential!  I get most excited about being a part of AFP when I think about the impact that this group can have.  The secret power of AFP is that we are everywhere! We have over 200 members in our chapter, each with employers, networks, friends, and other connections all over the area.  Imagine the impact we can have on our community when we work together towards common goals! 

For example, one of the recurring themes for AFP LEAD was all the efforts and energy going into the IDEA (Inclusivity, Diversity, Equity, and Access) initiative.  Imagine the change that could happen in the Greater Madison area if everyone in AFP leans in to creating a more equitable workplace, a more diverse profession, a more accessible career field.  How can you encourage your organization to change their old-fashioned hiring practices?  What can you do to support professionals of all backgrounds in your circles? 

I know I’m still in my conference bubble where anything seems possible… but IMAGINE the power we have together! 


For more AFP LEAD highlights, check out this event recap.