Post-AFP International Conference 2009 – notes & observations

The 2009 AFP conference in New Orleans is but an 8-hour old memory.  But I am already thinking about its agenda and execution, and I am ready to drop a few notes here, just to clean out my brain:

People who know me will understand that my first thought runs to the epicurean:  Serve Food!  Make it the first priority for sponsorship next year, and advertise that food will be served.  This is a basic Hierarchy of Needs issue — the attendees were hungry and, in a city of wonderful cuisine, did not stay in the marketplace to eat $10 boxed sandwich lunches and the random Twix bar (mmmm, Twix).  Vendor booth staff stood idly by during the lunch hour.  This is why fundraisers serve a nice bowl of cubed cantaloupe at their events, to encourage people to attend and entice them to stay.  Basic fundraising rules apply to events run by trade organizations too, so as a service to the vendors, keep the attendees nearby.

And, on the subject of vendors, reconsider closing the marketplace after the plenary and late-afternoon events.  We were re-directed out of the general meeting hall to the lobby, not through the marketplace.  Lots of unstomped purple carpet is a waste in Any environment, but justifying the cost of a booth is easier when the first-day energy is high and traffic is heavier.  And as a side note, tell the guards asking for a vendor permit to chill, man.  No need to go all ‘Cops’ on me when I was making a purchase at a booth!

Cafe du Monde beignets and mocha lattes.  Nuff said.

Please add a full track on social networking and technology integration, and don’t try to do it alone.  Team up with NTEN or the SXSW event coordinators to put a full-day pre-conference session together.  Not only will the average age of attendees drop (a nice batch of potential retainees and future attendees here, my friends), but we fundraisers who have used a lot of traditional and “ROI-proven ” appeal and managerial approaches with great success will now have the opportunity to include some of the “tech-only-all-the-time” devotees in discussions about these same techniques and the traits they share with the new media.  I see a marketplace-wide hand-holding and Kumbaya moment here, people!  In addition, let’s give those of us who might feel overwhelmed by the pace of new social networking concepts get a chance to invest in intensive training in a safe and comfy environment.  I’m here to serve as a generational bridge, people!  Six lanes, even.

Give Josh Birkholz his own session, or three or four.  Bring in more analytics vendors and consultants.  Josh is a great speaker, and he needs more time to answer the volumes of questions that completely monopolize the Q&A sections of our sessions.  Attendees want to know more about what the analytics folks are doing.

And we need a better  understanding of new IRS positions as revealed by commissioner speeches and legislative (fed and state) interpretations and rulings — our boards deserve an advanced education for our EDs and development directors.  Some interesting stuff going on out there with implications for all of us…  I know a great potential speaker — high-level and rapid presentation awaits.

What does it say about us as fundraisers that there are attendees lining the walls, sitting on the floors, during sessions on basic major gift solicitations?

Props to AFP for adopting the FEP reporting module as the very first standardized report for all segments of all sizes!!!!  Credibility for the field is only increased by improving ROI assessment methodologies and, as FEP research proves, retention appears to be one of the leading challenges to the industry as a whole.  Rock on, FEP!  Special props to Bill Levis, Cathy Williams, John Joslin, Wes Lindahl, Lilya Wagner, Josh Birkholz, Adrian Sargeant, the software companies and their committee contacts and their tremendous investment of time and money, the Urban Institute, CASE, APRA, and all the other players in making this project a reality (I know I’m forgetting people and organizations — apologies with a promise to update this post later).

Nice hotels, great shuttles, awesome AFP staff (Joanna Heilig saved my butt!), thoughtful consideration and restraint in use of promotions and session materials and trinkets during this economy (glad to see my speaker gift expense go to the AFP Foundation instead of plastic-ware this year — but the crow in me really does like shiny things on my desk, so when times are better…), wonderful weather, attractive space, a warm congenial feeling all around.  And New Orleans people are such great hosts — go spend tourism dollars there!

I want to speak again next year … look for my proposal, dear program committee.

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One response to “Post-AFP International Conference 2009 – notes & observations

  1. Great to read your comments on AFP!

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